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DATE JUN25 1990 


THE following Studies are not a complete treatise 
on child-psychology, but merely deal with certain 
aspects of children's minds which happen to have 
come under my notice, and to have had a special 
interest for me. In preparing them I have tried to 
combine with the needed measure of exactness a 
manner of presentation which should attract other 
readers than students of psychology, more particu- 
larly parents and young teachers. 

A part of these Studies has already appeared 
elsewhere. The Introductory Chapter was published 
in the Fortnightly Review for November, 1895. 
The substance of those from II. to VIII. has been 
printed in the Popular Science Monthly of New 
York. Portions of the " Extracts from a Father's 
Diary " appeared in the form of two essays, one on 
" Babies and Science " in the Cornhill Magazine in 
1881, and the other on "Baby Linguistics" in the 
English Illustrated Magazine in 1884. The original 
form of these, involving a certain disguise though 
hardly one of impenetrable thickness has been 
retained. The greater part of the study on 
"George Sand's Childhood" was published as two 
articles in Longmans Magazine in 1889 and 1890. 

Like all others who have recently worked at 


child-psychology I am much indebted to the 
pioneers in the field, more particularly to Professor 
W. Preyer. In addition to these I wish to express 
my obligations to my colleague, Dr. Postgate, of 
Trinity College, Cambridge, for kindly reading 
through my essay on children's language, and 
giving me many valuable suggestions ; to Lieutenant- 
General Pitt-Rivers, F.R.S., and Mr. H. Balfour, 
of the Museum, Oxford, for the friendly help 
they rendered me in studying the drawings of 
savages, and to Mr. E. Cooke for many valuable 
facts and suggestions bearing on children's modes 
of drawing. Lastly, I would tender my warm 
acknowledgments to the parents who have sent me 
notes on their children's mental development. To 
some few of these sets of observations, drawn up 
with admirable care, I feel peculiarly indebted, for 
without them I should probably not have written 
my book. 

J. s. 

November, 1895. 





Why we call Children Imaginative, .... 25 

Imaginative Transformation of Objects, 28 

Imagination and Play, 35 

Free Projection of Fancies, 51 

Imagination and Storyland, 54 


The Process of Thought, 64 

The Questioning Age, 75 


The Child's Thoughts about Nature, 91 

Psychological Ideas, 109 

Theological Ideas, ....... 120 


Prelinguistic Babblings, 133 

Transition to Articulate Speech, .... ^g 

Beginnings of Linguistic Imitation, .... 147 

Transformations of our Words, - .... 148 

Logical Side of Children's Language, - - - 160 

Sentence-building, 170 

Getting at our Meanings, 183 


Children's Sensibility, - igi 

Startling Effect of Sounds, - 194 

Fear of Visible Things, ...... igS 

The Fear of Animals, ...... 207 

Fear of the Dark, 211 

Fears and their Palliatives, ..... 219 


Primitive Egoism, 228 

Germs of Altruism, ... ... 242 

Children's Lies, 251 




The Struggle with Law, ...... 267 

On the Side of Law, 277 

The Wise Law-giver, 290 


First Responses to Natural Beauty, - ... 300 

Early Attitude towards Art, 307 

Beginnings of Art-production, 317 


First Attempts to Draw, 331 

First Drawings of the Human Figure, - - - 335 

Front and Side View of Human Figure, - - - 356 

First Drawings of Animals, 372 

Men on Horseback, etc., 377 

Resume of Facts, 382 

Explanation of Facts, - 385 


First Year, 400 

Second Year, 416 

Third Year, . . -436 

Fourth Year, 452 

Fifth Year, - - 464 

Sixth Year, 480 


The First Years, - . 489 

A Self-evolved Religion, . . . 506 

Bibliography, - . 515 

Index, 510, 



MAN has always had the child with him, and one might be 
sure that since he became gentle and alive to the beauty of 
things he must have come under the spell of the baby. 
We have evidence beyond the oft-quoted departure of 
Hector and other pictures of childish grace in early literature 
that baby-worship and baby-subjection are not wholly 
things of modern times. There is a pretty story taken 
down by Mr. Leland from the lips of an old Indian woman, 
which relates how Glooskap the hero-god, after conquering 
all his enemies, rashly tried his hand at managing a certain 
mighty baby, Wasis by name, and how he got punished for 
his rashness. l 

Yet there is good reason to suppose that it is only 
within comparatively recent times that the more subtle 
charm and the deeper significance of infancy have been 
discerned. We have come to appreciate babyhood as 
we have come to appreciate the finer lineaments of nature 
as a whole. This applies, of course, more especially to the 
ruder sex. The man has in him much of the boy's con- 
tempt for small things, and he needed ages of education 
at the hands of the better-informed woman before he could 
perceive the charm of infantile ways. 

One of the first males to do justice to this attractive 
subject was Rousseau. He made short work of the 
theological dogma that the child is born morally depraved, 

1 Quoted by Miss Shinn. Overland Monthly. January, 1894. 


and can only be made good by miraculous appliances. 
His watchword, return to nature, included a reversion to the 
infant as coming virginal and unspoilt by man's tinkering 
from the hands of its Maker. To gain a glimpse of this 
primordial beauty before it was marred by man's awkward 
touch was something, and so Rousseau set men in the way 
of sitting reverently at the feet of infancy, watching and 

For us of to-day, who have learned to go to the pure 
springs of nature for much of our spiritual refreshment, the 
child has acquired a high place among the things of beauty. 
Indeed, the grace of childhood may almost be said to have 
been discovered by the modern poet. Wordsworth has 
stooped over his cradle intent pn catching, ere they passed, 
the 'visionary gleams' of 'the glories he hath known'. 
Blake, R. L. Stevenson, and others, have tried to put into 
language his day-dreamings, his quaint fancyings. Dickens 
and Victor Hugo have shown us something of his delicate 
quivering heart-strings ; Swinburne has summed up the 
divine charm of " children's ways and wiles ". The page 
of modern literature is, indeed, a monument of our child- 
love and our child-admiration. 

Nor is it merely as to a pure untarnished nature that 
we go back admiringly to childhood. The aesthetic charm 
of the infant which draws us so potently to its side and 
compels us to watch its words and actions. is, like every- 
thing else which moves the modern mind, highly complex. 
Among other sources of this charm we may discern the 
perfect serenity, the happy 'insouciance' of the childish 
mind. The note of world-complaint in modern life has 
penetrated into most domains, yet it has not, one would 
hope, penetrated into the charmed circle of childish experi- 
ence. Childhood has, no doubt, its sad aspect : 

Poor stumbler on the rocky coast of woe, 
Tutored by pain each source of pain to know : 


neglect and cruelty may bring much misery into the first 
bright years. Yet the very instinct of childhood to be glad 
in its self-created world, an instinct which with consum- 
mate art Victor Hugo keeps warm and quick in the breast 
of the half-starved ill-used child Cosette, secures for it 
a peculiar blessedness. The true nature-child, who has not 
become blase, is happy, untroubled with the future, knowing 
nothing of the misery of disillusion. As, with hearts 
chastened by many experiences, we take a peep over the 
wall of his fancy-built pleasaunce, we seem to be taken back 
to a real golden age. With Amiel, we say : " Le peu de 
paradis que nous apercevons encore sur la terre est du a 
sa presence ". Yet the thought, which the same moment 
brings, of the flitting of the nursery visions, of the coming 
storm and stress, adds a pathos to the spectacle, and we 
feel as Heine felt when he wrote : 

Ich schau' dich an, und Wehmuth 
Schleicht mir ins Herz hinein. 

Other and strangely unlike feelings mingle with this 
caressing, half-pitiful admiration. We moderns are given 
to relieving the strained attitude of reverence and pity by 
momentary outbursts of humorous merriment. The child, 
while appealing to our admiration and our pity, makes a 
large and many-voiced appeal also to our sense of the 
laughter in things. It is indeed hard to say whether he is 
most amusing when setting at naught in his quiet, lordly 
way, our most extolled views, our ideas of the true and 
the false, of the proper uses of things, and so forth, or when 
labouring in his perfectly self-conceived fashion to overtake 
us and be as experienced and as conventional as ourselves. 
This ever new play of droll feature in childish thought and 
action forms one of the deepest sources of delight for the 
modern lover of childhood. 

With the growth of a poetic or sentimental interest in 
childhood there has come a new and different kind of 
interest. Ours is a scientific age, and science has cast its 


inquisitive eye on the infant. We want to know what 
happens in these first all-decisive two or three years of 
human life, by what steps exactly the wee amorphous thing 
takes shape and bulk, both physically and mentally. And 
we can now speak of the beginning of a careful and 
methodical investigation of child-nature, by men trained in 
scientific observation. This line of inquiry, started by 
physicians, as the German Sigismund, in connection with 
their special professional aims, has been carried on by a 
number of fathers and others having access to the infant, 
among whom it may be enough to name Darwin and 
Preyer. 1 

This eagerness to know what the child is like, an eager- 
ness illustrated further by the number of reminiscences of 
early years recently published, is the outcome of a many- 
sided interest which it may be worth while to analyse. 

The most obvious source of interest in the doings of 
infancy lies in its primitiveness. At the cradle we are 
watching the beginnings of things, the first tentative thrust- 
ings forward into life. Our modern science is before all 
things historical and genetic, going back to beginnings so 
as to understand the later and more complex phases of 
things as the outcome of these beginnings. The same kind 
of curiosity which prompts the geologist to get back to the 
first stages in the building up of the planet, or the biologist 
to search out the pristine forms of life, is beginning to urge 
the student of man to discover by a careful study of infancy 
the way in which human life begins to take its characteristic 

The appearance of Darwin's name among those who 
have deemed the child worthy of study suggests that the 
subject is closely connected with natural history. However 
man in his proud maturity may be related to nature, it is 
certain that in his humble inception he is immersed in 

1 A fuller list of writings on the subject will be given at the end of 
the volume. 


her and saturated with her. As we all know, the lowest 
races of mankind stand in close proximity to the animal 
world. The same is true of the infants of civilised races. 
Their life is outward and visible, forming a part of nature's 
spectacle ; reason and will, the noble prerogatives of human- 
ity, are scarce discernible ; sense, appetite, instinct, these 
animal functions seem to sum up the first year of human 

To the evolutionist, moreover, the infant exhibits a still 
closer kinship to the natural world. In the successive 
stages of fcetal development he sees the gradual unfolding 
of human lineaments out of a widely typical animal form. 
And even after birth he can discern new evidences of this 
genealogical relation of the " lord " of creation to his 
inferiors. How significant, for example, is the fact re- 
cently established by a medical man, Dr. Louis Robin- 
son, that the new-born infant is able just like the ape to 
suspend his whole weight by grasping a small horizontal 
rod. 1 

Yet even as nature-object for the biologist the child 
presents distinctive attributes. Though sharing in animal 
instinct, he shares in it only to a very small extent. The 
most striking characteristic of the new-born offspring of 
man is its unpreparedness for life. Compare with the 
young of other animals the infant so feeble and incapable. 
He can neither use his limbs nor see the distance of objects 
as a new-born chick or calf is able to do. His brain- 
centres are, we are told, in a pitiable state of undevelopment 
and are not even securely encased within their bony 
covering. Indeed, he resembles for all the world a public 
building which has to be opened by a given date, and is 
found when the day arrives to be in a humiliating state of 

1 The Nineteenth Century (1891). Cf. the somewhat fantastic and 
not too serious paper by S. S. Buckman on " Babies and Monkeys " 
in the same journal (1894). 


This fact of the special helplessness of the human 
offspring at birth, of its long period of dependence on 
parental or other aids a period which, probably, tends to 
grow longer as civilisation advances is rich in biological 
and sociological significance. For one thing, it presupposes 
a specially high development of the protective and foster- 
ing instincts in the human parents, and particularly the 
mother for if the helpless wee thing were not met by these 
instincts, what would become of our race? It is probable, 
too, as Mr. Spencer and others have argued, that the 
institution by nature of this condition of infantile weakness 
has reacted on the social affections of the race, helping to 
develop our pitifulness for all frail and helpless things. 

Nor is this all. The existence of the infant, with its 
large and imperative claims, has been a fact of capital 
importance in the development of social customs. Ethno- 
logical researches show that communities have been much 
exercised with the problem of infancy, have paid it the 
homage due to its supreme sacredness, girding it about 
with a whole group of protective and beneficent customs. 1 

Enough has been said, perhaps, to show the far-reaching 
significance of babyhood to the modern savant. It is 
hardly too much to say that it has become one of the most 
eloquent of nature's phenomena, telling us at once of our 
affinity to the animal world, and of the forces by which our 
race has, little by little, lifted itself to so exalted a position 
above this world ; and so it has happened that not merely 
to the perennial baby- worshipper, the mother, and not 
merely to the poet touched with the mystery of far-off 
things, but to the grave man of science the infant has 
become a centre of lively interest. 

Nevertheless, it is not to the mere naturalist that the 
babe reveals all its significance. Physical organism as it 
seems to be more than anything else, hardly more than a 

1 See, for example, the works of H. Ploss, Das Kind in Branch 
und Sitte, and Das kleine Kind, 


vegetative thing indeed, it carries with it the germ of a 
human consciousness, and this consciousness begins to 
expand and to form itself into a truly human shape from 
the very beginning. And here a new source of interest 
presents itself. It is the human psychologist, the student 
of those impalpable, unseizable, evanescent phenomena 
which we call " states of consciousness," who has a supreme 
interest, and a scientific property in these first years of a 
human existence. What is of most account in these crude 
tentatives at living after the human fashion is the play of 
mind, -the first spontaneous manifestations of recognition, of 
reasoning expectation, of feelings of sympathy and anti- 
pathy, of definite persistent purpose. 

Rude, inchoate, vague enough, no doubt, are these first 
groping movements of a human mind : yet of supreme 
value to the psychologist just because they are the first. 
If, reflects the psychologist, he can only get at this baby's 
consciousness so as to understand what is passing there, he 
will be in an infinitely better position to find his way 
through the intricacies of the adult consciousness. It may 
be, as we shall see by-and-by, that the baby's mind is not 
so perfectly simple, so absolutely primitive as it at first 
looks. Yet it is the simplest type of human consciousness 
to which we can have access. The investigator of this 
consciousness can never take any known sample of the 
animal mind as his starting point if for no other reason 
for this, that while possessing many of the elements of the 
human mind, it presents these in so unlike, so peculiar a 

In this genetic tracing back of the complexities of 
man's mental life to their primitive elements in the child's 
consciousness, questions of peculiar interest will arise. A 
problem, which though having a venerable antiquity is 
still full of meaning, concerns the precise relation of the 
higher forms of intelligence and of sentiment to the 
elementary facts of the individual's life-experience. Are 


we to regard all our ideas, even those of God, as woven by 
the mind out of its experiences, as Locke thought, or have 
we certain ' innate ideas ' from the first ? Locke thought 
he could settle this point by observing children. To-day, 
when the philosophic emphasis is laid not on the date of 
appearance of the ' innate ' intuition, but on its originality 
and spontaneity, this method of interrogating the child's 
mind may seem less promising. Yet if of less philosophical 
importance than was once supposed, it is of great 
psychological importance. There are certain questions, 
such as that of how we come to see things at a distance 
from us, which can be approached most advantageously by 
a study of infant movements. In like manner I believe the 
growth of a moral sentiment, of that feeling of reverence 
for duty to which Kant gave so eloquent an expression, 
can only be understood by the most painstaking observa- 
tion of the mental activities of the first years. 

There is, however, another, and in a sense a larger, source 
of psychological interest in studying the processes and de- 
velopment of the infant mind. It was pointed out above 
that to the evolutional biologist the child exhibits man in 
his kinship to the lower sentient world. This same 
evolutional point of view enables the psychologist to con- 
nect the unfolding of an infant's mind with something which 
has gone before, with the mental history of the race. Ac- 
cording to this way of looking at infancy the successive 
phases of its mental life are a brief resume of the more im- 
portant features in the slow upward progress of the species. 
The periods dominated successively by sense and appetite, by 
blind wondering and superstitious fancy, and by a calmer 
observation and a juster reasoning about things, these steps 
mark the pathway both of the child-mind and of the race- 

This being so, the first years of a child, with their im- 
perfect verbal expression, their crude fanciful ideas, their 
seizures by rage and terror, their absorption in the present 


moment, acquire a new and antiquarian interest. They 
mirror for us, in a diminished distorted reflexion no doubt, 
the probable condition of primitive man. As Sir John Lub- 
bock and other anthropologists have told us, the intellectual 
and moral resemblances between the lowest existing races 
of mankind and children are numerous and cl se. They will 
be illustrated again and again in the following studies. 

Yet this way of viewing childhood is not merely of 
antiquarian interest. While a monument of his race, and 
in a manner a key to its history, the child is also its product. 
In spite of the fashionable Weismannism of the hour, there 
are evolutionists who hold that in the early manifested ten- 
dencies of the child we can discern signs of a hereditary 
transmission of the effects of ancestral experiences and activi- 
ties. His first manifestations of rage, for example, are a 
survival of actions of remote ancestors in their life and death 
struggles. The impulse of obedience, which is as much a 
characteristic of the child as that of disobedience, may in like 
manner be regarded as a transmitted rudiment of a long 
practised action of socialised ancestors. This idea of an in- 
crement of intelligence and moral disposition, earned for the 
individual not by himself but by his ancestors, has its 
peculiar interest. It gives a new meaning to human pro- 
gress to suppose that the dawn of infant intelligence, instead 
of being a return to a primitive darkness, contains from the 
first a faint light reflected on it from the lamp of racial in- 
telligence which has preceded ; that instead of a return to the 
race's starting point, the lowest form of the school of experi- 
ence, it is a start in a higher form, the promotion being a 
reward conferred on the child for the exertions of his 
ancestors. Psychological observation will be well employed 
in scanning the features of the infant's mind in order to see 
whether they yield evidence of such ancestral dowering. 

So much with respect to the rich and varied scientific 
interest attaching to the movements of the child's mind. It 
only remains to touch on a third main interest in childhood, 


the practical or educational interest. The modern world, 
while erecting the child into an object of aesthetic contem- 
plation, while bringing to bear on him the bull's eye lamp 
of scientific observation, has become sorely troubled by the 
momentous problem of rearing him. What was once a 
matter of instinct and unthinking rule- of- thumb has become 
the subject of profound and perplexing discussion. Mothers 
the right sort of mothers that is feel that they must know 
au fond this wee speechless creature which they are called 
upon to direct into the safe road to manhood. And profes- 
sional teachers, more particularly the beginners in the work 
of training, whose work is in some respects the most difficult 
and the most honourable, have come to see that a clear in- 
sight into child-nature and its spontaneous movements must 
precede any intelligent attempt to work beneficially upon 
this nature. In this way the teacher has lent his support to 
the savant and the psychologist in their investigation of 
infancy. More particularly he has betaken him to the 
psychologist in order to discover more of the native tenden- 
cies and the governing laws of that unformed child-mind 
which it is his in a special manner to form. In addition to 
this, the growing educational interest in the spontaneous 
behaviour of the child's mind may be expected to issue in a 
demand for a statistic of childhood, that is to say, carefully 
arranged collections of observations bearing on such points 
as children's questions, their first thoughts about nature, 
their manifestations of sensibility and insensibility. 

The awakening in the modern mind of this keen and 
varied interest in childhood has led, and is destined to lead 
still more, to the observation of infantile ways. This observa- 
tion will, of course, be of very different value according as 
it subserves the contemplation of the humorous or other 
aesthetically valuable aspect of child-nature, or as it is 
directed towards a scientific understanding of this. Pretty 
anecdotes of children which tickle the emotions may or 
may not add to our insight into the peculiar mechanism of 


children's minds. There is no necessary connexion between 
smiling at infantile drolleries and understanding the laws of 
infantile intelligence. Indeed, the mood of merriment, if 
too exuberant, will pretty certainly swamp for the moment 
any desire to understand. 

The observation which is to further understanding, 
which is to be acceptable to science, must itself be scientific. 
That is to say, it must be at once guided by fore- 
knowledge, specially directed to what is essential in a 
phenomenon and its surroundings or conditions, and 
perfectly exact. If anybody supposes this to be easy, he 
should first try his hand at the work, and then compare 
what he has seen with what Darwin or Preyer has been 
able to discover. 

How difficult this is may be seen even with reference 
to the outward physical part of the phenomena to be 
observed. Ask any mother untrained in observation to 
note the first appearance of that complex facial movement 
which we call a smile, and you, know what kind of result 
you are likely to get. The phenomena of a child's mental 
life, even on its physical and visible side, are of so subtle 
and fugitive a character that only a fine and quick 
observation is able to cope with them. But observation of 
children is never merely seeing. Even the smile has to be 
interpreted as a smile by a process of imaginative inference. 
Many careless onlookers would say that a baby smiles in the 
first days from very happiness, when another and simpler 
explanation of the movement is forthcoming. Similarly, 
it wants much fine judgment to say whether an infant is 
merely stumbling accidentally on an articulate sound, or is 
imitating your sound. A glance at some of the best 
memoirs will show how enormously difficult it is to be sure 
of a right interpretation of these early and comparatively 
simple manifestations of mind. l 

1 These difficulties seem to me to be curiously overlooked in 
Prof. Mark Baldwin's recent utterance on child psychology (Mental 


Things grow a great deal worse when we try to throw 
our scientific lassoo about the elusive spirit of a child of 
four or six, and to catch the exact meaning of its swiftly 
changing movements. Children are, no doubt, at this age 
frank before the eye of love, and their minds are vastly 
more accessible than that of the dumb dog that can only 
look his ardent thoughts. Yet they are by no means so 
open to view as is often supposed. All kinds of shy 
reticences hamper them : they feel unskilled in using our 
cumbrous language ; they soon find out that their thoughts 
are not as ours, but often make us laugh. And how 
carefully are they wont to hide from our sight their 
nameless terrors, physical and moral. Much of the deeper 
childish experience can only reach us, if at all, years after 
it is over, through the faulty medium of adult memory 
faulty even when it is the memory of a Goethe, a George 
Sand, a Robert Louis Stevenson. l 

Even when there is perfect candour, and the little one 
does his best to instruct us as to what is passing in his mind 
by his ' whys ' and his ' I s'poses/ accompanied by the most 
eloquent of looks, we find ourselves ever and again unequal 
to comprehending. Child-thought follows its own paths 
roads, as Mr. Rudyard Kipling has well said, " unknown to 
those who have left childhood behind ". The dark sayings 
of childhood, as when a child asks, ' Why am I not some- 
body else ? ' will be fully illustrated below. 

This being so, it might well seem arrogant to speak of 

Development in the Child and the Race, chap. ii.). In this optimistic 
presentment of the subject there is not the slightest reference to the 
difficult work of interpretation. Child-study is talked of as a 
perfectly simple mode of observation, requiring at most to be supple- 
mented by a little experiment, and, it may be added, backed by a 
firm theory. 

1 In these days of published reminiscences of childhood it is 
quite refreshing to meet with a book like Mr. James Payn's Gleams 
of Memory, which honestly confesses that its early recollections are 
almost niL 


any * scientific ' investigation of the child's mind ; and, to 
be candid, I may as well confess that, in spite of some 
recently published highly hopeful forecasts of what child- 
psychology is going to do for us, I think we are a long way 
off from a perfectly scientific account of it. Our so-called 
theories of children's mental activity have so often been 
hasty generalisations from imperfect observations. Children 
are probably much more diverse in their ways of thinking 
and feeling than our theories suppose. But of this more 
presently. Even where we meet with a common and 
comparatively prominent trait, we are far as yet from 
having a perfect comprehension of it. I at least believe 
that children's play, about which so much has confidently 
been written, is but imperfectly understood. Is it serious 
business, half-conscious make-believe, more than half-con- 
scious acting, or, no one of these, or all of them by turns ? 
I think he would be a bold man who ventured to answer 
this question straight away. 

In this state of things it might seem well to wait. 
Possibly by-and-by we shall light on new methods of 
tapping the childish consciousness. Patients in a certain 
stage of the hypnotic trance have returned, it is said, to 
their childish experiences and feelings. Some people do 
this, or appear to do this, in their dreams. I know a 
young man who revives vivid recollections of the expe- 
riences of the third year of life when he is sleepy, and 
more especially if he is suffering from a cold. These facts 
suggest that if we only knew more about the mode of 
working of the brain we might reinstate a special group of 
conditions which would secure a re-emergence of childish 
ideas and sentiments. 

Yet our case is not so hopeless that we need defer 
inquiry into the child's mind until human science has 
fathomed all the mysteries of the brain. We can know 
many things of this mind, and these of great impor- 
tance, even now. The naturalist discusses the actions 


of the lower animals, confidently attributing intelligent 
planning here, and a germ of vanity or even of moral sense 
there ; and it would be hard were we forbidden to study 
the little people that are of our own race, and are a 
thousand times more open to inspection. Really good 
work has already been done here, and one should be 
grateful. At the same time, it seems to me of the greatest 
importance to recognise that it is but a beginning : that 
the child which the modern world has in the main dis- 
covered is after all only half discovered : that if we are to 
get at his inner life, his playful conceits, his solemn brood- 
ings over the mysteries of things, his way of responding to 
the motley show of life, we must carry this work of noting 
and interpreting to a much higher point. 

Now, if progress is to be made in this work, we must 
have specially qualified workers. All who know anything 
of the gross misunderstandings of children of which many 
so-called intelligent adults are capable, will bear me out 
when I say that a certain gift of penetration is absolutely 
indispensable here. If any one asks me what the qualifica- 
tions of a good child-observer amount to, I may perhaps 
answer, for the sake of brevity, ' a divining faculty, the 
offspring of child-love, perfected by scientific training '. 
Let us see what this includes. 

That the observer of children must be a diviner, a sort 
of clairvoyant reader of their secret thoughts, seems to me 
perfectly obvious. Watch half a dozen men who find 
themselves unexpectedly ushered into a room tenanted by 
a small child, and you will soon be able to distinguish 
the diviners, who, just because they have in themselves 
something akin to the child, seem able at once to get 
into touch with children. It is probable that women's 
acknowledged superiority in knowledge of child-nature is 
owing to their higher gift of sympathetic insight. This 
faculty, so far from being purely intellectual, is very largely 
the outgrowth of a peculiar moral nature to which the life 


of all small things, and of children more than all, is always 
sweet and congenial. It is very much of a secondary, or 
acquired instinct ; that is, an unreflecting intuition which 
is the outgrowth of a large experience. For the child-lover 
seeks the object of his love, and is never so happy as 
when associating with children and sharing in their 
thoughts and their pleasures. And it is through such 
habitual intercourse that there forms itself the instinct or 
tact by which the significance of childish manifestation is 
at once unerringly discerned. 

There is in this tact or fineness of spiritual touch one 
constituent so important as to deserve special mention. I 
mean a lively memory of one's own childhood. As I have 
observed above, I do not believe in an exact and trust- 
worthy reproduction in later life of particular incidents of 
childhood. All recalling of past experiences illustrates the 
modifying influence of the later self in its attempt to as- 
similateand understand the earlierself; and this transforming 
effect is at its maximum when we try to get back to child- 
hood. But though our memory of childhood is not in 
itself exact enough to furnish facts, it may be sufficiently 
strong for the purposes of interpreting our observations of 
the children we see about us. It is said, and said rightly, 
that in order to read a child's mind we need imagination, 
and since all imagination is merely readjustment of 
individual experience, it follows that the skilled decipherer 
of infantile characters needs before all things to be in touch 
with his own early feelings and thoughts. And this is just 
what we find. The vivacious, genial woman who is never 
so much at home as when surrounded by a bevy of eager- 
minded children is a woman who remains young in the 
important sense that she retains much of the freshness and 
unconventionally of mind, much of the gaiety and ex- 
pansiveness of early life. Conversely one may feel pretty 
sure that a woman who retains a vivid memory of her 
childish ideas and feelings will be drawn to the companion- 


ship of children. After reading their autobiographies one 
hardly needs to be told that Goethe carried into old age his 
quick responsiveness to the gaiety of the young heart ; and 
that George Sand when grown old was never so happy as 
when gathering the youngsters about her. l 

Yet valuable as is this gift of sympathetic insight, it will 
not, of course, conduce to that methodical, exact kind of 
observation which is required by science. Hence the need 
of the second qualification : psychological training. By 
this is meant that special knowledge which comes from 
studying the principles of the science, its peculiar problems, 
and the methods appropriate to these, together with the 
special skill which is attained by a methodical, practical 
application of this knowledge in the actual observation and 
interpretation of manifestations of mind. Thus a woman 
who wishes to observe to good effect the mind of a child of 
three must have a sufficient acquaintance with the general 
course of the mental life to know what to expect, and in 
what way the phenomena observed have to be interpreted. 
Really fine and fruitful observation is the outcome of a 
large knowledge, and anybody who is to carry out in a 
scientific fashion the observation of the humblest phase of 
a child's mental life must already know this life as a 
whole, so far as psychology can as yet describe its character- 
istics, and determine the conditions of its activity. 

And here the question naturally arises : " Who is to 
carry out this new line of scientific observation ? " To 
begin with the first stage of it, who is to carry out the exact 
methodical record of the movements of the infant ? It is 
evident that qualification or capacity is not all that is 
necessary here ; capacity must be favoured with opportunity 
before the work can be actually begun. 

It has been pointed out that the pioneers who struck out 

1 Since this was written the authoress of Little Lord Fauntleroy 
has shown us how clear and far-reaching a memory she has of her 
childish experiences 


this new line of experimental research were medical men. 
The meaning of this fact is pretty apparent The doctor 
has not only a turn for scientific observation ; he is a 
privileged person in the nursery. The natural guardians of 
infancy, the mother and the nurse, exempt him from their 
general ban on the male. He excepted, no man, not even 
the child's own father, is allowed to meddle too much with 
that divine mystery, that meeting point of all the graces 
and all the beatitudes, the infant 

Consider for a moment the natural prejudice which the 
inquirer into the characteristics of the infant has to face. 
Such inquiry is not merely passively watching what 
spontaneously presents itself; it is emphatically experi- 
menting, that is, the calling out of reactions by applying 
appropriate stimuli. Even to try whether the new-born 
babe will close its fingers on your finger when brought into 
contact with their anterior surface may well seem impious 
to a properly constituted nurse. To propose to test the wee 
creature's sense of taste by applying drops of various 
solutions, as acid, bitters, etc., to the tongue, or to provoke 
ocular movements to the right or the left, would pretty 
certainly seem a profanation of the temple of infancy, if not 
fraught with danger to its tiny deity. And as to trying 
Dr. Robinson's experiment of getting the newly arrived 
visitor to suspend his whole precious weight by clasping 
a bar, it is pretty certain that, women being constituted as 
at present, only a medical man could have dreamt of so 
daring a feat. 

There is no doubt that baby-worship, the sentimental 
adoration of infant ways, is highly inimical to the carrying 
out of a perfectly cool and impartial process of scientific 
observation. Hence 'the average mother can hardly be 
expected to do more than barely to tolerate this encroach- 
ing of experiment into the hallowed retreat of the nursery. 
Even in these days of rapid modification of what used to 
be thought unalterable sexual characters, one may be bold 



enough to hazard the prophecy that women who have had 
scientific training will, if they happen to become mothers, 
hardly be disposed to give their minds at the very outset to 
the rather complex and difficult work, say, of making an 
accurate scientific inventory of the several modes of infantile 
sensibility, visual, auditory, and so forth, and of the 
alterations in these from day to day. 

It is for the coarser fibred man, then, to undertake much 
of the earlier experimental work in the investigation of 
child-nature. And if fathers will duly qualify themselves 
they will probably find that permission will little by little 
be given them to carry out investigations, short, of course, 
of anything that looks distinctly dangerous to the little 
being's comfort. 

At the same time it is evident that a complete series of 
observations of the infant can hardly be carried out by a 
man alone. It is for the mother, or some other woman 
with a pass-key to the nursery, with her frequent and pro- 
longed opportunities of observation, to attempt a careful and 
methodical register of mental progress. Hence the im- 
portance of enlisting the mother or her female representa- 
tive as collaborates or at least as assistant. Thus sup- 
posing the father is bent on ascertaining the exact dates 
and the order of appearance of the different articulate 
sounds, which is rather a subject of passive observation 
than of active experiment ; he will be almost compelled 
to call in the aid of one who has the considerable advantage 
of passing a good part of each day near the child. 1 

J The great advantage which the female observer of the infant's 
mind has over her male competitor is clearly illustrated in some 
recent studies of childhood by American women. I would especially 
call attention to a study by Miss M. W. Shinn of the University of 
California, Notes on the Development of a Child (the writer's niece), where 
the minute and painstaking record (e.g., of the child's colour-dis- 
crimination and visual space-exploration) points to the ample 
opportunity of observation which comes more readily to women. 


As the wee thing grows and its nervous system becomes 
more stable and robust more in the way of research may of 
course be safely attempted. In this higher stage the work 
of observation will be less simple and involve more of 
special psychological knowledge. It is a comparatively 
easy thing to say whether the sudden approach of an object 
to the eye of a baby a week or so old calls forth the reflex 
known as blinking: it is a much more difficult thing to say 
what are the preferences of a child of twelve months in the 
matter of simple forms, or even colours. 

The problem of the course of development of the colour- 
sense in children looks at first easy enough. Any mother, 
it may be thought, can say which colours the child first 
recognises by naming them when seen, or picking them out 
when another names them. Yet simple as it looks, the 
problem is in reality anything but simple. A German 
investigator, Professor Preyer of Berlin, went to work 
methodically with his little boy of two years so as to 
see in what order he would discriminate colours. Two 
colours, red and green, were first shown, the name added 
to each, and the child then asksd : "Which is red?" 
" Which is green ? " Then other colours were added and the 
experiments repeated. According to these researches this 
particular child first acquired a clear discriminative aware- 
ness of yellow. Preyer's results have not, however, been 
confirmed by other investigators, as M. Binet of Paris, who 
followed a similar method of inquiry. Thus according to 
Binet it is not yellow but blue which carries the day in the 
competition for the child's preferential recognition. 

What, it may be asked, is the explanation of this ? Is 
it that children differ in the mode of development of their 
colour-sensibility to this extent, or can it be that there is 
some fault in the method of investigation ? It has been 
recently suggested that the mode of testing colour-dis- 
crimination by naming is open to the objection that a child 
may get hold of one verbal sound, as ' red,' more easily 


than another, as 'green,' and that this would facilitate the 
recognition of the former. If in this way the recognition 
of a colour is aided by the retention of its name, we 
must get rid of this disturbing element of sound. Accord- 
ingly new methods of experiment have been attempted in 
France and America. Thus Professor Baldwin investigates 


the matter by placing two colours opposite the child's two 
arms and noting which is reached out to by right or left 
arm, which is ignored. He has tabulated the results of a 
short series of these simple experiments for testing child- 
ish preference, and supports the conclusions of Binet, as 
against those of Preyer, that blue comes in for the first 
place in the child's discriminative recognition. 1 It is how- 
ever easy to see that this method has its own characteristic 
defects. Thus, to begin with, it evidently does not directly 
test colour-discrimination at all, but the liking for or in- 
terest in colours, which though it undoubtedly implies a 
measure of discrimination must not be confused with this. 
And even as a test of preference it is very likely to be mis- 
applied. Thus supposing that the two colours are not 
equally bright, then the child will grasp at one rather than 
at the other, because it is a brighter object and not because 
it is this particular colour. Again if one colour fall more 
into the first and fresh period of the exercise when the 
child is fresh and active, whereas another falls more into 
the second period when he is tired and inactive, the results 
would, it is evident, give too much value to the former. 
Similarly, if one colour were brought in after longer inter- 
vals of time than another it would have more attractive 
force through its greater novelty. 

Enough has been said to show how very delicate a 
problem we have here to deal with. And if scientific men 
are still busy settling the point how the problem can 
be best dealt with, it seems hopeless for the amateur to 
dabble in the matter. 

1 Mental Development in the Child and the Race, chap. iii. 


1 have purposely chosen a problem of peculiar com- 
plexity and delicacy in order to illustrate the importance 
of that training which makes the mental eye of the observer 
quick to analyse the phenomenon to be dealt with so as to 
take in all its conditions. Yet there are many parts of this 
work of observing the child's mind which do not make so 
heavy a demand on technical ability, but can be done by 
any intelligent observer prepared for the task by a reason- 
able amount of psychological study. I refer more particu- 
larly to that rich and highly interesting field of exploration 
which opens up when the child begins to talk. It is in the 
spontaneous utterances of children, their first quaint uses of 
words, that we can best watch the play of the instinctive 
tendencies of thought Children's talk is always valuable 
to a psychologist ; and for my part I would be glad 
of as many anecdotal records of their sayings as I could 

Here, then, there seems to be room for a relatively 
simple and unskilled kind of observing work. Yet it would 
be a mistake to suppose that even this branch of child- 
observation requires nothing but ordinary intelligence. 
To begin with, we are all prone, till by special training 
we have learned to check the inclination, to read far too 
much of our older thought and sentiment into children. 
As M. Droz observes, nous sommes dupes de nous-memes 
lorsque nous observons ces chers bambins. 1 

Again, there is a subtle source of error connected 
with the very attitude of undergoing examination which 
only a carefully trained observer of childish ways will avoid. 
A child is very quick in spying whether he is being ob- 
served, and as soon as he suspects that you are specially 
interested in his talk he is apt to try to produce an effect. 
This wish to say something startling, wonderful, or what 
not, will, it is obvious, detract from the value of the utter- 

1 L'Enfant, p. 142. 


But once more the saying which it is so easy to report 
has had its history, and the observer who knows something 
of psychology will look out for facts, that is to say, experi- 
ences of the child, suggestions made by others' words which 
throw light on the saying. No fact is really quite simple, 
and the reason why some facts look so simple is that the 
observer does not include in his view all the connexions 
of the occurrence which he is inspecting. The unskilled 
observer of children is apt to send scraps, fragments of facts, 
which have not their natural setting. The value of psycho- 
logical training is that it makes one as jealously mindful of 
wholeness in facts as a housewife of wholeness in her porce- 
lain. It is, indeed, only when the whole fact is before us, 
in well-defined contour, that we can begin to deal with its 
meaning. Thus although those ignorant of psychology may 
assist us in this region of fact-finding, they can never ac- 
complish that completer and exacter kind of observation 
which we dignify by the name of Science. 1 

One may conclude then that women are fitted to be- 
come valuable labourers in this new field of investigation, 
if only they will acquire a genuine scientific interest in 
babyhood, and a fair amount of scientific training. That a 
large number of women will get so far is I think doubtful: 
the sentimental or aesthetic attraction of the baby is apt to 
be a serious obstacle to a cold matter-of-fact examination 
of it as a scientific specimen. The natural delight of a 
mother in every new exhibition of infantile wisdom or 
prowess is liable to blind her to the exceedingly modest 

1 Since writing the above I have had my opinion strongly con- 
firmed by reading a record of sayings of children carried out by 
women students in an American Normal College (Thoughts and 
Reasonings of Children, classified by H. W. Brown, Teacher of 
Psychology in State Normal School,Worcester, Mass., with introduc- 
tion by E.H.Russell, Principal: reprinted from the Pedagogical Semin- 
ary). Many of the quaint sayings noted down lose much of their 
psychological point from our complete ignorance of the child's home- 
experience, companionships, school and training. 


significance of the child's performances as seen from the 
scientific point of view. Yet, as I have hinted, this very 
fondness for infantile ways, may, . if only the scientific 
caution is added, prove a valuable excitant to study. In 
England, and in America, there is already a considerable 
number of women who have undergone some serious train- 
ing in psychology, and it may not be too much to hope 
that before long we shall have a band of mothers and aunts 
busily engaged in noting and recording the movements 
of children's minds. 

I have assumed here that what is wanted is careful 
studies of individual children as they may be approached 
in the nursery. And these records of individual children, 
after the pattern of Preyer's monograph, are, I think, our 
greatest need. We are wont to talk rather too glibly about 
that abstraction, 'the child,' as if all children rigorously 
corresponded to one pattern, of which pattern we have a 
perfect knowledge. Mothers at least know that this is 
not so. Children of the same family will be found to 
differ very widely (within the comparatively narrow field of 
childish traits), as, for example, in respect of matter-of-fact- 
ness, of fancifulness, of inquisitiveness. Thus, while it is 
probably true that most children at a certain age are 
greedy of the pleasures of the imagination, Nature in her 
well-known dislike of monotony has taken care to make a 
few decidedly unimaginative. We need to know much 
more about these variations : and what will best help us 
here is a number of careful records of infant progress, 
embracing examples not only of different sexes and 
temperaments, but also of different social conditions and 
nationalities. When we have such a collection of mono- 
graphs we shall be in a much better position to fill out the 
hazy outline of our abstract conception of childhood with 
definite and characteristic lineaments. 

At the same time I gladly allow that other modes of 
observation are possible and in their way useful. This 


applies to older children who pass into the collective exist- 
ence of the school-class. Here something like collective 
or statistical inquiry may be begun, as that into the 
contents of children's minds, their ignorances and misappre- 
hensions of common objects. Some part of this inquiry 
into the minds of school-children may very well be under- 
taken by an intelligent teacher. Thus it would be valuable 
to have careful records of children's progress carried out by 
pre-arranged tests, so as to get collections of examples of 
mental activity at different ages. More special lines of 
inquiry having a truly experimental character might be 
carried out by experts, as those already begun with refer- 
ence to children's "span of apprehension," i.e. t the number of 
digits or nonsense syllables that can be reproduced after a 
single hearing, investigations into the effects of fatigue on 
mental processes, into the effect of number of repetitions 
on the certainty of reproduction, into musical sensitive- 
ness and so forth. 

Valuable as such statistical investigation undoubtedly 
is, it is no substitute for the careful methodical study of the 
individual child. This seems to me the greatest desidera- 
tum just now. Since the teacher needs for practical reasons 
to make a careful study of individuals he might well assist 
here. In these days of literary collaboration it might not 
be amiss for a kindergarten teacher to write an account of 
a child's mind in co-operation with the mother. Such a 
record if well done would be of the greatest value. The 
co-operation of the mother seems to me quite indispensable, 
since even where there is out-of-class intercourse between 
teacher and pupil the knowledge acquired by the former 
never equals that of the mother. 



Why we call Children Imaginative. 

ONE of the few things we seemed to be certain of with 
respect to child-nature was that it is fancy-full. Childhood, 
we all know, is the age for dreaming, for decking out the 
world as yet unknown with the gay colours of imagination ; 
for living a life of play or happy make-believe. So that 
nothing seems more to characterise the ' Childhood of the 
World ' than the myth-making impulse which by an over- 
flow of fancy seeks to hide the meagreness of knowledge. 

Yet even here, perhaps, we have been content with loose 
generalisation in place of careful observation and analysis 
of facts. For one thing, the play of infantile imagination 
is probably much less uniform than is often supposed. 
There seem to be matter-of-fact children who cannot rise 
buoyantly to a bright fancy. Mr. Ruskin, of all men, has 
recently told us that when a child he was incapable of 
acting a part or telling a tale, that he never knew a child 
"whose thirst for visible fact was at once so eager and so 
methodic". 1 We may accept the report of Mr. Ruskin's 
memory as proving that he did not idle away his time in 
day-dreams, but, by long and close observation of running 
water, and the like, laid the foundations of that fine know- 
ledge of the appearances of nature which everywhere shines 
through his writings. Yet one may be permitted to doubt 

1 Prceterita, p. 76. 


whether a writer who shows not only so rich and graceful a 
style but so truly poetic an invention could have been in 
every respect an unimaginative child. 

Perhaps the truth will turn out to be the paradox that 
most children are at once matter-of-fact observers and 
dreamers, passing from the one to the other as the mood 
takes them, and with a facility which grown people may 
well envy. My own observations go to show that the 
prodigal out-put of fancy, the revelling in myth and story, 
is often characteristic of one period of childhood only. 
We are apt to lump together such different levels of experi- 
ence and capacity under that abstraction ' the child '. The 
wee mite of three and a half, spending more than half his 
days in trying to realise all manner of pretty, odd, startling 
fancies about animals, fairies, and the rest, is something 
vastly unlike the boy of six or seven, whose mind is now 
bent on understanding the make and go of machines, and 
of that big machine, the world. 

So far as I can gather from inquiries sent to parents and 
other observers of children, a large majority of boys and 
girls alike are for a time fancy-bound. A child that did 
not want to play and cared nothing for the marvels of 
story-land would surely be regarded as queer and not just 
what a child ought to be. Yet, supposing that this is the 
right view, there still remains the question whether imag- 
ination always works in the same way in the childish 
brain. Science is beginning to aid us in understanding the 
differences of childish fancy. For one thing it is leading 
us to see that a child's whole imaginative life may be 
specially coloured by the preponderant vividness of a certain 
order of images, that one child may live imaginatively in 
a coloured world, another in a world of sounds, another 
rather in a world of movements. It is easy to note in the 
case of certain children of the more lively and active turn, 
how the supreme interest of story as of play lies in the 
ample range of movement and bodily activity. Robinson 


Crusoe is probably for the boyish imagination, more than 
anything else, the goer and the doer. 1 

With this difference in the elementary constituents of 
imagination, there are others which turn on temperament, 
tone of feeling, and preponderant directions of emotion. 
Imagination is intimately bound up with the life of feeling, 
and will assume as many directions as this life assumes. 
Hence, the familiar fact that in some children imagination 
broods by preference on gloomy and terrifying objects* 
religious and other, whereas in others it selects what is 
bright and gladsome ; that while in some cases it has more 
of the poetic quality, in others it leans rather to the scien- 
tific or to the practical type. 

Enough has been said perhaps to show that the imag- 
inativeness of children is not a thing to be taken for granted 
as existing in all children alike. It is eminently a variable 
faculty requiring a special study in the case of each new 

But even waiving this fact of variability it may, I think, 
be said that we are far from understanding the precise 
workings of imagination in children. We talk, for ex- 
ample, glibly about their play, their make-believe, their 
illusions ; but how much do we really know of their state 
of mind when they act out a little scene of domestic life, 
or of the battle-field ? We have, I know, many fine ob- 
servations on this head. Careful observers of children and 
conservers of their own childish experiences, such as 
Rousseau, Pestalozzi, Jean Paul, Madame Necker, George 
Sand, R. L. Stevenson, tell us much that is valuable : yet I 
suspect that there must be a much wider and finer investi- 
gation of children's action and talk before we can feel 

different tendencies of children towards visual, auditory, 
motor images, etc., are dealt with by F. Queyrat, L' Imagination et 
ses varietes chez V enfant. Cf. an article by W. H. Burnham, "In- 
dividual Differences in the Imagination of Children,' Pedagogical 
Seminary, ii., 2. 


quite sure that we have got at their mental whereabouts, 
and know how they feel when they pretend to enter the 
dark wood, the home of the wolf, or to talk with their 
deities, the fairies. 

Perhaps 1 have said enough to justify my plea for new 
observations and for a reconsideration of hasty theories in 
the light of these. Nor need we object to a fresh survey of 
what is perhaps the most delightful side of child-life. I 
often wonder indeed when I come across some precious bit 
of droll infantile acting, or of sweet child-soliloquy, how 
mothers can bring themselves to lose one drop of the fresh 
exhilarating draught which daily pours forth from the fount 
of a child's phantasy. 

Nor is it merely for the sake of its inherent charm that 
children's imagination deserves further study. In the 
early age of the individual and of the race what we en- 
lightened persons call fancy has a good deal to do with 
the first crude attempts at understanding things. Child- 
thought, like primitive folk-thought, is saturated with myth, 
vigorous phantasy holding the hand of reason as yet 
sadly rickety in his legs and showing him which way he 
should take. In the moral life again, we shall see how 
easily the realising force of young imaginati n may expose 
it to deception by others, and to self-deception too, with 
results that closely simulate the guise of a knowing false- 
hood. On the other hand a careful following out of the 
various lines of imaginative activity may show how 
moral education, by vividly suggesting to the child's 
imagination a worthy part, a praiseworthy action, may work 
powerfully on the unformed and flexible structure of his 
young will, moving it dutywards. 

Imaginative Transformation of Objects. 

The play of young imagination meets us in the 
domain of sense-observation : a child is fancying when he 
looks at things and touches them and moves among them. 


This may seem a paradox at first, but in truth there is 
nothing paradoxical here. It is an exploded psychological 
fallacy that sense and imagination are wholly apart. No 
doubt, as the ancients told us, phantasy follows and is the 
offspring of sense : we live over again in waking and sleep- 
ing imagination the sights and sounds of the real world. 
Yet it is no less true that imagination in an active con- 
structive form takes part in the very making of what we 
call sense-experience. We read the visual symbol, say, 
a splash of light or colour, now as a stone, now as a pool 
of water, just because imagination drawing from past ex- 
perience supplies the interpretation, the group of qualities 
which composes a hard solid mass, or a soft yielding 

A child's fanciful reading of things, as when he calls 
the twinkling star a (blinking) eye, or the dew-drops on 
the grass tears, is but an exaggeration of what we all do. 
His imagination carries him very much farther. Thus he 
may attribute to the stone he sees a sort of stone-soul, and 
speak of it as feeling tired of a place. 

This lively way of envisaging objects is, as we know, 
similar to that of primitive folk, and has something of 
crude nature-poetry in it. This tendency is abundantly 
illustrated in the metaphors which play so large a part 
in children's talk. As all observers of them know they 
are wont to describe what they see or hear by analogy 
to something they know already. This is called by 
some, rather clumsily I think, apperceiving. For ex- 
ample, a little boy of two years and five months, on 
looking at the hammers of a piano which his mother 
was playing, called out : ' There is owlegie ' (diminutive 
of owl). His eye had instantly caught the similarity 
between the round felt disc of the hammer divided 
by a piece of wood, and the owl's face divided by 
its beak. In like manner the boy C. called a small 
oscillating compass-needle a ' bird ' on the ground of its 


slightly bird-like form, and of its fluttering movement. 1 
Pretty conceits are often resorted to in this assimilation 
of the new and strange to the familiar, as when a child 
seeing dew on the grass said, * The grass is crying/ or when 
stars were described as "cinders from God's stove," and 
butterflies as " pansies flying". 2 Other examples of this 
picturesque mode of childish apperception will meet us 

This play of imagination in connexion with apprehend- 
ing objects of sense has a strong vitalising or personify- 
ing element. That is to say, the child sees what we regard 
as lifeless and soulless as alive and conscious. Thus he 
gives not only body but soul to the wind when it whistles 
or howls at night. The most unpromising things come in 
for this warming vitalising touch of the child's fancy. He 
will make something like a personality out of a letter. 
Thus one little fellow aged one year eight months conceived a 
special fondness for the letter W, addressing it thus : ' Dear 
old boy W '. Another little boy well on in his fourth year, 
when tracing a letter L happened to slip so that the 
horizontal limb formed an angle thus, U. He instantly 
saw the resemblance to the sedentary human form 
and said: " Oh, he's sitting down". Similarly when he 
made an F turn the wrong way and then put the 
correct form to the left thus, F7I, he exclaimed : " They're 
talking together ". 

Sometimes this endowment of things with feeling leads 
to a quaint manifestation of sympathy. Miss Ingelow 
writes of herself: When a little over two years old, and 
for about a year after " I had a habit of attributing 
intelligence not only to all living creatures, the same 
amount and kind of intelligence that I had myself, but 
even to stones and manufactured articles. I used to feel 

1 The references to the child C. are to the subject of the memoir 
given below, chap. xi. 

a W. H. Burnham, he. cit., p. 212 fc 


how dull it must be for the pebbles in the causeway to be 
obliged to lie still and only see what was round about. 
When I walked out with a little basket for putting flowers 
in I used sometimes to pick up a pebble or two and carry 
them on to have a change : then at the farthest point of 
the walk turn them out, not doubting that they would be 
pleased to have a new view." l 

This is by no means a unique example of a quaint 
childish expression of pity for what we think the insen- 
tient world. Plant-life seems often to excite the feeling. 
Here is a quotation from a parent's chronicle : " A girl aged 
eight, brings a quantity of fallen autumn leaves in to her 
mother, who says, ' Oh ! how pretty, F. ! ' to which the girl 
answers : * Yes, I knew you'd love the poor things, mother, 
I couldn't bear to see them dying on the ground '. A few 
days afterwards she was found standing at a window over- 
looking the garden crying bitterly at the falling leaves as 
they fell in considerable numbers." 

I need not linger on the products of this vitalising and 
personifying instinct, as we shall deal with them again when 
inquiring int children's ideas about nature. Suffice it to 
say that it is wondrously active and far-reaching, constitut- 
ing one chief manifestation of childish fancy. 

Now it may be asked whether all this analogical exten- 
sion of images to what seem to us such incongruous objects 
involves a vivid and illusory apprehension of these as trans- 
formed. Is the eyelid realised and even seen for the moment 
as a sort of curtain, the curtain-image blending with and 
transforming what is present to the eye? Are the pebbles 
actually viewed" as living things condemned to lie stiffly 
in one place ? It is of course hard to say, yet I think a 
conjectural answer can be given. In this imaginative con- 
templation of things, the child but half observes what is 
present to his eyes, one or two points only of supreme 

1 See her article, " The History of an Infancy," Longman's 
Magazine, Feb. ; 1890. 


interest in the visible thing, whether those of form, as in 
assimilating the piano-hammer to the owl, or of action, 
as the falling of the leaf, being selectively alluded to : 
while assimilative imagination overlaying the visual im- 
pression with the image of a similar object does the 
rest. In this way the actual field of objects is apt to 
get veiled, transformed by the wizard touch of a lively 

No doubt there are various degrees of illusion here. In 
his matter-of-fact and really scrutinising mood a child will 
not confound what is seen with what is imagined : in this 
case the analogy recalled is distinguished and used as an 
explanation of what is seen as when C. observed of the 
panting dog: ' Dat bow-wow like puff-puff'. On the other 
hand when another little boy aged three years and nine 
months seeing the leaves falling exclaimed, " See, mamma, 
the leaves is flying like dickey-birds and little butterflies," 
it is hard not to think that the child's fancy for the moment 
transformed what he saw into these pretty semblances. 
And one may risk the opinion that, with the little 
thinking power and controlling force of will which a 
child possesses, such assimilative activity of imagination 
always tends to develop a degree of momentary illusion. 
There is, too, as we shall see later on, abundant 
evidence to show that children at first quite seriously 
believe that most things, at least, are alive and have their 

There is another way in which imagination may com- 
bine with and transform sensible objects, viz., by what is 
commonly called association. Mr. Ruskin tells us that 
when young he associated the name * crocodile ' with the 
creature so closely that the long series of letters took on 
something of the look of its lanky body. The same 
writer speaks of a Dr. Grant, into whose therapeutic 
hands he fell when a child. " The name (he adds) 
is always associated in my mind with a brown powder 


rhubarb or the like of a gritty or acrid nature. . . . 
The name always sounded to me gr-r-ish and granular." 

We can most of us perhaps, recall similar experiences, 
where colours and sounds, in themselves indifferent, took 
on either through analogy or association a decidedly re- 
pulsive character. How far, one wonders, does this process 
of transformation of things go in the case of imaginative 
children ? ' There is some reason to say that it may go 
very far, and that, too, when there is no strong feeling at 
work cementing the combined elements. A child's feeling 
for likeness is commonly keen and subtle, and knowledge 
of the real relations of things has not yet come to check 
the impulse to this free far-ranging kind of assimilation. 
Before the qualities and the connexions of objects are 
sufficiently known for them to be interesting in themselves, 
they can only acquire interest through the combining art 
of childish fancy. And the same is true of associated 
qualities. A child's ear may not dislike a grating sound, 
a harsh noise, as our ear dislikes it, merely because of its 
effect on the sensitive organ. En revanche it will like 
and dislike sounds for a hundred reasons unknown to us, 
just because the quick strong fancy adding its life to that 
of the senses gives to their impressions much of their 
significance and much of their effect. 

There is one new field of investigation which is illus- 
trating in a curious way the wizard influence wielded by 
childish imagination over the things of sense. It is well 
known that a certain number of people habitually ' colour > 
the sounds they hear, imagining, for example, the sound of 
a vowel, or of a musical tone, to have its characteristic 
tint which they are able to describe accurately. This 
1 coloured hearing/ as it is called, is always traced back to 
the dimly recalled age of childhood. Children are now 
beginning to be tested and it is found that a good propor- 
tion possess the faculty. Thus, in some researches on the 
minds of Boston school-children, it was found that twenty- 



one out of fifty-three, or nearly 40 per cent., described 
the tones of certain instruments as coloured. 1 The 
particular colour ascribed to an instrument, as also the 
degree of its brightness, though remaining constant in 
the case of the same child, varied greatly among different 
children, so that, for example, one child ' visualised' the tone 
of a fife as pale or bright, while another imaged it as dark. 2 
It is highly probable that both analogy and association 
play a part here. 3 As was recently suggested to me by 
a correspondent the instance given by Locke of the 
analogy between scarlet and the note of a trumpet may 
easily be due in part at least to association of the tone 
with the scarlet uniform. 

I may add that I once happened to overhear a little 
girl of six talking to herself about numbers in this wise: 
"Two is a dark number," "forty is a white number". I 
questioned her and found that the digits had each its dis- 
tinctive colour ; thus one was white ; two, dark ; three, white ; 
four, dark ; five, pink ; and so on. Nine was pointed and 
dark, eleven dark green, showing that some of the digits 
were much more distinctly visualised than others. Just 
three years later I tested her again and found she still 
visualised the digits, but not quite in the same way. Thus 
although one and two were white and black and five pink as 
before, three was now grey, four was red, nine had lost its 
colour, and eleven oddly enough had turned from dark green 
to bright yellow. This case suggests that in early life new 
experiences and associations may modify the tint and shade 
of sounds. However this be, children's coloured hearing is 

1 (j. Stanley Hall, "The Contents of Children's Minds, Princeton 
Review, N.S., 1883, and volume (same title', 1893. 

2 Ibid., p. 265. 

3 This has been well brought out by Professor Flournoy ot 
Geneva in his volume Des Phenomenes de Synopsie (audition coloree), 
chap. ii. 


worth noting as the most striking example of the general ten- 
dency to overlay impressions of the senses with vivid images. 
It seems reasonable to suppose that coloured hearing and 
other allied phenomena, as the picturing of numbers, days 
of the week, etc., in a certain scheme or diagrammatic ar- 
rangement, when they show themselves after childhood are 
to be viewed as survivals of early fanciful brain-work. This 
fact taken along with the known vividness of the images in 
coloured hearing, which in certain cases approximate to 
sense-perceptions, seems to me to confirm the view here put 
forth that children's imagination may alter the world of sense 
in ways which it is hard for our older and stiff-jointed minds 
to follow. 

I have confined myself here to what I have called the 
play of imagination, the magic, transmuting of things 
through the sheer liveliness and wanton activity of 
childish fancy. How strong, how vivid, how dominating 
such imaginative transformation may become will of course 
be seen in cases where violent feeling, especially fear, 
gives preternatural intensity to the mind's realising power. 
But this will be better considered later on. 

This transformation of the actual surroundings is 
of course restrained in serious moments, and in inter- 
course with older and graver folk. There is, however, a 
region of child-life where it knows no check, where the 
impulse to deck out the shabby reality with what is bright 
and gay has all its own way. This region is Play. 

Imagination and Play. 

The interest of child's play in the present connexion lies 
in the fact that it is the working out into visible shape of an 
inner fancy. The actual presentation may be the starting- 
point of this process of imaginative projection : the child, 
for example, sees the sand, the shingle and shells, and says, 
' Let us play keeping a shop'. Yet this is accidental. The 


source of play is the impulse to realise a bright idea: whence, 
as we shall see by-and-by, its close kinship to art as a 
whole. This image is the dominating force, it is for the 
time a veritable idle fixe t and everything has to accommodate 
itself to this. Since the image has to be acted out, it comes 
into collision with the actual surroundings. Here is the 
child's opportunity. The floor is instantly mapped out 
into two hostile territories, the sofa-end becomes a horse, 
a coach, a ship, or what not, to suit the exigencies of the 

This stronger movement and wider range of imagina- 
tion in children's pastime is explained by the characteristic 
and fundamental impulse of play, the desire to be some- 
thing, to act a part. The child-adventurer as he personates 
Robinson Crusoe or other hero steps out of his every-day 
self and so out of his every-day world. In realising his 
part he virtually transforms his surroundings, since they 
take on the look and meaning which the part assigns to 
them. This is prettily illustrated in one of Mr. Steven- 
son's child-songs, " The Land of Counterpane," in which 
a sick child describes the various transformations of the 
bed-scene : 

And sometimes for an hour or so 
I watched my leaden soldiers go, 
With different uniforms and drills, 
Among the bed-clothes through the hills; 

And sometimes sent my ships in fleets, 
All up and down among the sheets ; 
Or brought my trees and houses out, 
And planted cities all about. 

Who can say to how many and to what strange play- 
purposes that stolid unyielding-looking object a sofa-head 
has been turned by the ingenuity of the childish brain ? 

The impulse to act a part meets us very early and 
grows out of the assimilative instinct. The very infant 


will, if there is a cup to hand, pretend to drink out of it. 1 
Similarly a boy of two will put the stem of his father's 
pipe into, or, if cautious, near his mouth, and make believe 
that he is smoking. A little boy not yet two years old 
would spend a whole wet afternoon "painting" the furniture 
with the dry end of a bit of rope. In such cases, it is 
evident, the playing may start from a suggestion supplied 
by the sight of an object. There is no need to suppose 
that in this simple kind of imitative play children know- 
ingly act a part. It is surely to misunderstand the 
essence of play to speak of it as a fully conscious process 
of imitative acting. 2 A child is one creature when he is 
truly at play, another when he is bent on astonishing or 
amusing you. It seems sufficient to say that when at play 
he is possessed by an idea, and is working this out into 
visible action. Your notice, your laughter, may bring in 
a new element of enjoyment ; for as we all know, children 
are apt to be little actors in the full sense, and to aim at 
producing an impression. Yet the child as little needs 
your flattering observation as the cat needs it, when he 
plays in the full sense imaginatively, and in make-believe, 
with his captured mouse, placing it, for example, deliber- 
ately under a copper in the scullery, and amusing himself 
by the half-illusion of losing it. Indeed your intrusion 
will be just as likely to destroy or at least to diminish the 
charm of a child's play, if only through your inability to 
seize his idea, and, what is equally important, to rise to his 
own point of enthusiasm and illusive realisation. Perhaps, 
indeed, one may say that the play-instinct is most vigorous 
and dominant when a child is alone, or at least self- 
absorbed ; for even social play, delightful as it is when all 

1 Of course, as Preyer suggests, this drinking from an empty 
cup may at first be due to a want of discriminative perception. 

2 M. Compayr6 seems to go too far in this direction when he 
talks of the child's play with its doll as a charming comedy of 
maternity (L' Evolution intell. et morale de I'Enfant, p. 274). 


the players are attuned, is subject to disturbance througn 
a want of mutual comprehension and a need of half-dis- 
illusive explanations. 1 

The essence of children's play is the acting of a part 
and the realising of a new situation. It is thus, as we shall 
see more fully by-and-by, akin to dramatic action, only 
that the child's ' acting ' is like M. Jourdain's prose, an 
unconscious art. The impulse to be something, a sailor, a 
soldier, a path-finder, or what not, absorbs the child and 
makes him forget his real surroundings and his actual self. 
His day-dreams, his solitary and apparently listless wander- 
ings while he mutters mystic words to himself, all illustrate 
this desire to realise a part. In this playful self-projection 
a child will become even something non-human, as when 
he nips the ' bread-and-cheese ' shoots off the bushes 
and fancies himself a horse. 2 It is to be noted that such 
passing out of one's ordinary self and assuming a foreign 
existence is confined to the child-player ; the cat or the 
dog, though able, as Mr. Darwin and others have shown, 
to go through a kind of make-believe game, remaining 
always within the limits of his ordinary self. 

Such play-like transmutation of the self extends beyond 
what we are accustomed to call play. One little boy of 
three and a half years who was fond of playing at the useful 
business of coal-heaving would carry his coal-heaver's 
dream through the whole day, and on the particular day 
devoted to this calling would not only refuse to be ad- 
dressed by any less worthy name, but ask in his prayer to 
be made a good coal-heaver (instead of the usual ' good 
boy '). On other days this child lived the life of a robin 
redbreast, a soldier, and so forth, and bitterly resented his 
mother's occasional confusion of his personalities. A little 

1 For a good illustration of the disillusive effect of want of en- 
thusiasm in one's playmates, see Tolstoi, Childhood, Boyhood, Youth, 
part i., chap. viii. 

2 See Mrs. Fry, Uninitiated, p. 10. 


girl aged only one year and ten months insisted upon 
being addressed by a fancy name, Isabel, when she was 
put to bed, but would not be called by this name at any- 
other time. She probably passed into what seemed to her 
another person when she went to bed and gave herself up 
to sweet ' hypnagogic ' reverie. 

In the working out of this impulse to realise a 
part the child's actual surroundings may take a surpris- 
ingly small part. Sometimes there is scarcely any adjust- 
ment of scene : the child plays out his action with purely 
imaginary surroundings. Such simple play-actions as 
going to market to buy imaginary apples occur very early, 
one mother assuring me that all her children carried them 
out in the second year before they could talk. Another 
mother writes of her boy, aged two and a half years : " He 
amuses himself by pretending things. He will fetch an 
imaginary cake from a corner, rake together imaginary 
grass, or fight a battle with imaginary soldiers." This 
reminds one of Mr. Stevenson's lines : 

It is he, when you play with your soldiers of tin, 
Who sides with the French and who never can win. 

This impulse to invent imaginary surroundings, and 
mere especially to create mythical companions, is very 
common among lonely and imaginative children. A lady 
friend, a German, tells me that when she was a 
little girl, a lonely one of course, she invented a kind of 
alter ego, another girl rather older than herself, whom she 
named ' Krofa ' why she has forgotten. She made a 
constant playmate of her, and got all her new ideas from 
her. Mr. Canton's little heroine took to nursing an in- 
visible ' iccle gaal ' (little girl), the image of which she 
seemed able to project into space. 1 The invention of 
fictitious persons fills a large space in child-life. Perhaps 

1 The Invisible Playmate, p. 33 ff. 


if only the young imagination is strong enough there is, as 
already hinted, more of sweet illusion, of a warm grasp of 
living reality in this solitary play, where fictitious com- 
panions perfectly obedient to the little player's will take 
the place of less controllable tangible ones. But such 
purely imaginative make-believe, which derives no help 
from actual things, is perhaps hardly 'play' in the full 
sense, but rather an active form of day-dreaming or 
romancing. 1 

In much of this playful performance all the interference 
with actual surroundings that the child requires is change 
of place or scene. Here is a pretty example of this 
simple type of imaginative play. A child of twenty months, 
who is accustomed to meet a bonne and child in the Jardin 
du Luxembourg, suddenly leaves the family living-room, 
pronouncing indifferently well the names Luxembourg, 
nurse, and child. He goes into the next room, pretends 
to say " good-day" to his two out-door acquaintances, and 
then returns and simply narrates what he has been doing. 2 
Here the simple act of passing into an adjoining room was 
enough to secure the needed realisation of the encounter in 
the garden. The movement into the next room is sugges- 
tive. Primarily it meant no doubt the child's manner of 
realising the out-of-door walk ; yet I suspect there was 
another motive at work. Children love to enact their little 
play-scenes in some remote spot, withdrawn from notice, 
where imagination suffers no let from the interference of 

1 1 fail to understand what Professor Mark Baldwin means by 
saying that an only child is wanting in imagination (op. cit., p. 358). In 
his emphasising of the influence of imitation and external suggestion 
the writer seems to have overlooked the rather obvious fact that 
childish imagination in its intenser and more energetic forms means 
a detachment from the sensible world, and that lonely children are, 
as more than one autobiography, as well as mother's record, show, 
particularly imaginative just because of the absence of engaging 
activities in the real world. 

2 Egger quoted by Compayr6, op. cit., pp. 149, 150. 


mother, nurse, or other member of the real environment 
How many a thrilling exciting play has been carried out in 
a corner, especially if it be dark, or better still, screened off. 
The fascination of curtained spaces, as those behind the 
window curtains, or under the table with the table-cloth 
hanging low, will be fresh in the memory of all who can 
recall their childhood. 

A step towards a more realistic kind of play-action, in 
which, as in the modern theatre, imagination is propped up 
by strong stage effects, is taken when a scene is constructed, 
the chairs and sofa turned into ships, carriages, a railway 
train, and so forth. 

Yet, after all, the scene is but a very subordinate part 
of the play. Next to himself in his new part, proudly 
enjoying the consciousness of being a general, or a school- 
mistress, a child who is not content with the pure creations 
of his phantasy requires the semblance of living com- 
panions. In all play he desires somebody, if only as 
listener to his talk in his new character ; and when he does 
not rise to an invisible auditor, he will talk to such un- 
promising things as a sponge in the bath, a fire-shovel, a 
clothes' prop in the garden, and so forth. In more active play, 
where something has to be done, he generally desires a full 
companion and assistant, human or animal. And here we 
meet with what is perhaps the most interesting feature of 
childish play, the transmutation of the most meagre and 
least promising of things into complete living forms. I have 
already alluded to the sofa-head. How many forms of 
animal life, vigorous and untiring, from the patient donkey 
up to the untamed horse of the prairies, has this most inert- 
looking ridge served to image forth to quick boyish 

The introduction of these living things seems to illustrate 
the large compass of the child's realising power. Mr. 
Ruskin speaks somewhere of " the perfection of child-like 
imagination, the power of making everything out of 


nothing ". " The child," he adds, " does not make a pet 
of a mechanical mouse that runs about the floor. . . . The 
child falls in love with a quiet thing with an ugly one 
nay, it may be with one to us totally devoid of meaning. 
The besoin de croire precedes the besoin d' aimer" 

The quotation brings us to the focus where the rays of 
childish imagination seem to converge, the transformation 
of toys. 

The fact that children make living things out of their 
toy horses, dogs and the rest, is known to every observer 
of their ways. To the natural unsceptical eye the boy on 
his rudely carved "gee-gee" slashing the dull flank with 
all a boy's glee, looks as if he were realising the joy 
of actual riding, as if he were possessed with the fancy 
that the stiff least organic-looking of structures which he 
strides is a very horse. 

The liveliness of this realising imagination is seen in 
the extraordinary poverty and meagreness of the toys 
which to their happy possessors are wholly satisfying. 
Here is a pretty picture of child's play from a German 
writer : 

A charming little master of three years sits at his small table 
busied for a whole hour in a fanciful game with shells. He has 
three so-called snake-heads in his domain; a large one and two 
smaller ones : this means two calves and a cow. In a wee tin dish 
the little farmer has put all kinds of petals, that is the fodder for 
his numerous and fine cattle. . . . When the play has lasted a while 
the fodder dish transforms itself into a heavy waggon with hay : the 
little shells now become little horses, and are put to the shafts to 
pull the terrible load. 1 

The doll takes a supreme place in this fancy realm of 
play. It is human and satisfies higher instincts and emo- 
tions. As the French poet says, the little girl 

Reve le nom de mere en bezant sa poup6e. 
1 B. Goltz, Buck der Kindlieit (4** Aufl.), pp. 4, 5- 



I read somewhere recently that the doll is a plaything 
for girls only : but boys, though they often prefer india- 
rubber horses and other animals, not infrequently go 
through a stage of doll-love also, and are hardly less 
devoted than girls. Endless is the variety of role assigned 
to the doll as to the tiny shell in our last picture of play. 
The doll is the all-important comrade in that solitude a 
deux of which the child, like the adult, is so fond. Mrs. 
Butnett tells us that sitting holding her doll in the arm- 
chair of the parlour she would sail across enchanted seas to 
enchanted islands having all sorts of thrilling adventures. 
At another time when she wanted to act an Indian chief 
the doll just as obediently took up the part of squaw. 

Very humanely, on the whole, is the little doll-lover 
wont to use her pet, even though, as George Sand reminds 
us, there come moments of rage and battering. 1 A little 
boy of two and a half years asked his mother one day: 
" Will you give me all my picture-books to show dplly ? 
I don't know which he will like best." He then pointed 
to each and looked at the doll's face for the answer. He 
made believe that it selected one, and then gravely showed 
it all the pictures, saying : " Look here, dolly ! " and care- 
fully explaining them. 

The doll illustrates the childish attitude towards all 
toys, the impulse to take them into the innermost and 
warmest circle of personal intimacy, to make them a living 
part of himself. A child's language, as we shall see later, 
points to an early identification of self with belongings. 
The ' me ' and the ' my ' are the same, or nearly the same, 
to a mite of three. This impulse to attach the doll to self, 
or to embrace it within the self-consciousness or self- 
feeling, shows itself in odd ways. In the grown-up child, 
Laura Bridgman, it took the form of putting a bandage 
like her own over her doll's eyes. This resembles a case of 

1 See the study of George Sand's childhood below, chap. xii. 


a girl of six, who when recovering from measles was observed 
to be busily occupied with her dolls, each of which she 
painted over with bright red spots. The dolly must do all, 
and be all that I am : so the child in his warm attachment 
seems to argue. This feeling of oneness is strengthened by 
that of exclusive possession, the sense that the child himself 
is the only one who really knows dolly, can hear her cry 
when she cries and so forth. 1 It is another manifestation 
of the same feeling of intimacy and solidarity when a child 
insists on dolly's being treated by others as courteously 
as himself. Children will often expect the mother or 
nurse to kiss and say good-night to their pet or pets for 
their hearts are capacious when she says good-night to 

Here, nobody can surely doubt, we have clearest evi- 
dence of play-illusion. The lively imagination endows the 
inert wooden thing with the warmth of life and love. 
How large a part is played here by the alchemist, fancy, 
is known to all observers of children's playthings. The 
faith and the devotion often seem to increase as the first 
meretricious charms, the warm tints of the cheek and the 
lips, the well-shaped nose, the dainty clothes, prematurely 
fade, and the lovely toy which once kept groups of hungry- 
looking children gazing long at the shop-window, is reduced 
to the naked essence of a doll. A child's constancy to his 
doll when thus stript of exterior charms and degraded to 
the lowest social stratum of dolldom is one of the sweetest 
and most humorous things in child-life. 

And then what rude unpromising things are adopted 
as doll-pets. Mrs. Burnett tells us she once saw a dirty 
mite sitting on a step in a squalid London street, cuddling 
warmly a little bundle of hay tied round the middle by a 
string. Here, surely, the besom d* aimer was little if anything 
behind the besoin de croire. 

1 Of. Perez, L'Art et la Poesie cliez V enfant, p. 28. 


Do any of us really understand this doll-superstition ? 
Writers of a clear long-reaching memory have tried to take 
us back to childhood, and restore to us for a moment the 
whole undisturbed trust, the perfect satisfaction of love, 
which the child brings to its doll. Yet even the imagina- 
tive genius of a George Sand is hardly equal, perhaps, to 
the feat of resuscitating the buried companion of our early 
days and making it live once more before our eyes. 1 The 
truth is the doll-illusion is one of the first to pass. There 
are, I believe, a few sentimental girls who, when they 
attain the years of enlightenment, make a point of saving 
their dolls from the general wreckage of toys. Yet I suspect 
the pets when thus retained are valued more for the outside 
charm of pretty face and hair, and still more for the 
lovely clothes, than for the inherent worth of the doll itself, 
of what we may call the doll-soul which informs it and 
gives it, for the child, its true beauty and its worth. 

Yet if we cannot get inside the old doll-superstition we 
may study it from the outside, and draw a helpful com- 
parison between it and other known forms of naive 
credulity. And here we have the curious fact that the 
doll exists not only for the child but for the " nature man ". 
Savages, Sir John Lubbock tells us, 2 like toys, such as 
dolls, Noah's Arks, etc. The same writer remarks that the 
doll is " a hybrid between the baby and the fetish, and that 
it exhibits the contradictory characters of its parents". 
Perhaps the changes of mood towards the doll, of which 
George Sand writes, illustrate the alternating preponder- 
ance of the baby and the fetish half. But as Sir John also 
remarks, this hybrid is singularly unintelligible to grown- 
up people, and it seems the part of modesty here to bow to 
one of nature's mysteries. 

It has been suggested to me by Mr. F. Galton that a 

1 For her remarkable analysis of the child's feeling for his doll, 
see below, chap. xii. 

2 Origin of Civilisation, appendix, p. 521. 


useful inquiry might be carried out into the relation be- 
tween a child's preference in the matter of doll or other toy 
and the degree of his imaginativeness as otherwise shown, 
e.g.) in craving for story, and in romancing. So far as I have 
inquired I am disposed to think that such a relation exists. 
A lady who has had a large experience as a Kindergarten 
teacher tells me that children who play with rough shapeless 
things, and readily endow with life the ball, and so forth, in 
Kindergarten games are imaginative in other ways. Here 
is an example : 

P. Me. L., a girl, observed from three and a half to five years of 
age, was a highly imaginative child as shown by the power of make- 
believe in play. The ball of soft india-rubber was to her on the teacher's 
suggestion, say, a baby, and on it she would lavish all her tenderness, 
kissing it, feeding it, washing its face, dressing it in her pinafore, etc. 
So thorough was her delight in the play that the less imaginative 
children around her would suspend their play at ' babies ' and watch 
her with interest. Whilst a most indifferent restless child at lessons, 
whenever a story was told she sat motionless and wide-eyed till 
the close. 

Children sometimes make babies of their younger 
brothers and sisters, going through all the sweet solicitous 
offices which others are wont to carry out on their dolls. 1 
This suggests another and closely related question : Do 
the more imaginative children prefer the inert, ugly doll 
to the living child in these nursing pastimes ? What is the 
real relation in the child's play between the toy-companion, 
the doll or india-rubber dog, and the living companion ? 
Again, a child will occasionally play with an imaginary 
doll. 2 How is this impulse related to the other two forms 
of doll-passion ? These points would well repay a careful 

The vivification of the doll or toy animal is the out- 

1 Baldwin gives a pretty example of this op. cit. t p 362. 

2 An example is given by Paola Lombroso, Psicologia del Bambino, 
p. 126. 


come of the play-impulse, and this, as we have seen, is an 
impulse to act out, to realise an idea in outward show. 
The absorption in the idea and its outward expression 
serves, as in the case of the hypnotised subject, to blot out 
the incongruities of scene and action which you or I, a 
cold observer, would note. The play-idea works transform- 
ingly by a process analogous to what is called auto-sugges- 

How complete this play-illusion may become here can 
be seen in more ways than one. We see it in the jealous 
insistence already illustrated that everything shall for the 
time pass over from the every-day world into the new 
fancy-created one. "About the age of four," writes M. Egger 
of his boys, " Felix is playing at being coachman, Emile 
happens to return home at the moment. In announcing 
his brother, Felix does not say, ' Emile is come,' he says 
' The brother of the coachman is come '." x 

As we saw above, the child's absorption in his new 
play-world is shown by his imperious demand that others, 
as his mother, shall recognise his new character. Pestalozzi's 
little boy, aged three years and a half, was one day playing 
at being butcher, when his mother called him by his usual 
diminutive, ' Jacobli '. He at once replied : " No, no ; you 
should call me butcher now ". 2 Here is a story to the same 
effect, sent me by a mother. A little girl of four was play- 
ing * shops ' with her younger sister. " The elder one was 
shopman at the time I came into her room and kissed her. 
She broke out into piteous sobs, I could not understand 
why. At last she sobbed out : ' Mother, you never kiss the 
man in the shop '. I had with my kiss quite spoilt her illu- 

The intensity of the realising power of imagination in play 
is seen too in the stickling for fidelity to the original in all 

1 Quoted by Compayrfe, op. cit., p. 150. 

8 De Guimps 1 Life of Pestalozzl (Engl. trans.), p. 41. 


playful reproduction, whether of scenes observed in every- 
day life or of what has been narrated. The same little 
boy who showed his picture-books to dolly was, we are told, 
when two years and eight months old, fond of imagining 
that he was Priest, his grandmamma's coachman. " He 
drives his toy horse from the arm-chair as a carriage, 
getting down every minute to l let the ladies out/ or to ' go 
shopping '. The make-believe extends to his insisting on 
the reins being held while he gets down and so forth." 
The same thing shows itself in acting out stories. The 
full enjoyment of the realisation depends on the faithful 
reproduction, on the suitable outward embodiment of the 
distinct idea in the child's mind. 

The following anecdote bears another kind of testimony, 
a most winsome kind, to the realising power of play. One 
day two sisters said to one another : " Let us play being 
sisters". This might well sound insane enough to hasty ears ; 
but is it not really eloquent ? To me it suggests that the 
girls felt they were not realising their sisterhood, enjoying 
all the possible sweets of it, as they wanted to do perhaps 
there had been a quarrel and a supervening childish cold- 
ness. And they felt too that the way to get this more vivid 
sense of what they were, or ought to be, one to the other, was 
by playing the part, by acting a scene in which they would 
come close to one another in warm sympathetic fellow- 

But there is still another, and some will think a more 
conclusive way of satisfying ourselves of the reality of the 
play-illusion. The child finds himself confronted by the 
unbelieving adult who questions what he says about the 
doll's crying and so forth. One little girl, aged one year and 
nine months, when asked by her mother how her doll, who 
had lost his arms, ate his dinner without hands, quickly 
changed the subject. She did not apparently like having 
difficulties brought into her happy play-world. But the true 
tenacious faith shows itself later when the child understands 


these sceptical questionings of others, and sees that they are 
poking fun at his play and his day-dreamings. Such cruel 
quizzings of his make-believe are apt to cut him to the 
quick. I have heard of children who will cry if a stranger 
suddenly enters the nursery when they are hard at play, 
and shows himself unsympathetic and critical. 

Play may produce not only this vivid imaginative 
realisation at the time, but a sort of mild permanent 
illusion. Sometimes it is a toy-horse, in one case communi- 
cated to me it was a funny-looking toy-lion, more frequently 
it is the human effigy, the doll, which as the result of 
successive acts of imaginative vivification gets taken up 
into the relation of permanent companion and pet. 
Clusters of -happy associations gather about it, investing it 
with a lasting vitality and character. A mother once asked 
her boy of two and a half years if his doll was a boy or a 
girl. He said at first, "A boy," but presently correcting 
himself added, " I think it is a baby ". Here we have a 
challenging of the inner conviction by a question, a moment 
of reflexion, and as a result of this, an unambiguous 
confession of faith that the doll had its place in the living 
human family. 

Here is a more stubborn exhibition on the part of an- 
other boy of this lasting faith in the plaything called out 
by others' sceptical attitude. " When (writes a lady corre- 
spondent) he was just over two years old L. began to speak 
of a favourite wooden horse (Dobbin) as if it were a real 
living creature. ' No tarpenter (carpenter) made Dobbin/ 
he would say, 'he is not wooden but kin (skin) and bones 
and Dod (God) made him.' If any one said ' it ' in speaking 
of the horse his wrath was instantly aroused, and he would 
shout indignantly : ' It ! You mutt'ent tay "it," you mut tay 
he '. He imagined the horse was possessed of every virtue 
and it was strange to see what an influence this creature of 
his own imagination exercised over him. If there \vas 
anything L. particularly wished not to do his mother had 



only to say : ' Dobbin would like you to do this,' and it was 
done without a murmur." 

There is another domain of childish activity closely 
bordering on that of play where a like suffusion of the 
world of sense by imagination meets us. I refer to pictures 
and artistic representations generally. If in the case of adults 
there is a half illusion, a kind of oneirotic or trance condition 
induced by a picture or dramatic spectacle, in the case of 
the less-instructed child the illusion is apt to become more 
complete. A picture seems very much of a toy to a child. 
A baby of eight or nine months will talk to a picture as to 
a living thing ; and something of this tendency to make a 
fetish of a drawing survives much later. But it will be 
more convenient to deal with the attitude of the child-mind 
towards pictorial representations in connexion with his art- 

The imaginative transformation of things, more 
particularly the endowing of lifeless things with life, enters, 
I believe, into all children's pastimes. Whence comes the 
perennial charm, the undying popularity, of the hoop ? Is 
not the interest here due to the circumstance that the 
child controls a moving thing which in the capricious varia- 
tions of its course simulates a free will of its own ? As I 
understand it, trundling the hoop is imaginative play hardly 
less than riding the horse-stick and slashing its flanks. 
Who again that can recall early experiences will doubt that 
the delight of flying the kite, of watching it as it sways to 
the right or to the left, threatening to fall head-foremost 
to earth, and most of all perhaps of sending a paper 
' messenger ' along the string to the wee thing poised like 
a bird so terribly far away in the blue sky, is the delight of 
imaginative play? The same is true of sailing boats, and 
other pastimes of early childhood. 

I have here touched merely on the imaginative and 
half-illusory side of children's play. It is to be remembered, 
however, that play is much more than this, and reflects 


much more of the childish mind. Play proper as distin- 
guished from mere day-dreaming is activity and imitative 
activity; and children show marked differences in the 
energy of this activity, and in the quickness and close- 
ness of their responses to the model actions of the real 
nurse, real coachman, and so forth. That is to say, obser- 
vation of others will count here. Again, while social 
surroundings, opportunities for imitation, are important, 
they are by no means all-decisive. Children show a 
curious selectiveness in their imitative games, germs of 
differential interest, sexual and individual, revealing them- 
selves quite early. It may be added that a child with few 
opportunities of observation may get quite enough play- 
material from storyland. But play is never merely 
imitative, save indeed in the case of unintelligent and 
* stoggy ' children. It is a bright invention into which 
all the gifts of childish intelligence may pour themselves. 
The relation of play to art will engage us later on. 

Free Projection of Fancies. 

In play and the kindred forms of imaginative activity 
just dealt with, we have been concerned with imagina- 
tive realisation in its connexion with sense-perception. 
And here, it is to be noticed, there is a kind of reciprocal 
action between sense and imagination. On the one hand, 
as we have seen, imagination interposes a coloured medium, 
so to speak, between the eye and the object, so that it 
becomes transformed and beautified. On the other hand, 
in what is commonly called playing, imaginative activity 
receives valuable aid from the senses. The stump of a 
doll, woefully unlike as it is to what the child's fancy 
makes it, is yet a sensible fact, and as such gives support 
and substance to the realising impulse. 

Now this fact that imagination derives support from 
sense leads to a habit of projecting fancies, and giving them 
an external and local habitation. In this way the idea 


receives a certain solidity and fixity through its embodi- 
ment in the real physical world. 

This incorporation of images in the system of the real 
world may, like play, start at one of two ends. On the 
one hand, the external world, so far as it is only dimly 
perceived, excites wonder, curiosity, and the desire to fill 
in the blank spaces with at least the semblance of know- 
ledge. Here distance exercises a strange fascination. The 
remote chain of hills faintly visible from the child's home, 
has been again and again endowed by his enriching fancy 
with all manner of wondrous scenery and peopled by all 
manner of strange creatures. The unapproachable sky 
which to the little one, so often on his back, is much more 
of a visible object than to us with its wonders of blue ex- 
panse and cloudland, of stars and changeful moon, is wont 
to occupy his mind, his bright fancy quite spontaneously 
filling out this big upper world with appropriate forms. 

This stimulating effect of the half-perceivable is seen 
in still greater intensity in the case of what is hidden from 
sight. The spell cast on the young mind by the mystery 
of holes, and especially of dark woods, and the like, is 
known to all. C.'s peopling of a dark wood with his betes 
noires the wolves illustrates this tendency. 

"What (writes a German author already quoted) all 
childish fancy has almost without exception in common, is 
the idea of a wholly new and unheard-of world behind the 
remote horizon, behind woods, lakes and hills, and all 
objects reached by the eye. When I was a child and we 
played hide and seek in the barn, I always felt that there 
must or might be behind every bundle of straw, and 
especially in the corners, something unheard of lying 
hidden. And yet I had no profane curiosity, no desire to 
experiment by turning over the bundle of straw. It was 
just a fancy, and though I half recognised it as such it was 
lively enough to engage me as a reality." The same 
writer goes on to describe how his imagination ever 


occupied itself with what lay behind the long stretch of wood 
which closed in a large part of his child's horizon. 1 

This imaginative filling up of the remote and the hidden 
recesses of the outer world is subject to manifold stimulat- 
ing influences from the region of feeling. We know that all 
vivid imagination is charged with emotion, and this is em- 
phatically true of children's phantasies. The unseen, the 
hidden, contains unknown possibilities, something awful, 
terrible, it may be, to make the timid wee thing shudder 
in anticipatory vision, or wondrously and surprisingly 
beautiful. How far the childish attitude is from intellectual 
curiosity is seen in the remark of Goltz, that no impious 
attempt is made to probe the mystery. 

The other way in which this happy fusion of fancy 
with incomplete perception may be effected is through the 
working of the impulse to give outward embodiment to 
vivid and persistent images. All play, as we have seen, 
is an illustration of the impulse, and certain kinds of play 
show the working of the impulse in its purity. It 
extends, however, beyond the limits of what is commonly 
known as play. The instance quoted above, the peopling 
of a certain wood with wolves by the child C, was of course 
due in part to the fact that the small impressionable brain 
was at this time much occupied with the idea of the wolf. 
Dickens and others have told us how when children they 
were wont to project into the real world the lively images 
acquired from storyland. When suitable objects present 
themselves the images are naturally enough linked on to 
these. Thus Dickens writes : " Every barn in the neigh- 
bourhood, every stone of the church, every foot of the 
churchyard had some association of its own in my mind 
connected with these books (Roderic Random, Tom Jones, 
Gil Bias, etc.), and stood for some locality made famous in 
them. I have seen Tom Pipes go climbing up the church 

1 B. Goltz, Das Buck der Kindheit (4^ Aufl.), p. 267. 


steeple ; I have watched Strap with the knapsack on his 
back stopping to rest himself on the wicket-gate." ! 

Along with this attachment of images to definite objects 
there goes a good deal of vague localisation in dim half- 
realised quarters of space. The supernatural beings, the 
fairies, the bogies, and the rest, are, as might be expected, 
relegated to these obscure and impenetrable regions. It 
would be worth while perhaps to collect a children's com- 
parative mythology, if only to see what different localities, 
geographic and cosmic, the childish mind is apt to assign 
to his fabulous beings. The poor fairies seem to have been 
forced to find an abode in most dissimilar regions. The 
boy C. selected the wall of his bedroom hardly a dignified 
abode, though it had the merit of being within reach of his 
prayers. A child less bent on turning the superior person- 
ages to practical account will set them in some remoter 
quarter, in a vast forest, or deep cavern, on a distant hill, 
or higher up in the blue above the birds. But systems of 
child-mythology will occupy us again. 

Imagination and Storyland. 

We may now pass to a freer region of imaginative 
activity where the child's mind gives life and reality to its 
images without incorporating them into the outer sensible 
world, even to the extent of talking to invisible playmates. 
The world of story, as distinct from that of play, is the 
great illustration of this detached activity of fancy. 

The entrance into storyland can only take place when 
the key of language is put into the child's hand. A story 
is a verbal representation of a scene or action, and the 
process of imaginative realisation depends in this case on 
the stimulating effect of words in their association with 
ideas. Now a word has not for a child the peculiar force of 
an imitative sensuous impression, say that of a picture. 

1 Quoted by Forster, Life of Charles Dickens, chap. i. 



The toy, the picture, being, however roughly, a likeness or 
show, brings the idea before the child's eyes in a way in 
which the word-symbol cannot do. Yet we may easily under- 
estimate the stimulating effect of words on children's minds, 
which are much more tender and susceptible than we are 
wont to suppose. To call out to a child, ' Bow, wow ! ' 
or ' Policeman ! ' may be to excite in his mind a vivid 
image which is in itself an approach to a complete sensuous 
realisation of the thing. We cannot understand the fascina- 
tion of a story for children save by remembering that for 
their young minds, quick to imagine and unversed in 
abstract reflexion, words are not dead thought-symbols, 
but truly alive and perhaps " winged " as the old Greeks 
called them. 

It may not be easy to explain fully this stimulating 
power of words on the childish mind. There is some 
reason to say that in these early days spoken words as 
sounds for the ear have in themselves something of the 
immediate objective reality of all sense-impressions, so that 
to name a thing is in a sense to make it present. 
However this be, words as sense-presentations have 
a powerful suggestive effect on children's imagination, 
calling up particularly vivid images of the objects 
named. The effect is probably aided by the child's 
nascent feeling of reverence for another's words as authori- 
tative utterances. 

This impulse to realise words makes the child a listener 
much more frequently than we suppose. How often is the 
mother surprised and amused at a question put by her 
child about something said in his presence to a servant, a 
visitor, or a workman ; something which in her grown-up 
way she assumed would not be of the slightest interest to 
him. In this manner, words soon become a great power in 
the new wondering life of a child. They lodge like flying 
seedlings in the fertile brain, and shoot up into strange 
imaginative growths. But of this more by-and-by. 


This profound and lasting effect of words is nowhere 
more clearly seen than in the spell of the story. We 7 
grown-up people are wont to flatter ourselves that we read 
stories : the child, if he could know what we call reading, 
would laugh at it. With what deftness does the little 
brain disentangle the language, often strange and puzzling 
enough, reducing it by a secret child-art to simplicity and 
to reality. A mother when reading a poem to her boy of 
six, ventured to remark, " I'm afraid you can't understand 
it, dear," for which she got duly snubbed by her little 
master in this fashion : " Oh, yes, I can very well, 
if only you would not explain ". The explaining is re- 
sented because it interrupts the child's own spontaneous 
image-building, wherein lies the charm, because it rudely 
breaks the spell of the illusion, calling off the attention 
from the vision he sees in the word-crystal, which is all he 
cares about, to the cold lifeless crystal itself. 

And what a bright vision it is that is there gained. 
How clearly scene after scene of the dissolving view un- 
folds itself. How thrilling the anticipation of the next 
unknown, undiscernible stage in the history. Perhaps no 
one has given us a better account of the state of absorp- 
tion in storyland, the oneirotic or dream-like condition of 
complete withdrawal from the world of sense into an inner 
world of fancy, than Thackeray. In one of his delightful 
"Roundabout Papers," he thus writes of the experiences of 
early boyhood. " Hush ! I never read quite to the end 
of my first Scottish Chiefs. I couldn't. I peeped in an 
alarmed furtive manner at some of the closing pages. . . . 
Oh, novels, sweet and delicious as the raspberry open tarts 
of budding boyhood ! Do I forget one night after prayers 
(when we under-boys were sent to bed) lingering at my 
cupboard to read one little half-page more of my dear 
Walter Scott and down came the monitor's dictionary on 
my head ! " 

As one thinks of the deep delights of these first 



excursions into storyland one almost envies the lucky boys 
whom the young Charles Dickens held spellbound with 
his tales. 

The intensity of the delight is seen in the greed it 
generates. Who can resist the child's hungry demand for 
a story ? Edgar Quinet in his Histoire de mes Idees tells 
how when a child an old corporal came to drill him. 
He had been taken prisoner by the Spaniards and placed on 
an inaccessible island. Edgar loved to hear the thrilling 
story of the old soldier's adventures, and scarcely was the 
narrative finished when the greedy boy would exclaim, 
" Encore une fois ! " Heine's delight when a boy at Diis- 
seldorf in drinking in the stories of Napoleon's exploits 
from his drummer is another well-known illustration. 

Through the perfect gift of visual realisation which a 
child brings to it the verbal narrative becomes a record of 
fact, a true history. The intense enjoyment which is 
bound up with this process of imaginative realisation 
makes children jealously exact as to accuracy in repetition. 
The boy C. when a story was repeated to him used to 
resent even a small alteration of the text. Woe to the 
unfortunate mother who in telling one of the good stock 
nursery tales varies a detail. One such, a friend of mine, 
repeating * Puss in Boots ' inadvertently made the hero 
sit on a chair instead of on a box to pull on his boots. 
She was greeted by a sharp volley of ' No's ! ' The same 
lady tells me that when narrating the story of ' Beauty and 
the Beast ' for the second time only she forgot in describ- 
ing the effect of the Beast's sighing to add after the words 
* till the glasses on the table shake ' * and the candles are 
nearly blown out ' ; whereupon the severe little listener 
at once stopped the narrator and supplied the interesting 
detail. The exacting memory of childhood in the matter 
of stories is the product of a full detailed realisation. In 
the case just quoted the reality of the story was con- 
tradicted by substituting a stupid conventional chair for 


the box, and by omitting the striking incident of the 

Happy age of childhood, when a new and wondrous 
world, created wholly by the magic of a lively phantasy, rivals 
in brightness, in distinctness of detail, aye, and in stead- 
fastness too, the nearest spaces of the world on which the 
bodily eye looks out, before reflexion has begun to draw 
a hard dividing line between the domains of historical truth 
and fiction. 

As the demand for faithful repetition of story shows, 
the imaginative realisation continues when the story is no 
longer heard or read. It has added something to the 
child's inner supplementary world, given him one more 
lovely region in which he may live blissful moments. The 
return of the young mind to the persons and scenes of 
story is forcibly illustrated in the impulse, already touched 
on, to act out in play the parts of this and that heroic figure. 
With many children any narrative which holds the imagina- 
tion delightfully enthralled is likely to become more fully 
realised in a visible embodiment. For instance, a child of 
five years, when told a story of four men going along a 
railway to stop a train before it neared a bridge which was 
on fire, at once proceeded to play the incident with his toy 
train. Here we see how story by contributing lively 
images to the child's brain becomes one main stimulative 
and guiding influence in the domain of play. In like 
manner the images born of story may, as in the case of 
Dickens, attach themselves permanently to particular 
localities and objects. 

To this lively imaginative reception of what is told him 
the child is apt very soon to join his own free inventions 
of figures, human, superhuman, or subhuman. The higher 
qualities of this invention properly come under the head of 
child-art, and will have to be considered in another chapter. 
Here we may glance at these inventions as illustrating the 
realising power of the child's imagination. 


This invention appears in a sporadic manner in oc- 
casional ' romancings ' which may set out from some 
observation of the senses. A little boy aged three and a 
half years seeing a tramp limping along with a bad leg 
exclaimed: " Look at that poor ole man, mamma, he has dot 
(got) a bad leg ". Then romancing, as he was now wont to 
do : " He dot on a very big "torse, and he fell off on some 
great big stone, and he hurt his poor leg a id he had to get 
a big stick. We must make it well." Then after a 
thoughtful pause : " Mamma, go and kiss the place and put 
some powdey (powder) on it and make it well like you do 
to I ". The unmistakable childish seriousness here, the 
outflow of young compassion, and the charming enforce- 
ment of the nursery prescription, all point to a vivid realisa- 
tion of this extemporised little romance. This child was 
moreover more than commonly tender-hearted, and perhaps 
the more exposed on that account to such amiable self- 
deception. Another small boy when a little over two years, 
happening to hear a buzzing on the window, said : 
" Mamma, bumble-bee in a window says it wants a yump 
(lump) of sugar " : then shaking his head sternly, added : 
" Soon make you heat-spots, bumble-bee ". Other examples 
of this romancing will be met with in the notes on the 
child C. 

In such simple fashion does the child build up a tiny 
myth on the basis of some passing impression, supplying 
out of his quaintly stored fancy unlooked-for adornments 
to the homely occurrences of every-day life. 

Partly by taking in and fully realising the wonders of 
story, partly by the independent play of an inventive 
imagination, children's minds pass under the dominion of 
more or less enduring myths. The princes and princesses and 
dwarfs and gnomes of fairy-tale, the worker of Christmas 
miracles, Santa Claus or Father Christmas, as well as the 
beings fashioned by the child's imagination on the model of 
those he knows from story, these live on like the people of 


the every-day world, are apt to appear in dreams, in the 
dark, at odd dreamy moments when the things of sense 
lose their hold, bringing into the child's life golden sunlight 
or black awful shadows, the most real of all realities. 

This childish belief in myth is often curiously tenacious. 
A father was once surprised to find that his boy aged five 
years and ten months continued naively to believe in the 
real personality of Santa Glaus. It was Christmastide and 
the father, in order to test the child's credulity, put his own 
pocket-knife into the stocking which Santa Glaus was 
supposed to fill. The child, though he knew his father's 
knife very well, did not in the least suspect that the knife 
he found in the stocking had been placed there by human 
han 's, but expressed himself as pleased that Santa Glaus 
had sent him one like his father's. When his father followed 
this up by telling him that he had lost his knife, and by 
searching for it in the boy's presence, the latter asked 
whether Santa Glaus had stolen the knife thus showing 
how its close similarity to the knife he had received had 
impressed him, though he would not for a moment doubt 
the fact of its coming from the mysterious personage. It 
might be thought that this child was particularly stupid. 
On the contrary he was well above the average in intelli- 
gence. In proof of this I may relate that the Christmas 
before this, that is to say when he was under five years, he 
was the only one among thirty children who recognised 
his uncle when extremely well disguised as Father Christ- 
mas. When asked by his father why he thought it was his 
uncle, he said at first he didn't know, but thinking a 
moment he added, " I don't see who else there is," showing 
that he had reasoned out his belief by a method of ex- 

Of course it will be said that I am here selecting excep- 
tional cases of childish imagination. I am quite ready to 
admit the probability of this. The best examples of any 
trait of the yourtg mind will obviously be supplied by those 



who have most of this trait. Yet I very much suspect that 
ordinary and even dull children are wont to hide away a 
good deal of such superstitious belief. " One of the greatest 
pleasures of childhood," says Oliver Wendell Holmes in 
The Poet at the Breakfast Table, " is found in the mysteries 
which it hides from the scepticism of the elders and works 
up into small mythologies of its own." 

I have treated the myths of children as a product of 
pure imagination, of the impulse to realise in vivid images 
what lies away from and above the world of sense. Yet, 
as we shall see later, they are really more than this. 
They contain, like the myths of primitive man, a true 
germ of thought. 

In George Sand's recollections we shall meet with a 
striking illustration of how the vivid imagination of super- 
natural beings is followed up by a reflective and half-scientific 
effort to connect the myth with the facts and laws of the 
known world. This infusion of childish reason into wonder- 
land, the first crude attempt to adjust belief to belief, and 
to find points of attachment for the much-loved myth in 
the matter-of-fact world, is apt to lead, as we shall see, to 
a good deal that is very quaint and characteristic in the 
child's mythology. 

The conclusion which observation of children leads us 
to is that, as compared with adults, they are endowed with 
strong imaginative power, the activity of which leads to a 
surprisingly intense inner realisation of what lies above 
sense. For the child, as for primitive man, reality is a pro- 
jection of fancy as well as an assurance of sense. 

Now this conclusion is, I think, greatly strengthened by 
all that we know of the conditions of the brain-life in 
children, and of the many perturbations to which it is 
liable. With respect to this brain-life we have to remember 
that in the first years the higher cortical centres which take 
part in the co-ordinative and regulative processes of thought 
and volition are but very imperfectly developed. Hence 


the centres concerned in imagination which, if not identi- 
cal with what used to be called the sensorium or seat of 
sensation, are in closest connexion with it are not 
checked and inhibited by the action of the higher centres 
as is the case with us. By exercising a volitional control 
over the flow of our ideas, we are able to reason away a 
fancy, and generally to guard ourselves against error. In 
young children all ideas that grow clear and full under the 
stimulus of a strong interest are apt to persist and to become 
preternaturally vivid. As has been suggested by more than 
one recent writer on childhood and education, the brain 
of a child has a slight measure of that susceptibility to 
powerful illusory suggestion which characterises the brain 
of a hypnotised subject. Savages, who show so striking a 
resemblance to children in the vivacity and the dominance 
of their fancy, are probably much nearer to the child than 
to the civilised adult in the condition of their brain. 

This preternatural liveliness of the images of the 
imperfectly developed brain exposes children, as we know, 
to disturbing illusion. The effect of bad dreams, of intense 
feeling, particularly of fear, in developing illusory belief 
in sensitive and delicate children is familiar enough, and 
will be dealt with again later on. Some parents feel the 
dangers of such disturbance so keenly that they think it 
best to cut their children off from the world of fiction 
altogether. But this is surely an error. For one thing 
children who are strongly imaginative will be certain to 
indulge their fancies, as the Bronte girls did, even when 
no fiction is supplied and their eager little minds are 
thrown on the matter-of-fact newspaper. A child needs 
not to be deprived of story altogether, but to be supplied 
with bright and happy stories, in which the gruesome ele- 
ment is subordinate. Specially sensitive children should, 
I think, be guarded against much that from an older point 
of view is classic, as some of the 'creepy' stories in Grimm, 
though there are no doubt hardy young nerves which 


can thrill enjoyably under these horrors. As to confusing 
a child's sense of truth by indulging him in story, the evil 
seems to me problematic, and, if it exists at all, only slight 
and temporary. But I hope to touch on this aspect of the 
subject in the next chapter. 



The Process of Thought. 

To treat the child's mind as merely a harbourer of fancies, 
as completely subject to the illusive spell of its bright 
imagery, would be the grossest injustice. It is one of the 
reputable characteristics of childhood that it manages to 
combine with so much vivacity and force of imagination 
a perfectly grave matter-of-fact look-out on the actual 

And here I should like to correct the common supposi- 
tion that children are imaginative or observant of their 
surroundings, but not both. I have no doubt that there are 
many children who show a marked preponderance of the 
one or of the other tendency : there is the fanciful and 
dreamy child, and the matter-of-fact child with a tenacious 
grasp on the realities of things. I have but little doubt, 
too, that in the case of children who show the two tendencies, 
the one or the other is apt to preponderate at a certain 
stage of development : many boys, for example, have their 
dreamy period, and then become almost stolidly practical. 
All that I am concerned to make out here is that the two 
tendencies do co-exist, and as a number of parents have 
assured me may co-exist each in a high degree of intensity 
in the same child ; the really intelligent children, boys as 
well as girls, being dispassionate and shrewd inquirers into 
the make of the actual world while ardently engaged in 
fashioning a brighter one. 


The two tendencies belong to two moods, one of which 
may be regent for days together, though they often alter- 
nate with astonishing rapidity. More particularly the 
serious matter-of-fact mood readily passes, as if in relief 
from mental tension, into the playful fanciful one, as when 
the tiny student, deep in the stupendous lore of the 
spelling-book, suddenly dashes off to some fanciful conceit 
suggested by the ' funny ' look of a particular word or 

The child not only observes but begins to reflect on 
what he observes, and does his best to understand the 
puzzling scene which meets his eye. And all this gives 
seriousness, a deep and admirable seriousness, to his 
attitude. So much is this the case that if we were called on 
to portray the typical mental posture of the child we 
might probably do so by drawing the erect little figure of a 
boy, as with widely open eye he gazes at some new wonder, 
or listens to some new report of his surroundings from a 
mother's lips. Hence, one may forgive the touch of 
exaggeration when Mr. Bret Harte writes : " All those 
who have made a loving study of the young human animal 
will, I think, admit that its dominant expression is gravity 
and not playfulness ".* We may now turn to this graver 
side of the young intelligence. 

Here, again, I may as well say that I prefer to observe 
the phenomenon in its clearer and fuller manifestations, 
that is to say ? to study the serious intelligence of the child 
in the most intelligent children, or at least in children 
whose minds are most active. This does not mean that 
we shall be on the look-out for precocious wisdom or 
priggish smartness. On the contrary, since it is childish 
intelligence as such that we are in search of, we shall take 
pains to avoid as far as possible any encounter with pro- 
digies. By these I mean the unfortunate little people whose 

1 Works, vol. iii., p. 396. 



mental limbs have been twisted out of beautiful child- 
shape by the hands of those in whom the better instincts 
of the parent have been outweighed by the ambition of 
the showman. We shall seek more particularly for spon- 
taneous openings of the mental flower under the warming 
rays of a true mother's love, for confidential whisperings of 
child-thought to her ever-attentive and ever-tolerant ear. 

In order fully to understand the serious work of childish 
intelligence, we ought to begin with a study of early obser- 
vation. But I must pass by this interesting subject with 
only a remark or two. 

Much has been written on the deeply concentrated all- 
absorbing scrutiny of things by the young eye. But to 
say how much an infant of nine months really sees when 
he fixes his wide eyes on some new object, is a matter of 
great uncertainty. What seems certain, is that the infant 
has to learn to see things, and very probably takes what 
seems to us an unnecessarily long time to see them at all 

We find when the child grows and can give an 
account of what he notes that his observation, while 
often surprisingly minute in particular directions, is highly 
restricted as to its directions, being narrowly confined 
within the limits of a few dominant attractions. Thus a 
child will sometimes be so impressed with the colour of an 
object as almost to ignore its form. A little girl of 
eighteen months, who knew lambs and called them 
1 lammies,' on seeing two black ones in a field among 
some white ones called out, " Eh ! doggie, doggie ! " The 
likeness of colour to the black dog overpowered the like- 
ness in form to the other lambs close by. Within 
the limits of form-perception again, we may remark 
the tendency to a one-sided mode of observing things 
which has in it something of an abstract quality. For 
the child C. the pointed head was the main essential 
feature of the dog, and he recognised this in a bit of 


biscuit. We shall find further examples of this abstract 
observation when we come to consider children's drawings. 

This same partiality of observation comes out very 
clearly in a good deal of the early assimilation or apper- 
ception already referred to. The reason why it is so easy 
for a child to superimpose a fanciful analogy on an object 
of sense, is that his mind is untroubled by all the com- 
plexity of this object. It fastens on some salient feature 
of supreme attractiveness or interest, and flies away on the 
wings of this, to what seems to us a far-off resemblance. 

This detaching or selective activity in children's obser- 
vation, which in a manner is a defect, is also a point of 
superiority. It has this in common with the observation 
of the poet, that it is wholly engrossed with what is valu- 
able. Thus one main feature of the eye-lid is certainly 
that it opens and closes like a curtain ; and it is its re- 
semblance to the mysterious curtain shutting out the 
daylight, which makes it a matter of absorbing interest. 
Here, then, we have, as we shall see more fully presently, 
a true germ of thought-activity embedded in the very process 
of childish observation and recognition. For thought is 
precisely a more methodical process of bringing the con- 
crete object into its relations to other things. 

Yet children's observation does not remain at this 
height of grand selectiveness. The pressure of practical 
needs tends to bring it down to our familiar level. A child 
finds himself compelled to distinguish things and name 
them as others do. The lamb and the dog, for example, 
have to be distinguished by a complex of marks in which 
the supremely interesting detail of colour holds a quite 
subordinate place. Individual things, too, have to be dis- 
tinguished, if only for the purpose of drawing the line 
between what is 'mine ' and ' not mine'. The boy's mother, 
his cup, his hat, must be readily recognised, and this neces- 
sity forces the attention to grasp a plurality of marks. 
Thus the mother cannot always be recognised by her 


height alone, as when she happens to be sitting, nor by her 
hair alone, as when she happens to have her hat on, so that 
the weighty problem of recognising her always compels the 
child to note a number of distinctive marks, some of which 
will in every case be available. 

When once the eye has begun to note differences it 
makes rapid progress. This is particularly true where the 
development of a special interest in a group of things leads 
to a habit of concentration. Thus little boys when the 
'railway interest' seizes them are apt to be finely observant 
of the differences between this and that engine and so forth. 
A boy aged two years and eleven months, after travelling 
from Dublin to Cork, and thence by another railway, asked 
his mother if she had noticed the difference in the make of 
the rails on the two lines. Of course she had not, though 
she afterwards ascertained that there was a slight difference 
which the boy's keener eye had detected. 

The fineness of a child's distinguishing observation is 
well illustrated in his recognition of small drawings and 
photographs, as when a child of two will pick out the like- 
ness of his father from a small carte de visite group. But 
this side of children's recognition will occupy us later on. 

Such fine and ready recognition as that just illustrated 
shows not merely a penetrating observation of what is 
distinctive and characteristic, but also a measure of a higher 
power, that of seizing in one act of attention a complex or 
group of such marks. In truth, children's observation, when 
close and methodical, as it is apt to be under the stimulus 
of a powerful interest, is often surprisingly full as well as 
exact. The boy, John Ruskin, was not the only one who 
could look for hours together at such an object as flowing 
water, noting all its changing features. A mother writes 
to me that her boy, when three and a half years old, re- 
ceived a picture-book, ' The Railway Train,' and looked 
at it almost uninterruptedly for a week, retaining it even at 
meals " At the end of this time he had grasped the smallest 


6 9 

detail in every picture." 'By such occasional fits of fine 
exhaustive inspection, a child of the more intelligent sort 
will now and again come surprisingly near that higher type 
of observation, at once minute and comprehensive, which 
subserves, in somewhat different ways, scientific discovery 
and artistic representation. Many parents when watching 
these exceptional heights of childish scrutiny have indulged 
in fond dreams of future greatness. Yet these achievements 
are, alas, often limited to a certain stage of intellectual pro- 
gress, and are apt to disappear when the bookish days come 
on, and the child loses himself hours together over his favour- 
ite stories. And in any case the germ of promise must pos- 
sess a wondrous vitality if it resists all the efforts of our 
school-system to weed out from the garden of the mind 
anything so profitless as an observing faculty. 

Next to this work of observation we must include in 
the pre-conditions of childish thought at its best a lively 
retention of what is observed. Everybody who has talked 
much with little children must have been struck by the 
tenacity of their memories, their power of recalling after 
considerable intervals small features of an object or small 
incidents which others hardly noted, or, if they noted them at 
the time, have since forgotten. Stories of this surprising recol- 
lection may be obtained in abundance. A little girl when 
only nine months old was on a walk shown some lambs at 
the gate of a field. On being taken the same road three 
weeks later she surprised her mother by calling out just 
before arriving at the gate * Baa, baa ! ' Later on children 
will remember through much longer intervals. A little boy 
aged two years and ten months when taken to Italy a 
second time after four or five months' absence, remembered 
the smallest details, e.g., how the grapes were cut, how the 
wine was made and so forth. 

The gradual gathering of a store of such clear memory- 
images is a necessary preliminary to reflexion and thought. 
It is because the child remembers as well as sees, remember- 


ing even while he sees, that he grows thoughtful, inquiring 
about the meaning and reason of this and that, or boldly 
venturing on some explanation of his own. And just as 
the child's mind must take on many pictures of things before 
it reflects upon and tries to understand the world, so it 
must collect and arrange pictures of the successive scenes 
and events of its life, before it will grow self-conscious and 
reflect upon its own strange existence. 

The only other pre-condition of this primitive thought- 
fulness is that imaginative activity which we have already 
considered on its playful and pleasurable side. We are 
learning at last that the inventive phantasy of a child, 
prodigal as it is of delightful illusions, is also a valuable 
contributor to this sober work of thought. It is just 
because the young mind is so mobile and agile, passing far 
beyond the narrow confines of the actual in imaginative 
conjecture of what lies hidden in the remote, that it begins 
to think, that is, to reason about the causes of things. In 
the history of the individual as of the race, thought, even 
the abstract thought of science, grows out of the free play 
of imagination. The myth is at once a picturesque fancy, 
and a crude attempt at an explanation. This primitive 
thought is indeed so compact of bright picturesque imagery 
that we with our scientifically trained minds might easily 
overlook its inherent thoughtfulness. Yet a close inspection 
shows us that it contains the essential characteristics of 
thought, an impulse to comprehend things, to reduce the 
confusing multiplicity to order and system. 

We must not hope to trace clearly the lines of this first 
child-thought. The earliest attitude of the wakening in- 
telligence towards the confusion of novelties, which for us 
has become a world, is presumably indescribable, and 
further, by the time that a child comes to the use of w rds 
and can communicate his thoughts, in a broken way at least, 
the scene is already losing something of its first strangeness, 
the organising work of experience has begun. Yet though 



we cannot expect to get back to the primal wonderment we 
can catch glimpses of that later wonderment which arises 
when instruction supplements the senses, and ideas begin 
to form themselves of a vast unknown in space and time, 
of the changefulness of things, and of that mystery of 
mysteries the beginning of things. The study of this 
child-thought as it tries to utter itself in our clumsy speech 
will well repay us. Only we must be ever on the alert lest 
we read too much into these early utterances, forgetting 
that the child's first tentative use of words is very apt to 

The child first dimly reveals himself as thinker in the 
practical domain. In the evolution of the race the reason- 
ing faculty has been first quickened into action by 
the ferment of instinctive craving and striving. Man 
began to reflect on the connexions of things in order to 
supply himself with food, to ward off cold and other evils. 
So with the child. Before the age of speech we may ob- 
serve him thinking out rapidly as occasion arises some 
new practical expedient, as, for example, seizing a clothes- 
pin or other available aid in order to reach a toy that has 
slipped out of his reach ; or clutching at our dress 
and pulling the chair by way of signifying to us that we 
are to remain and continue to amuse him. The observa- 
tions of the first months of child-life abound with such 
illustrations of an initiating { ractical intelligence. 

Yet these exploits, impressive as they often are, hardly 
disclose the distinctive attributes of the human thinker. 
The cat, without any example to imitate, will find its way 
to a quite charming begging gesture by reaching up and 
tapping your arm. 

Probably the earliest unambiguous indication of a 
human faculty of thought is to be found in infantile com- 
parison. When a baby turns its head deliberately and 
sagely from a mirror-reflexion or portrait of its mother to 
the original, we appear to see the first crude beginnings of 


a process which, when more elaborated, becomes human 

A good deal of comparison of this kind seems to enter 
into the mental activity of young children. Thus the deep 
absorbing attention to pictures spoken of above commonly 
means a careful comparison of this and that form one with 
another, and in certain cases, at least, a comparison of what 
is now seen with the mental image of the original. In 
some children, moreover, comparison under the form of 
measurement grows into a sort of craze. They want to 
measure the height of things one with another and so forth. 
An intelligent child will even find his way to a mediate 
form of comparison, that is, to measuring things through the 
medium of a third thing. Thus a boy of five, who had 
conceived a strong liking for dogs, was in the habit when 
walking out of measuring on his body how high a dog 
reached. On returning home he would compare this height 
with that of the seat or back of a chair, and would finally 
ask for a yard measure and find out the number of inches. 

This comparison of things is of the very essence of 
understanding, of comprehending things as distinguished 
from merely apprehending them as concrete isolated ob- 
jects. The child in his desire to assimilate, to find some- 
thing in the region of the known with which the new and 
strange thing may be brought into kinship, is ever on the 
look-out for likeness. Hence the analogical and half-poetical 
apperception of things, the metaphorical reduction of a 
thing to a prototype, as in calling a star an eye, or an eye- 
lid a curtain, may be said to contain the germ at once of 
poetry and of science. 

This comparison for purposes of understanding leads 
on to what psychologists call classification, or generalisa- 
tion ; the bringing together and keeping before the mind of 
a number of like things by help of a general name. The 
child may be said to become a true thinker as soon as 
he uses names intelligently, calling each thing by an 
appropriate name, and so classing it with its kind. 



This power of infantile generalisation is one full of 
interest and has been carefully observed. It will, however, 
be more conveniently dealt with in another chapter where 
we shall be specially concerned with the child's use of 

While thus beginning to arrange things according to 
such points of likeness as he can discover, the child is 
noting the connexions of things. He finds out what 
belongs to a horse, to a locomotive engine, he notes when 
father leaves home and returns, when the sun declines, 
what accompanies and follows rain, and so forth. That 
is to say, he is feeling his way to the idea of connectedness, 
of regularity, of what we call uniformity or law. We now 
say that the child reasons, no longer blindly or automatic- 
ally like the dog, but with a consciousness of what he is 
doing. We little think how much hard work has to be got 
through by the little brain before even this dim perception 
of regularity is attained. In some things, no doubt, the 
regularity is patent enough, and can hardly be overlooked 
by the dullest of children. The connexion between the 
laying of the cloth and the meal at least in an orderly 
home is a matter which even the canine and the feline 
intelligence is quite able to grasp. But when it comes to 
finding out the law according to which, say, his face gets 
dirty, his head aches, or people send out their invitations 
to children's parties, the matter is not so simple. 

The fact is that there is so large a proportion of appar- 
ent disconnectedness and capricious irregularity in the 
child's world that it is hard to see how he would ever learn 
to understand and to reason, were he not endowed with 
a lively and inextinguishable impulse to connect and 
simplify. Herein lies a part of the pathos of childhood. It 
brings its nai've prepossession of a regular well-ordered 
world, and alas, finds itself confronted with an impenetrable 
tangle of disorder. How quaint it is to listen to the little 
thinker, as, with untroubled brow, he begins to propound his 


beautifully simple theory of the cosmic order. An Ameri- 
can boy of ten who had had one cross small teacher, and 
whose best teacher had been tall, accosted a new teacher 
thus: "I'm afraid you'll make a cross teacher". His 
teacher replied : " Why, am I cross ? " To which he re- 
joined : " No ; but you are so small ". We call this hasty 
generalisation. We might with equal propriety term it the 
child's innate a priori view of things. 

With this eagerness to get at and formulate the law of 
things is inseparably bound up the impulse to bring every 
new occurrence under some general rule. Here, too, the 
small thinker may only too easily slip by failing to see the 
exact import and scope of the rule. We see this in the 
extension of laws of human experience to the animal world. 
Rules supplied by others and only vaguely understood, 
more particularly moral and religious truths, lend them- 
selves to this kind of misapplication. The Worcester 
collection of Thoughts and Reasonings of Children gives 
some odd examples of such application. American children, 
to judge from these examples, appear to be particularly 
smart at quoting Scripture; not altogether, one suspects, 
without a desire to show off, and possibly to raise a laugh. 
But discounting the influence of such motives it seems 
pretty clear that a child has a marvellous power of reading 
his own ideas into others' words, and so of giving them a 
turn which is apt to stagger their less-gifted authors. Here 
is a case. R.'s aunt said : " You are so restless, R., I can't 
hold you any longer ". R. : " Cast your burden on the Lord, 
Aunty K., and He will sustain y.u". The child, we are 
told, was only four. He probably understood the Scripture 
injunction as a useful prescription for getting rid of a 
nuisance, and with the admirable impartiality of childish 
logic at once applied it to himself. Other illustrations of 
such misapplication will meet us when we take up the 
relation of the child's thought to language. 



The Questioning Age. 

The child's first vigorous effort to understand the 
things about him may be roughly dated at the end of the 
third year, and it is noteworthy that this synchronises with 
the advent of the questioning age. The first putting of a 
question occurred in the case of Preyer's boy in the twenty- 
eighth month, in that of Pollock's girl in the twenty-third 
month. But the true age of inquisitiveness when question 
after question is fired off with wondrous rapidity and per- 
tinacity seems to be ushered in with the fourth year. 

A c mmon theory peculiarly favoured by ignorant 
nurses and mothers is that children's questioning is a 
studied annoyance. The child has come to the use of 
words, and with all a child's ' cussedness ' proceeds to tor- 
ment the ears of those about him. There are signs, how- 
ever, of a change of view on this point. The fact that the 
questioning follows on the heels of the reasoning impulse 
might tell us that it is connected with the throes which the 
young understanding has to endure in its first collision with 
a tough and baffling world. The question is the outcome 
of ignorance coupled with a belief in the boundless know- 
ledge of grown-up people. It is an attempt to add to the 
scrappy, unsatisfying information about things which the 
little questioner's own observation has managed to gather, 
or others' half-understood words have succeeded in com- 
municating. It is the outcome of intellectual craving, of a 
demand for mental food. But it is much more than an ex- 
pression of need. Just as the child's articulate demand for 
food implies that he knows what food is, and that it is 
obtainable, so the question implies that the little questioner 
knows what he needs, and in what direction to look for it. 
The simplest form of question,^.," What is this flower?" "this 
insect?" shows that the child by a half-conscious process of 
reflexion and reasoning has found his way to the truth that 
things have their qualities, their belongings, their names. 
Many questions, indeed, e.g., ' Has the moon wings ? ' 


' Where do all the days go to ? ' reveal a true process of 
childish thought and have a high value as expressions of 
this thought. 

Questioning may take various directions. A good deal 
of the child's catechising of his long-suffering mother is 
prompted by thirst for fact. 1 The typical form of this line 
of questioning is * What ? ' The motive here is to gain 
possession of some fact which will connect itself with and 
supplement a fact already known. 'How old is Rover?' 
' Where was Rover born? ' 'Who was his father?' 'What 
is that dog's name?' 'What sort of hair had you when 
you were a little girl?' These are samples of the question- 
ing activity by help of which the little inquirer tries to 
make up his connected wholes, to see things with his 
imagination in their proper attachment and order. And 
how greedily and pertinaciously the small folk will follow 
up their questioning, flying as it often looks wildly enough 
from point to point, yet gathering from every answer some 
new contribution to their ideas of things. A boy of three 
years and nine months would thus attack his mother: 
' What does frogs eat, and mice and birds and butterflies ? 
and what does they do ? and what is their names ? What 
is all their houses' names? What does they call their 
streets and places ? ' etc., etc. 

Such questions easily appear foolish because, as in the 
case just quoted, they are directed by quaint childish 
fancies. The child's anthropomorphic way of looking out 
on the world leads him to assimilate animal to human 

One feature in this fact-gleaning kind of question is 
the great store which the child sets by the name of a 
thing. M. Compayr<5 has pointed out that the form of 
question: 'What is this?' often means, "What is it 

1 The first question put by Preyer's boy was, ' Where is mamma ? ' 
Die Seele des Kindes, p. 412. (The references are to the third edition, 



called ? " The child's unformulated theory seems to be 
that everything has its own individual name. The little 
boy just spoken of explained to his mother that he thought 
all the frogs, the mice, the birds, and the butterflies had 
names given to them by their mothers as he himself had. 
Perhaps this was only a way of expressing the childish 
idea that everything has its name, primordial and un- 

A second direction of this early questioning is towards 
the reason and the cause of things. The typical form is 
here ' why ? ' This form of inquiry occurred in the case of 
Preyer's boy at the age of two years forty- three weeks. 
But it becomes the all-predominant form of question 
somewhat later. Who that has tried to instruct the small 
child of three or four does not know the long shrill whine- 
like sound of this question ? This form of question 
develops naturally out of the earlier, for to give the 
' what ? ' of a thing, that is its connexions, is to give its 
1 why ? ' that is its mode of production, its use and purpose. 

Nothing perhaps in child utterance is better worth 
interpreting, hardly anything more difficult to interpret, 
than this simple-looking little ' why ? ' 

We ourselves perhaps do not use the word ' why ' and 
its correlative ' because ' with one clear meaning ; and the 
child's first use of the words is largely imitative. What 
may be pretty safely asserted is that even in the most 
parrot-like and wearisome iteration of ' why ? ' and its 
equivalents ' what for ? ' etc., the child shows a dim re- 
cognition of the truth that a thing is understandable, that 
it has its reasons if only they can be found. 

Let us in judging of this pitiless ' why ? ' try to under- 
stand the situation of the young mind confronted by so 
much that is strange and unassimilated, meeting by obser- 
vation and hearsay with new and odd occurrences every 
day. The strange things standing apart from his tiny 
familiar world, the wide region of the quaint and puzzling 


in animal ways, for example, stimulate the instinct to 
appropriate, to master. The little thinker must try at 
least to bring the new odd thing into some rec gnisable 
relation to his familiar world. And what is more natural 
than to go to the wise lips of the grown-up person for a 
solution of the difficulty ? The fundamental significance 
of the ' why ? ' in the child's vocabulary, then, is the neces- 
sity of, connecting new with old, of illuminating what is 
strange and dark by light reflected from what is already 
matter of knowledge. And a child's ' why ? ' is often 
temporarily satisfied by supplying from the region of the 
familiar an analogue to the new and unclassed fact. Thus 
his impulse to understand why pussy has fur, is met by 
telling him that it is pussy's hair. 

It is only a step further in the same direction when the 
' why ? ' has to be met by supplying a general statement ; 
for to refer the particular to a general rule is a more 
perfect and systematic kind of assimilation. Now w r e 
know that children are very susceptible to the authority 
of precedent, custom, general rule. Just as in children's 
ethics customary permission makes a thing right, so in 
their logic the truth that a thing generally happens may be 
said to supply a reason for its happening in a particular 
case. Hence, when the much-abused nurse answers the 
child's question, ' Why is the pavement hard ? ' by saying, 
* Because pavement is always hard,' she is perhaps less 
open to the charge of giving a woman's reason than is 
sometimes said. 1 In sooth the child's queries, his search- 
ings for explanation, are, as already suggested, prompted 
by the desire for order and connectedness. And this 
means that he wants the general rule to which he can 
assimilate the particular and as yet isolated fact. 

From the first, however, the ' why ? ' and its congeners 
have reference to the causal idea, to something which has 
brought the new and strange thing into existence and made 
l Cf. some shrewd remarks by Dr. Venn. Empirical Logic, p. 494. 



it what it is. In truth this reference to origin, to bringing 
about or making, is exceedingly prominent in children's 
questionings. Nothing is more interesting to a child than 
the production of things. What hours and hours does he 
not spend in wondering how the pebbles, the stars, the 
birds, the babies are made. This vivid interest in produc- 
tion is to a considerable extent practical. It is one of the 
great joys of children to be able themselves to make things, 
and this desire to fashion, which is probably at first 
quite immense, and befitting rather a god than a feeble 
mannikin of three years, naturally leads on to inquiry 
into the mode of producing. Yet from the earliest a 
true speculative interest blends with this practical instinct. 
Children are in the complete sense little philosophers, if 
philosophy, as the ancients said, consists in knowing the 
causes of things. This discovery of the cause is the 
completed process of assimilation, of the reference of the 
particular to a general rule or law. 

This inquiry into origin and mode of production 
starts with the amiable presupposition that all things have 
been hand-produced after the manner of household posses- 
sions. The world is a sort of big'house where everything 
has been made by somebody, or at least fetched from some- 
where. This application of the anthropomorphic idea of 
fashioning follows the law of all childish thought, that the 
unknown is assimilated to the known. The one mode of 
origin which the embryo thinker is really and directly 
familiar with is the making of things. He himself makes 
a respectable number of things, including these rents in his 
clothes, messes on the tablecloth, and the like, which he 
gets firmly imprinted on his memory by the authorities. 
And, then, he takes a keen interest in watching the making 
of things by others, such as puddings, clothes, houses, hay- 
ricks. To ask, then, who made the animals, the babies, the 
wind, the clouds, and so forth, is for him merely to apply 
the more familiar type of causation as norm or rule. 


Similarly in all questions as to the ' whence? ' of things, as in 
asking whether babies were bought in a shop. 

The ' why ? ' takes on a more special meaning when the 
idea of purpose becomes clear. The search now is for the 
end, what philosophers call the teleological cause or reason. 
When, for example, a child asks 'Why does the wind blow?' 
he means, 'What is its object in blowing?' or 'Of what use 
is the blowing of the wind ? ' 

The idea underlying the common form of the ' why ? ' 
interrogative deserves a moment's inspection. A child's 
view of causation starts like other ideas from his most 
familiar experiences. He soon finds out that his own 
actions are controlled by the desire to get or to avoid 
something, that, to speak in rather technical language, the 
idea of the result of the action precedes and determines 
this action. 

I have lately come across a very early, and as I think, 
remarkable illustration of this form of childish thought. 
A little girl already quoted, whom we will call M., 
when one year eleven months old, happened to be walking 
with her mother on a windy day. At first she was de- 
lighted at the strong boisterous wind, but then got tired 
and said : ' Wind make mamma's hair untidy, Babba (her 
own name) make mamma's hair tidy, so wind not blow 
adain (again)'. About three weeks later this child was 
out in the rain, when she said to her mother : ' Mamma, dy 
(dry) Babba's hands, so not rain any more '. What does 
this curious inversion of the order of cause and effect mean ? 
I am disposed to think that this little girl, who was un- 
usually bright and intelligent, was transferring to nature's 
phenomena the forms of her own experience. When she 
is disorderly, and her mother or nurse arranges her hair 
or washes her hands, it is in order that she may not 
continue to be disorderly. The child is envisaging the 
wind and the rain as a kind of naughty child who can 
be got to behave properly by effacing the effects of its 



naughtiness. In other words they are both to be deterred 
from repeating what is objectionable by a visible and 
striking manifestation of somebody's objection or prohibi- 
tion. Here, it seems unmistakable, we have a projection 
into nature of human purpose, of the idea of determination 
of action by end : we have a form of anthropomorphism 
which runs through the whole of primitive thought. 

It seems to follow from this that there is a stage in the 
development of a child's intelligence when questions such 
as, ' Why do the leaves fall ? ' ' Why does the thunder 
make such a noise ? ' are answered most satisfactorily by 
a poetic fiction, by saying, for example, that the leaves are 
old and tired of hanging on to the trees, and that the thunder 
giant is in a particularly bad temper and making a noise. 
It is perhaps permissible to make use of this fiction at 
times, more especially when trying to answer the untiring 
questioning about animals and their doings, a region of 
existence, by the way, of which even the wisest of us knows 
exceedingly little. Yet the device has its risks ; and an 
ill-considered piece of myth-making passed off as an 
answer may find itself awkwardly confronted by that 
most merciless of things, a child's logic. 

We may notice something more in this early mode of 
interrogation. Children are apt to think not only that 
things behave in general after our manner, that their 
activity is determined by some end or purpose, or that they 
have their useful function, their raison d?tre as we say, 
but that this purpose concerns us human creatures. The 
wind and the rain came and went in our little girl's nature- 
theory just to vex or out of consideration for 'mamma* 
and ' Babba '. A little boy of two years two months sitting 
on the floor one day in a bad temper looked up and saw the 
sun shining and said captiously, ' Sun not look at Hennie,' 
and then more pleadingly, ' Please, sun, not look at poor 
Hennie'. 1 The sea, when the child C. first saw it, was 

1 See note by E. M. Stevens, Mind, xi., p. 150. 


supposed to make its disturbing noise with special reference 
to his small ears. We may call this the anthropocentric 
idea, the essence of which is that man is the centre of 
reference, the aim or target, in all nature's processes. This 
anthropocentric tendency again is shared by the child 
with the uncultured adult. Primitive man looks on wind, 
rain, thunder as sent by some angry spirit, and even a 
respectable English farmer tends to view these operations 
of nature in much the same way. In children this anthro- 
pocentric impulse is apt to get toned down by their 
temperament, which is on the whole optimistic and de- 
cidedly practical, into a looking out for the uses of things. 
A boy, already quoted, once (towards the end of the fourth 
year) asked his mother what the bees do. This question 
he explained by adding: "What is the good of them ?" 
When told that they made honey he observed pertinently 
enough from his teleological standpoint : " Then do they 
bring it for us to eat ? " This shrewd little fellow might 
have made short work of some of the arguments by which 
the theological optimists of the last century were wont to 
' demonstrate ' the Creator's admirable adaptation of nature 
to man's wants. 

The frequency of this kind of 'why?' suggests that 
children's thoughts about things are penetrated with the 
idea of purpose and use. This is shown too in other 
ways. M. A. Binet found by questioning children that 
their ideas of things are largely made up of uses. Thus, 
asked what a hat is, a child answered : " Pour mettre sur 
la tete". Mr. H. E. Kratz of Sioux City sends me some 
answers to questions by children of five on entering a 
primary school, which illustrate the same point. Thus 
the question, ' What is a tree ? ' brings out the answers, 
' To make the wind blow,' ' To sit under/ and so forth. 

Little by little this idea of a definite purpose arid use 
in this and that thing falls back and the child gets inter- 
ested mare in the production or origination of things. He 


wants to know who made the trees, the birds, the stars and 
so forth. Here, though what we call efficient, as distin- 
guished from final, cause is recognised, anthropomorphism 
survives in the idea of a maker analogous to the carpenter. 
We shall see later that children habitually envisage the 
deity as a fabricator. 

All this rage of questioning about the uses and the 
origin of things is the outcome, not merely of ignorance and 
curiosity, but of a deeper motive, a sense of perplexity, of 
mystery or contradiction. It is not always easy to dis- 
tinguish the two types of question, yet in many cases at 
least its form and the manner of putting it will tell us that 
it issues from a puzzled and temporarily baffled brain. As 
long as the questioning goes on briskly we may infer that 
a child believes in the possibility of knowledge, and has 
not sounded the deepest depths of intellectual despair. More 
pathetic than the saddest of questions is the silencing of 
questions by the loss of faith. 

It is easy to see that children must find themselves 
puzzled with much which they see and hear of. The 
apparent exceptions to rules don't trouble the grown-up 
persons just because as recurrent exceptions they seem to 
take on a rule of their own. Thus adults though quite 
unversed in hydrostatics would be incapable of being 
puzzled by C.'s problem : why my putting my hand in 
water does not make a hole in it. Similarly, though they 
know nothing of animal physiology they are never troubled 
by the mystery of fish breathing under water, which when 
first noted by a child may come as a sort of shock. The 
little boy just referred to, in his far-reaching zoological 
interrogatory asked his mother: " Can they (the fish) breathe 
with their moufs under water?" 

In his own investigations, and in getting instruction 
from others, the child is frequently coming upon puzzles of 
this sort. The same boy was much exercised about the 
sea and where it went to. He expressed a u ish to take ofT 


his shoes and to walk out into the sea so as to see where 
the ships go to, and was much troubled on learning that 
the sea got deeper and deeper, and that if he walked out 
into it he would be drowned. At first he denied the 
paradox (which he at once saw) of the incoming sea going 
uphill : " But, mamma, it doesn't run up, it doesn't run up, 
so it couldn't come up over our heads ? " He was told 
that this was so, and he wisely began to try to accom- 
modate his mind to this startling revelation. C, it will 
be seen, was much exercised by this problem of the 
moving mass of waters, wanting to know whether it came 
half way up the world. Probably in both these cases the 
idea of water rising had its uncanny alarming aspect. 

It is probable that the disappearance of a thing is at a 
very early stage a puzzle to the infant. Later on, too, the 
young mind continues to be exercised about this mystery. 
Our little friend's inquiry about the whither of the big 
receding sea, " Where does the sea sim (swim) to ? " 
illustrates this perplexity. A child seems able to under- 
stand the shifting of an object of moderate size from one 
part of space to another, but his conception of space is 
probably not large enough to permit him to realise how a 
big tract of water can pass out of the visible scene into the 
unseen. The child's question, " Where does all the wind 
go to ? " seems to have sprung from a like inability to 
picture a vast unseen realm of space. 

In addition to this difficulty of the disappearance of big 
things, there seems to be something in the vastness and 
the infinite number of existent things perceived and 
heard about, which puzzles and oppresses the young mind. 
The inability to take in all the new facts leads to a kind of 
resentment of their multitude. " Mother," asked a boy of 
four years, " why is there such a lot of things in the world 
if no one knows all these things ? " One cannot be quite 
sure of the underlying thought here. The child may have 
meant merely to protest against the production of so con- 


fusing a number of objects in the world. This certainly 
seems to be the motive in some children's inquiries, as when 
a little girl, aged three years seven months, said : 'Mamma, 
why do there be any more days, why do there ? and why 
don't we leave off eating and drinking ? ' Here the burden- 
someness of mere multiplicity, of the unending procession 
of days and meals, seems to be the motive. Yet it is 
possible that the question about a lot of things not known 
to anybody was prompted by a deeper difficulty, a dim 
presentiment of Berkeley's idealism, that things can exist 
only as objects of knowledge. This surmise may seem far- 
fetched to some, yet I have found what seem to me other 
traces of this tendency in children. A girl of six and a 
half years was talking to her father about the making of the 
world. He pointed out to her the difficulty of creating 
things out of nothing, showing her that when we made 
things we simply fashioned materials anew. She pondered 
and then said : " Perhaps the world's a fancy ". Here 
again one cannot be quite sure of the child-thought behind 
the words. Yet it certainly looks like a falling back for a 
moment into the dreamy mood of the idealist, that mood 
in which we seem to see the solid fabric of things dissolve 
into a shadowy phantasmagoria. 

The subject of origins is, as we know, beset with puzzles 
for the childish mind. The beginnings of living things are, 
of course, the great mystery. " There's such a lot of things," 
remarked the little zoologist I have recently been quoting, 
" I want to know, that you say nobody knows, mamma. I 
want to know who made God, and I want to know if Pussy 
has eggs to help her make ickle (little) kitties." Finding 
that this was not so, he observed : " Oh, then, I s'pose she 
has to have God to help her if she doesn't have kitties in 
eggs given her to sit on ". Another little boy, five years 
old, found his way to the puzzle of the reciprocal genetic 
relation of the hen and the egg, and asked his mother : 
" When there is no egg where does the hen come from ? 


When there was no egg, I mean, where did the hen come 
from ? " In a similar way, as we shall see in C.'s journal, a 
child will puzzle his brains by asking how the first child was 
suckled, or, as a little girl of four and a half years put it, 
" When everybody was a baby then who could be their 
nurse if they were all babies ? " The beginnings of human 
life are, as we know, a standing puzzle for the young in- 

Much of this questioning is metaphysical in that it 
transcends the problems of every-day life and of science. 
The child is metaphysician in the sense in which the earliest 
human thinkers were metaphysicians, pushing his question- 
ing into the inmost nature of things, and back to their 
absolute beginnings, as when he asks ' Who made God ? ' or 
'What was there before God ?' l He has no idea yet of the 
confines of human knowledge. If his mother tells him she 
does not know he tenaciously clings to the idea that some- 
body knows, the doctor it may be, or the clergyman or 
possibly the policeman, of whose superior knowledge one 
little girl was forcibly convinced by noting that her father 
once asked information of one of these stately officials. 

Strange, bizarre, altogether puzzling to the listener, are 
some of these childish questions. A little American girl 
of nine years after a pause in talk re-commenced the con- 
versation by asking : " Why don't I think of something to 
say?" A play recently performed in a London theatre 
made precisely this appeal to others by way of getting at 
one's own motives a chief amusing feature in one of its 
comical characters. Another little American girl aged 
three one day left her play and her baby sister named 
Edna Belle to find her mother and ask : " Mamma, why 
ain't Edna Belle me, and why ain't I Edna Belle?" 2 The 

1 Illustrations are given by Compayre, op. cit., and by P. Lom- 
broso, Psicologia del Bambino, p. 47 ff. 

2 Quoted from an article, " Some Comments on Babies," by Miss 
Shinn in the Overland Monthly, Jan., 1894. 


narrator of this story adds that the child was not a daughter 
of a professor of metaphysics but of practical farmer folk. 
One cannot be quite sure of the precise drift of this question. 
It may well have been the outcome of a new development 
of self-consciousness, of a clearer awareness of the self in 
its distinctness from others. A question with a much clearer 
metaphysical ring about it, showing thought about the 
subtlest problems, was that put by a boy of the same age : 
"If I'd gone upstairs, could God make it that I hadn't?" 
This is a good example of the type of question : * Can he 
make a thing done not to have been done ? ' which accord- 
ing to Erasmus was much debated by theologians. 1 

With many children confronted with the mysteries of 
God and the devil this questioning often reproduces the 
directions of theological speculation. Thus the problem of 
the necessity of evil is clearly recognisable in the question 
once put by an American boy under eight years of age to 
a priest who visited his home: " Father, why don't God kill 
the devil and then there would be no more wickedness in 
the world?" 

All children's questioning does not of course take this 
sublime direction. Along with the tendency to push back 
inquiry to the unreachable beginning of things we mark a 
more modest and scientific line of investigation into the 
observable and explainable processes of nature. Some 
questions which a busy listener would pooh-pooh as dreamy 
have a genuinely scientific value, showing that the little 
inquirer is trying to work out some problem of fact. This 
is illustrated by a question put by a little boy aged three 
years nine months: "Why don't we see two things with 
our two eyes ? " a problem which, as we know, has exercised 
older psychologists. 

When this more definitely scientific direction is taken 
by a child's questioning we may observe that the ambitious 
' why ? ' begins to play a second role, the first being now 
1 Froude, Letters of Erasmus, Lect. vii. 


taken by the more modest 'how?' The germ of this kind 
of inquiry may be present in some of the early question- 
ing about growth. " How," asked our little zoologist, 
"does plants grow when we plant them, and how does 
boys grow from babies to big boys like me ? Has I grown 
now whilst I was eating my supper? See ! " and he stood 
up to make the most of his stature. Clearer evidence of a 
directing of inquiry into the processes of things appears in 
the fifth and sixth years. A little girl of four years seven 
months among other questionings wanted to know what 
makes the trains move, and how we move our eyes. The 
incessant inquiries of the boy Clark Maxwell into the ' go ' 
of this thing or the ( particular go ' of that illustrate in a 
clearer manner the early tendency to direct questioning to 
the more manageable problems to which science confines 

These different lines of questioning are apt to run on 
concurrently from the end of the third year, a fit of eager 
curiosity about animals or other natural objects giving place 
to a fit of theological inquiry, this again being dropped 
for an equally eager inquiry into the making of clocks, rail- 
way engines, and so on. Yet through these alternating 
bouts of questioning we can distinguish something like a 
law of intellectual progress. Questioning as the most direct 
expression of a child's curiosity follows the development of 
his groups of ideas and of the interests which help to con- 
struct these. Thus I think it a general rule that questioning 
about the make or mechanism of things follows questioning 
about animal ways just because the zoological interest (in 
a very crude form of course) precedes the mechanical. The 
scope of this early questioning will, moreover, expand with 
intellectual capacity, and more particularly the capability 
of forming the more abstruse kind of childish idea. Thus 
inquiries into absolute beginnings, into the origin of the 
world and of God himself, indicate the presence of a larger 
intellectual grasp of time-relations and of the processes of 


8 9 

Our survey of the field of childish questioning suggests 
that it is by no means an easy matter to deal with. It 
must be admitted, I think, by the most enthusiastic partisan 
of children that their questioning is of very unequal value. 
It may often be noticed that a child's 'why?' is used in a 
sleepy mechanical way with no real desire for knowledge, 
any semblance of answer being accepted without an at- 
tempt to put a meaning into it. A good deal of the more 
importunate kind of children's questioning, when they 
follow up question with question recklessly, as it seems, and 
without definite aim, appears to be of this formal and life- 
less character, an expression not of a healthy intellectual 
activity, but merely of a mood of general mental discontent 
and peevishness. In a certain amount of childish question- 
ing, indeed, we have, I suspect, to do with a distinctly 
abnormal mental state, with an analogue of that mania 
of questions, or passion for mental rummaging or prying 
into everything, "Grubelsucht" as the Germans call it, which 
is a well-known phase of mental disease, and prompts 
the patient to put such questions as this : " Why 
do I stand here where I stand ? " " Why is a glass a glass, 
a chair a chair?" Such questioning ought, it is evident, 
not to be treated too seriously. We may attach too much 
significance to a child's question, labouring hard to grasp 
its meaning, with a view to answering it, when we should 
be wiser if we viewed it as a symptom of mental irritability 
and peevishness, to be got rid of as quickly as possible by 
a good romp or other healthy distraction. 1 

To admit, however, that children's questions may now 
and again need this sort of wholesome snubbing is far 
from saying that we ought to treat all their questioning 
with a mild contempt. The little questioners flatter us by 
attributing superior knowledge to us, and good manners 
should compel us to treat their questions with some attention. 
And if now and then they torment us with a string of 
1 Cf. Perez, L'Education des le berceau, p. 45 ff. 


random reckless questioning, in how many cases, one 
wonders, are they not made to suffer, and that wrongfully, 
by having perfectly serious questions rudely cast back on 
their hands? The truth is that to understand and to 
answer children's questions is a considerable art, including 
both a large and deep knowledge of things, and a quick 
sympathetic insight into the little questioners' minds, and few 
of us have at once the intellectual and the moral excellences 
needed for an adequate treatment of them. It is one of the 
tragi-comic features of human life that the ardent little 
explorer looking out with wide-eyed wonder upon his new 
world should now and again find as his first guide a nurse 
or even a mother who will resent the majority of his ques- 
tions as disturbing the luxurious mood of indolence in 
which she chooses to pass her days. We can never know 
how much valuable mental activity has been checked, how 
much hope and courage cast down by this kind of treat- 
ment. Yet happily the questioning impulse is not easily 
eradicated, and a child who has suffered at the outset from 
this wholesale contempt may be fortunate enough to meet, 
while the spirit of investigation is still upon him, one who 
knows and who has the good nature and the patience to 
impart what he knows in response to a child's appeal. 



The Child's Thoughts about Nature. 

WE have seen in the previous chapter how a child's mind 
behaves when brought face to face with the unknown. We 
will now examine some of the more interesting results of 
this early thought-activity, what are known as the char- 
acteristic ideas of children. There is no doubt, I think, 
that children, by reflecting on what they see or other- 
wise experience and what they are told by others, fashion 
their own ideas about nature, death and the rest. This 
tendency, as pointed out above, discloses itself to some 
extent in their questions about things. It has now to be 
more fully studied in their sayings as a whole. The ideas 
thus formed will probably prove to vary considerably 
in the case of different children, yet to preserve throughout 
these variations a certain general character. 

These ideas, moreover, like those of primitive races, will 
be found to be a crude attempt at a connected system. We 
must not, of course, expect too much here. The earliest 
thought of mankind about nature and the supernatural was 
very far from being elaborated into a consistent logical 
whole; yet we can see general forms of conception or 
tendencies of thought running through the whole. So in 
the case of this largely spontaneous child-thought. It will 
disclose to an unsparing critical inspection vast gaps, and 
many unsurmounted contradictions. Thus in the case of 


children, as in that of uncultured races, the supernatural 
realm is at first brought at most into only a very loose con- 
nexion with the visible world. All the same there is seen, 
in the measure of the individual child's intelligence, the 
endeavour to co-ordinate, and the poor little hard-pressed 
brain of a child will often pluckily do its best in trying to 
bring some connexion into that congeries of disconnected 
worlds into which he finds himself so confusingly intro- 
duced, partly by the motley character of his own experi- 
ences, as the alternations of waking and sleeping, partly 
by the haphazard miscellaneous instruction, mythological, 
historical, theological, and the rest, with which we incon- 
siderately burden his mind. 

As was observed in dealing with children's imaginative 
activity, this primitive child-lore, like its prototype in folk- 
lore, is largely a product of a naive vivid fancy. In assign- 
ing the relations of things and their reasons, a child's mind 
does not make use of abstract conceptions. It does not 
talk about "relation," but pictures out the particular re- 
lation it wants to express by a figurative expression, as 
in apperceiving the juxtaposition of moon and star as 
mamma and baby. So it does not talk of abstract force, 
but figures some concrete form of agency, as in explaining 
the wind by the idea of somebody's waving a big fan 
somewhere. This first crude attempt of the child to 
envisage the world is, indeed, largely mythological, pro- 
ceeding by the invention of concrete and highly pictorial 
ideas of fairies, giants and their doings. 

The element of thought comes in with the recognition 
of the real as such, and with the application of the products 
of young phantasy to comprehending and explaining this 
reality. And here we see how this primitive child-thought, 
though it remains instinct with glowing imagery, differ- 
entiates itself from pure fancy. This last knows no 
restraint, and aims only at the delight of its spontaneous 
play-like movements, whereas thought is essentially the 


serious work of realising and understanding what exists. 
The contrast is seen plainly enough if we compare the 
mental attitude of the child when he is frankly romancing, 
giving out now and again a laugh, which shows that he 
himself fully recognises the absurdity of his talk, with his 
attitude when in gravest of moods he is calling upon his 
fancy to aid reason in explaining some puzzling fact. 

How early this splitting of the child's imaginative 
activity into these two forms, the playful and the thought- 
ful, takes place is not, I think, very easy to determine. 
Many children at least are apt at first to take all that is 
told them as gospel. To most of them about the age of 
three and four, I suspect, fairyland, if imagined at all, is 
as much a reality as the visible world. The disparity of 
its contents, the fairies, dragons and the rest, with those 
of the world of sense does not trouble their mind, the two 
worlds not being as yet mentally juxtaposed and dove- 
tailed one into the other. It is only later when the desire 
to understand overtakes and even passes the impulse to 
frame bright and striking images, and, as a result of this, 
critical reflexion applies itself to the nursery legends and 
detects their incongruity with the world of every-day per 
ception, that a clear distinction comes to be drawn between 
reality and fiction, what exists and can (or might) be 
verified by sense, and what is only pictured by the mind. 

With this preliminary peep into the modus operandi of 
children's thought, let us see what sort of ideas of things 
they fashion. 

Beginning with their ideas of natural objects we find, as 
has been hinted, the influence of certain predominant tend- 
encies. Of these the most important is the impulse to think 
of what is far off, whether in space or time, and so unobserv- 
able, as like what is near and observed. Along with this 
tendency, or rather as one particular development of it, 
there goes the disposition already illustrated, to vivify 
nature, to personify things and so to assimilate their 


behaviour to the child's own, and to explain the origin of 
things by ideas of making and aiming at some purpose. 
Since, at the same time that these tendencies are still 
dominant, the child by his own observation and by such 
instruction as he gets, is gaining insight into the 'how/ the 
mechanism of things, we find that his cosmology is apt to 
be a quaint jumble of the scientific and the mythological. 
Thus the boy C. tried to conceive of the divine creation of 
men as a mechanical process with well-marked stages the 
fashioning of stone men, iron men, and then real men. 
In many cases we can see that a nature-myth comes in to eke 
out the deficiencies of mechanical insight. Thus, the pro- 
duction of thunder and other strange and inexplicable 
phenomena is referred, as by the savage, and even by many 
so-called civilised men and women, to the direct interposi- 
tion of a supernatural agency. The theological idea with 
which children are supplied is apt to shape itself into that 
of a capricious and awfully clever demiurgos, who not only 
made the world-machine but alters its working as often 
as he is disposed. With this idea of a supernatural 
*agent there is commonly combined that of a natural process 
as means employed, as when thunder is supposed to be 
caused by God's treading heavily on the floor of the sky. 
Contradictions are not infrequent, the mythological impulse 
sometimes alternating with a more distinctly scientific im- 
pulse to grasp the mechanical process, as when wind is some- 
times thought of, as caused by a big fan, and sometimes, e.g., 
when heard moaning in the night, endowed with life and 

I shall make no attempt to give a methodical account 
of children's thoughts about nature. I suspect that a good 
deal more material will have to be collected before a com- 
plete description of these thoughts is possible. I shall 
content myself with giving a few samples of their ideas so 
far as my own studies have thrown light on them. 

With respect to the make or substance of things children 


are, I believe, disposed to regard all that they see as having 
the resistant quality of solid material substance. 

At first, that is to say after the child has had experience 
enough of seeing and touching things at the same time to 
know that the two commonly go together, he believes that 
all which he sees is tangible or substantial. Thus he will 
try to touch shadows, sunlight dancing on the wall, and 
picture forms. This tendency to "reify," or make things of, 
his visual impressions shows itself in pretty forms, as when 
the little girl M., one year eleven months old, " gathered sun- 
light in her hands and put it on her face ". The same child 
about a month earlier expressed a wish to wash some black 
smoke. This was the same child that tried to make the 
wind behave by making her mother's hair tidy ; and her 
belief in the material reality of the wind was shown by her 
asking her mother to lift her up high so that she might see 
the wind. This last, it is to be noted, was an inference from 
touching and resisting to seeing. 1 Wind, it has been well 
remarked, keeps something of its substantiality for all of 
us long after shadows have become the type of unreality* 
proving that the experience of resisting something lies at 
the root of our idea of material substance. That older 
children believe in the wind as a living thing seems suggested 
by the readiness with which they get up a kind of play- 
tussle with it. That wind even in less fanciful moments is 
reified is suggested by the following story from the Worcester 
collection. A girl aged nine was looking out and seeing 
the wind driving the snow in the direction of a particular 
town, Millbury : whereupon she remarked, " I'd like to live 
down in Millbury ". Asked why, she replied, " There must 
be a lot of wind down there, it's all blowing that way ". 

Children, as may be seen in this story, are particularly 
interested in the movements of things. Movement is the 

1 Compare R. L. Stevenson's lines to the wind : 
" I felt you push, I heard you call, 
I could not see yourself at all ". 

A Child's Garden of Verse, xxv. 


clearest and most impressive manifestation of life. All 
apparently spontaneous or self-caused movements are ac- 
cordingly taken by children, as by primitive man, to be the 
sign of life, the outcome of something analogous to their 
own impulses. Hence the movements of falling leaves, oi 
running water, of feathers and the like are specially sug- 
gestive of life. Wind owes much of its vitality, as seen in 
the facile personification of it by the poet, to its apparently 
uncaused movements. Some children in the Infant Depart- 
ment of a London Board School were asked what things 
in the room were alive, and they promptly replied the 
smoke and the fire. Big things moving by an internal 
mechanism of which the child knows nothing, more especi- 
ally engines, are of course endowed with life. A little girl 
of thirteen months offered a biscuit to a steam-tram, and 
the author of The Invisible Playmate tells us that his little 
girl wanted to stroke the " dear head " of a locomotive. A 
child has been known to ask whether a steam-engine was 
alive. In like manner, savages on first seeing the self- 
moving steamer take it for a big animal. The fear of a dog 
at the sight of an unfamiliar object appearing to move of 
itself, as a parasol blown along the ground by the wind, 
seems to imply a rudiment of the same impulse to interpret 
self- movement as a sign of life. 1 

The child's impulse to give life to moving things may 
lead him to overlook the fact that the movement is caused 
by an external force, and this even when the force is 
exerted by himself. The boy C. on finding the cushion 
he was sitting upon slipping from under him in consequence 
of his own wriggling movements pronounced it alive. In 
like manner children, as suggested above, ascribe life to 
their moving playthings. Thus, C.'s sister when five years 
old stopped one day trundling her hoop, and turning to 
her mother, exclaimed : " Ma, 1 do think this hoop must 
be alive, it is so sensible: it goes where 1 want it to". 

1 See P. Lombroso, op. cit., p. 26 ft. 


Another little girl two and a quarter years old on having 
a string attached to a ball put into her hand, and after 
swinging it round mechanically, began to notice the move- 
ment of the ball, and said to herself, " Funny ball ! " In both 
these cases, although the movement was directly caused by 
the child, it was certainly in the first case, and apparently 
in the second, attributed to the object. 

Next to movement apparently spontaneous sound 
appears to be a common reason for attributing life to 
inanimate objects. Are not movement and vocal sound the 
two great channels of utterance of the child's own impulses? 
The little girl M., when just two years old, being asked 
by her mother for a kiss, answered prettily, ' Tiss 
(kiss) gone away'. This may, of course, have been 
merely a child's way of using language, but the fact that 
the same little girl asked to see a * knock ' suggests that 
she was disposed to give reality and life to sounds. Its sound 
greatly helps the persuasion that the wind is alive. A 
little boy assured his teacher that the wind was alive, for 
he heard it whistling in the night. The ascription of life 
to fire is probably aided by its sputtering crackling noises. 
The impulse, too, to endow so little organic-looking an 
object as a railway engine with conscious life is probably 
supported by the knowledge of its puffing and whistling. 
Pierre Loti, when as a child he first saw the sea, re- 
garded it as a living monster, no doubt on the ground of 
its movement and its noise. The personification of the 
echo by the child, of which George Sand's reminiscences 
give an excellent example, as also by uncultured man, is 
a signal illustration of the suggestive force of a voice-like 

Closely connected with this impulse to ascribe life to 
what older folk regard as inanimate objects is the tendency 
to conceive them as growing. This is illustrated in the 
remark of the boy C, that his stick would in time grow 
r. On the other hand, there is in the Worcester Collec- 


tion a curious story of a little American boy of three who, 
having climbed up into a large waggon, and being asked, 
" How are you going to get out?" replied, "I can stay 
here till it gets little and then I can get out my own self". 
We shall see presently that shrinkage or diminution of size 
is sometimes attributed by the child-mind to people when 
getting old. So that we seem to have in each of these 
cases the extension to things generally of an idea first 
formed in connexion with the observation of human life. 

Children's ideas of natural objects are anthropomorphic, 
not merely as reflecting their own life, but as modelled 
after the analogy of the effects of their action. Quite 
young children are apt to extend the ideas broken and 
mended to objects generally. Anything which seems to 
have become reduced by losing a portion of itself is said to 
be ' broken '. A little boy of three, on seeing the moon 
partly covered by a cloud, remarked, " The moon is broken ". 
On the other hand, in the case of one little boy, everything 
intact was said to be mended. It may be said, however, 
that we cannot safely infer from such analogical use of 
common language that children distinctly think of all 
objects as undergoing breakage and repair : for these ex- 
pressions in the child's vocabulary may refer rather to the 
resulting appearances, than to the processes by which they 
are brought about. 

Clearer evidences of this reflexion on to nature of the 
characteristics of his own life appear when a child begins 
to speculate about mechanical processes, which he invari- 
ably conceives of after the analogy of his own actions. 
This was illustrated in dealing with children's questions. 
We see it still more clearly manifested in some of their 
ideas. One of the most curious instances of this that I 
have met with is seen in early theorisings about the cause 
of wind. One of the children examined by Mr. Kratz 
said the tree was to make the wind blow. A pupil of mine 
distinctly recalls that when a child he accounted for the 


wind at night by the swaying of two large elms in front of 
the house and not far from the windows of his bedroom. 
This reversing of the real order of cause and effect looks 
silly, until we remember that the child necessarily looks at 
movement in the light of his own actions. He moves 
things, e.g., the water, by his moving limbs ; we set the 
air in motion by a moving fan ; it seems, therefore, natural 
to him that the wind-movements should be caused by the 
pressure of some moving thing ; and there is the tree actu- 
ally seen to be moving. 

So far I have spoken for the most part of children's 
ideas about near and accessible objects. Their notions of 
what is distant and inaccessible are, as remarked, wont to 
be formed on the model of the first. Here, however, their 
knowledge of things will be largely dependent on others' 
information, so that the nai've impulse of childish intelligence 
has, as best it may, to work under the limitations of an im- 
perfectly understood language. 

It is perhaps hardly necessary to remind the reader 
that children's ideas of distance before they begin to travel 
far are necessarily very inadequate. They are disposed to 
localise the distant objects they see, as the sun, moon and 
stars, and the places they hear about on the earth's surface 
as near as possible. The tendency to approximate things 
as seen in the infant's stretching out of the hand to touch the 
moon lives on in the later impulse to localise the sky and 
heavenly bodies just beyond the farthest terrestrial object 
seen, as when a child thought they were just above" the 
church spire, another that they could be reached by tying 
a number of ladders together, another that the setting sun 
went close behind the ridge of hills, and so forth. The 
stars, being so much smaller looking, seem to be located 
farther off than the sun and moon. Similarly when they 
hear of a distant place, as India, they tend to project it just 
beyond the farthest point known to them, say Hampstead, 
to which they were once taken on a long, long journey from 


their East End home. A child's standard of size and 
distance is, as all know who have revisited the home of 
their childhood after many years, very different from the 
adult's. To the little legs unused as yet to more than short 
spells of locomotion a mile seems stupendous : and then 
the half-formed brain cannot yet pile up the units of 
measurement well enough to conceive of hundreds and 
thousands of miles. 

The child appears to think of the world as a circular 
plain, and of the sky as a sort of inverted bowl upon it 
C.'s sister used on looking at the sky to fancy she was inside 
a blue balloon. That is to say he takes them to be what they 
look. In a similar manner C. took the sun to be a great disc 
which could be put on the round globe to make a ' see-saw ' 
When this 'natural realism' gets corrected, children go to 
work to convert what is told them into an intelligible form 
Thus they begin to speculate about the other side of the 
globe, and, as Mr. Barrie reminds us, are apt to fancy they 
can know about it by peeping down a well. When re- 
ligious instruction introduces the new region of heaven 
they are apt to localise it just above the sky, which to their 
thought forms its floor. Some genuine thought-work is 
seen in the effort to harmonise the various things they 
learn by observation and instruction about the celestial 
region into a connected whole, Thus the sky is apt to be 
thought of as thin, this idea being probably formed for the 
purpose of explaining the shining through of moon and stars. 
Stars are, as we know, commonly thought of by the child 
as holes in the sky letting through the light beyond. One 
Boston child ingeniously applied the idea of the thinness of 
the sky to explain the appearance of the moon when one 
half is bright and the other faintly illumined, supposing 
it to be half-way through the partially diaphanous floor. 
Others again prettily accounted for the waning of the 
moon to a crescent by saying it was half stuck or half 
buttoned into the sky. 


The movements of the sun and other heavenly bodies 
are similarly apperceived by help of ideas of movements of 
familiar terrestrial objects. Thus the sun was thought by 
the Boston children half-mythologically, half-mechanically, 
to roll, to fly, to be blown (like a soap bubble or balloon ?) 
and so forth. The anthropocentric form of teleological ex- 
planation is apt to creep in, as when a Boston child said 
charmingly that the moon comes round when people forget 
to light some lamps. Theological ideas, too, are pressed 
into the service of explanation, as when the disappearance 
of the sun is ascribed to God's pulling it up higher out of 
sight, to his taking it into heaven and putting it to bed, 
and so forth. These ideas are pretty obviously not those 
of a country child with a horizon. There is rather more of 
nature-observation in another childish idea, that the sun 
after setting lies under the trees where angels mind it. 

The impressive phenomena of thunder and lightning 
give rise in the case of the child as in that of the Nature-man 
to some fine rnyth-making. The American children, as al- 
ready observed, have different mechanical illustrations for 
setting forth the modus of the supernatural operation here, 
thunder being thought of now as God groaning, now as his 
walking heavily on the floor of heaven (cf. the old Norse idea 
that thunder is caused by the rolling of Thor's chariot), 
now as his hammering, now as his having coals run in 
ideas which show how naively the child-mind humanises 
the Deity, making him a respectable citizen with a house 
and a coal-cellar. In like manner the lightning is attri- 
buted to God's burning the gas quick, striking many 
matches at once, or other familiar human device for getting 
a brilliant light suddenly. So God turns on rain by a 
tap, or lets it down from a cistern by a hose, or, better, 
passes it through a sieve or a dipper with holes. 1 In like 
manner a high wind was explained by a girl of five and a 

1 See the article on " The Contents of Children's Minds " already 
referred to. 


half by saying that it was God's birthday, and he had re- 
ceived a trumpet as a present. 

Throughout the whole region of these mysterious phe- 
nomena we have illustrations of the anthropocentric ten- 
dency to regard what takes place as designed for us poor 
mortals. The little girl of whom Mr. Canton writes thought 
the wind, and the rain and the moon ' walking ' came out 
to see her, and the flowers woke up with the same laudable 
object. 1 When frightened by the crash of the thunder a 
child instinctively thinks that it is all done to vex his little 
soul. One of the funniest examples of the application of 
this idea I have met with is in the Worcester Collection. 
Two children, D. and K., aged ten and five respectively, 
live in a small American town. D., who is reading about 
an earthquake, addresses his mother thus : " Oh, isn't it 
dreadful, mamma ? Do you suppose we will ever have one 
here?" K., intervening with the characteristic impulse 
of the young child to correct his elders: " Why, no, D., they 
don't have earthquakes in little towns like this". There is 
much to unravel in this delightful childish observation. It 
looks to my mind as if the earthquake were envisaged by 
the little five-year-old as a show, God being presumably the 
travelling showman, who takes care to display his fearful 
wonders only where there is an adequate body of spectators. 

Finally, the same impulse to understand the new and 
strange by assimilating it to the familiar is, so far as I can 
gather, seen in children's first ideas about those puzzling 
semblances of visible objects which are due to subjective 
sensations. As we shall see in C.'s case the bright spectra 
or after-images caused by looking at the sun are instinct- 
ively objectived by the child, that is regarded as things 
external to his body. Here is a pretty full account of a 
child's thought about these subjective optical phenomena. 
A little boy of five, our little zoologist, in poor health at the 
time, "constantly imagined he saw angels, and said they were 

1 The Invisible Playmate, pp. 27, 28. 


not white, that was a mistake, they were little coloured 
things, light and beautiful, and they went into the toy- 
basket and played with his toys ". Here we have not only 
objectifying but myth-building. A year later he returned 
to the subject. <v He stood at the window at B. looking 
out at a sea-mist thoughtfully and said suddenly, 'Mamma, 
do you remember I told you that I had seen angels? 
Well, I want now to say they were not angels, though I 
thought they were. I have seen it often lately, I see it 
now : it is bright stars, small bright stars moving by. I 
see it in the mist before that tree. I see it oftenest in the 
misty days. . . . Perhaps by-and-by I shall think it is 
something in my own eyes.' " Here we see a long and 
painstaking attempt of a child's brain to read a meaning 
into the ' flying spots, 1 which many of us know though we 
hardly give them a moment's attention. 

What are children's first thoughts about their dreams 
like ? I have not been able to collect much evidence on 
this head. What seems certain is that to the simple intelli- 
gence of the child these counterfeits of ordinary sense- 
presentations are real external things. The crudest mani- 
festation of this thought-tendency is seen in taking the 
dream-apparition to be actually present in the bedroom. 
A boy in an elementary school in London, aged five years, 
said one day : " Teacher, I saw an old woman one night 
against my bed ". Another child, a little girl, in the same 
school told her mother that she had seen a funeral last 
night, and on being asked, "Where?" answered quaintly, 
" I saw it in my pillow ". A little boy whom I know once 
asked his mother not to put him to bed in a certain room, 
"because there were so many dreams in the room". In 
thus materialising the dream and localising it in the actual 
surroundings, the child but reflects the early thought of the 
race which starts from the supposition that the man or 
animal which appears in a dream is a material reality which 
actually approaches the sleeper. 


The Nature-man, as we know from Professor Tylor's 
researches, goes on to explain dreams by his theory of souls 
or ' doubles ' (animism). Children do not often find their 
way to so subtle a line of thought. Much more commonly 
they pass from the first stage of acceptance of objects 
present to their senses to the identification of dreamland 
with the other and invisible world of fairyland. There is 
little doubt that the imaginative child firmly believes in 
the existence of this invisible world, keeps it apart from 
the visible one, even though at times he may give it a 
definite locality in this (e.g., in C.'s case, the wall of the 
bedroom). He gets access to it by shutting out the real 
world, as when he closes his eyes tightly and ' thinks '. 
With such a child, dreams get taken up into the invisible 
world. Going to sleep is now recognised as the surest way 
of passing into this region. The varying colour of his 
dreams, now bright and dazzling in their beauty, now black 
and terrifying, may be explained by a reference to the divis- 
ion of that fairy world into princes, good fairies, on the one 
hand, and cruel giants, witches, and the like, on the other. 

We may now pass to some of children's characteristic 
ideas about living things, more particularly human beings, 
and the familiar domestic animals. The most interesting 
of these I think are those respecting growth and birth. 

As already mentioned, growth is one of the most 
stimulating of childish puzzles. A child, led no doubt by 
what others tell him, finds that things are in general made 
bigger by additions from without, and his earliest conception 
of growth is, I think, that of such addition. Thus, plants are 
made to grow, that is, swell out, by the rain. The idea that 
the growth or expansion of animals comes from eating is 
easily reached by the childish intelligence, and, as we know, 
nurses and parents have a way of recommending the less 
attractive sorts of diet by telling children that they will 
make them grow. The idea that the sun makes us grow, 
often suggested by parents (who may be ignorant of the 


fact that growth is more rapid in the summer than in the 
winter), is probably interpreted by the analogy of an infusion 
of something into the body. 

In carrying out my inquiries into this region of childish 
ideas, I lighted quite unexpectedly on the queer notion that 
towards the end of life there is a reverse process of shrink- 
age. Old people are supposed to become little again. 
The first instance of this was supplied me by the Worcester 
Collection of Thoughts. A little girl of three once said to 
her mother : " When I am a big girl and you are a little girl 
I shall whip you just as you whipped me now". At first 
one is almost disposed to think that this child must have 
heard of Mr. Anstey's amusing story Vice Versd. Yet this 
idea seems too improbable : and I have since found that she 
is not by any means the only one who has entertained this 
idea. A little boy that I know, when about three and a 
half years old, used often to say to his mother with perfect 
seriousness of manner : " When I am big then you will be 
little, then I will carry you about and dress you and put 
you to sleep ". 

I happened to mention this fact at a meeting of mothers 
and teachers, when I received further evidence of this 
tendency of child-thought. One lady whom I know could 
recollect quite clearly that when a little girl she was 
promised by her aunt some treasures, trinkets I fancy, when 
she grew up ; and that she at once turned to her aunt and 
promised her that she would then give her in exchange 
all her dolls, as by that time she (the aunt) would be a 
little girl. Another case narrated was that of a little girl of 
three and a half years, who when her elder brother and 
sister spoke to her about her getting big rejoined : " What 
will you do when you are little ? " A third case mentioned 
was that of a child asking about some old person of her 
acquaintance: "When will she begin to get small?" I 
have since obtained corroboratory instances from parents 
and teachers of infant classes. Thus a lady writes that a 


little girl, a cousin of hers aged four, to whom she was reading 
something about an old woman, asked : " Do people turn 
back into babies when they get quite old ? " 

What, it may be asked, does this queer idea of shrink- 
age in old age mean ? By what quaint zig-zag movement 
of childish thought was the notion reached? I cannot 
learn that there is any such idea in primitive folk-lore, and 
this suggests that children find their way to it, in part at 
least, by the suggestions of older people's words. A child 
may, no doubt, notice that old people stoop, and look 
small, and the fairy book with little old women may 
strengthen the tendency to think of shrinkage. But I 
cannot bring myself to believe that this would suffice to 
produce the idea in so many cases. 

That there is much in what the little folk hear us say 
fitted to raise in their minds an idea of shrinking back into 
child-form is certain. Many children must, at some time 
or another, have overheard their elders speaking of old 
feeble people getting childish ; and we must remember that 
even the attributive ' silly ' applied to old people might lead 
a child to infer a return to childhood ; for if there is one 
thing that children true unsophisticated children believe 
in it is the all-knowingness of grown-ups as contrasted 
with the know-nothingness of themselves. C/s belief in 
the preternatural calculating powers of Goliath is an 
example of this correlation in the child's consciousness 
between size and intelligence. 1 

But I suspect that there is a further source of this 
characteristic product of early thought, involving still more 
of the child's philosophizing. As we have seen, a child 
cannot accept an absolute beginning of things, and we 
shall presently find that he is equally incapable of believing 

1 That this is not the complete explanation is suggested by a story 
told by Perez. His nephew, over four years, on meeting a little old 
man said to his uncle : " When I shall be a little old man, will you 
be young i " (U Enfant de trois d sept ans, p. 219). 


in an absolute ending. He knows that we begin our earthly 
life as babies. Well, the babies must come from something, 
and when we die we must pass into something. What 
more natural, then, than the idea of a rhythmical alternation 
of cycles of existence, babies passing into grown-ups, and 
these again into babies, and so the race kept going ? Does 
this seem too far-fetched an explanation ? I think it will 
be found less so if it is remembered that according to our way 
of instructing these active little brains, people are brought 
to earth as babies in angels' arms, and that when they die 
they are taken back also in angels' arms. Now as the 
angel remains of constant size, for this their pictures vouch 
it follows that old people, when they are dead at least, 
must have shrivelled up to nursable dimensions ; and as 
the child, when he philosophizes, knows nothing of miracu- 
lous or catastrophic changes, he naturally supposes that 
this shrivelling up is gradual like that of flowers and other 
things when they fade. 1 

I am disposed to think, then, that in this idea of senile 
shrinkage we have one of the most interesting and con- 
vincing examples of a child's philosophizing, of his impulse 
to reflect on what he sees and hears about with a view to 
systematise. Yet the matter requires further observation. 
Is it thoughtful, intelligent children, who excogitate this 
idea? Would it be possible to get the child's own explana- 
tion of it before he has completely outgrown it ? 2 

The origin of babies and young animals furnishes the 
small brain, as we have seen, with much food for speculation. 
Here the little thinker is not often left to excogitate a 

1 Perhaps, too, our way of playfully calling children little old men 
and women favours the supposition that they are old people turned 
young again. 

2 Egger quotes a remark of a little girl : " I shall carry Emile 
(her older brother) when he gets little ". This may, as Egger suggests, 
have been merely a confusion of the conditional and the future. 
But the idea about old people's shrinking cannot be dismissed in 
this summary way (see Perez, First Three Years of Childhood, p. 224). 


theory for himself. His inconvenient questionings in this 
direction have to be firmly checked, and various and truly 
wonderful are the ways in which the nurse and the mother 
are wont to do this. Any fiction is supposed to be good 
enough for the purpose. Divine action, as remarked above, 
is commonly called in, the questioner being told that 
the baby has been sent down from heaven in the arms of 
an angel and so forth. Fairy stories with their pretty 
conceits, as that of the child Thumbkin growing out of a 
flower in Hans Andersen's book, contribute their sugges- 
tions, and so there arises a mass of child-lore about babies 
in which we can see that the main ideas are supplied by 
others, though now and again we catch a glimpse of the 
child's own contributions. Thus according to Stanley 
Hall's report the Boston children said, among other things, 
that God makes babies in heaven, lets them down or drops 
them for the women and doctors to catch them, or that he 
brings them down a wooden ladder backwards and pulls it 
up again, or that mamma, nurse or doctor goes up and 
fetches them in a balloon. They are said by some to grow 
in cabbages or to be placed by God in water, perhaps in 
the sewer, where they are found by the doctor, who takes 
them to sick folks that want them. Here we have delicious 
touches of childish fancy, quaint adaptations of fairy and 
Bible lore, as in the use of Jacob's ladder and of the legend 
of Moses placed among the bulrushes, this last being en- 
riched by the thorough master-stroke of child-genius, the 
idea of the dark, mysterious, wonder-producing sewer. In 
spite too of all that others do to impress the traditional 
notions of the nursery here, we find that a child will now 
and again think out the whole subject for himself. The 
little boy C. is not the only one I find who is of the opinion 
that babies are got at a shop. Another little boy, I am 
informed, once asked his mamma in the abrupt childish 
manner, " Mamma, vere did Tommy (his own name) turn 
(come) from?" and then with the equally childish way of 



sparing you the trouble of answering his question, himself 
observed, quite to his own satisfaction, " Mamma did tie 
(buy) Tommy in a s'op (shop) ". Another child, seeing the 
announcement " Families Supplied " in a grocer's shop, 
begged his mother to get him a baby. This looks like a real 
childish idea. To the young imagination the shop is a 
veritable wonderland, an Eldorado of valuables, and it 
appears quite reasonable to the childish intelligence that 
babies like dolls and other treasures should be procurable 

The ideas partlycommunicated by others, partly thought 
out for themselves are carried over into the beginnings of 
animal life. Thus, as we have seen, one little boy supposed 
that God helps pussy to have " 'ickle kitties," seeing that she 
hasn't any kitties in eggs given her to sit upon. 

Psychological Ideas. 

We may now pass to some of the characteristic modes 
of child-thought about that standing mystery, the self. As 
our discussion of the child's ideas of origin, growth and 
final shrinkage suggests, a good deal of his most earnest 
thinking is devoted to problems relating to himself. 

The date of the first thought about self, of the first dim 
stage of self-awareness, probably varies considerably in the 
case of different children according to rapidity of mental 
development and circumstances. The little girl, who was 
afterwards to be known as George Sand, may be supposed 
to have had an exceptional development ; and the accident 
of infancy to which she refers as having aroused the earliest 
form of self-consciousness was, of course, exceptional too. 
There are probably many robust and dull children, know- 
ing little of life's misery, and allowed in general to have 
their own way, who have but little more of self-conscious- 
ness than that, say, of a young, well-favoured porker. 

The earliest idea of self seems to be obtained by the 
child through an examination by the senses of touch and 


sight of his own body. A child has been observed to study 
his fingers attentively in the fourth and fifth month, and 
this scrutiny goes on all through the second year and even 
into the third. 1 Children seem to be impressed quite early 
by the fact that in laying hold of a part of the body with 
the hand they get a different kind of experience from that 
which they obtain when they grasp a foreign object. 
Through these self-graspings, self-strikings, self-bitings, 
aided by the very varied, and often extremely disagreeable 
operations of the nurse and others on the surface of their 
bodies, they probably reach during the first year the 
idea that their body is different from all other things, is 
< me ' in the sense that it is the living seat of pain and 
pleasure. The growing power of movement of limb, 
especially when the crawling stage is reached, gives a 
special significance to the body as that which can be 
moved, and by the movements of which interesting and 
highly impressive changes in the environment, e.g., bangs 
and other noises, can be produced. 

It is probable that the first ideas of the bodily self are 
ill-defined. It is evident that the head and face are not 
known at first as a visible object. The upper limbs 
by their movement across the field of vision would come 
in for the special notice of the eye. We know that the 
baby is at an early date wont to watch its hands. The 
lower limbs, moreover, seem to receive special attention 
from the exploring and examining hand. 

There is some reason to think, however, that in spite of 
these advantages, the limbs form a less integral and essential 
part of the bodily self than the trunk. A child in his second 
year was observed to bite his own finger till he cried with 
pain. He could hardly have known it as a part of his 
sensitive body. Preyer tells us of a boy of nineteen months 
who when asked to give his foot seized it with both hands 

1 For the facts see Preyer, op. cit., cap. xxii. ; Tracy, The 
Psychology of Childhood, p. 47. 


and tried to hand it over. A like facility in casting off 
from the self or alienating the limbs is illustrated in a story 
in the Worcester Collection of a child of three and a half 
years who on finding his feet stained by some new stock- 
ings observed: "Oh, mamma ! these ain't my feet, these ain't 
the feet I had this morning ". This readiness to detach 
the limbs shows itself still more plainly in the boy C.'s 
complaining when in bed and trying to wriggle into a snug 
position that his legs came in the way of himself. Here the 
legs seem to be half transformed into foreign persons ; and 
this tendency to personify the limbs seems to be further 
illustrated in Laura Bridgman's pastime of spelling a word 
wrongly with one hand and then slapping that hand with 
the other. 

Why, it may be asked, should a child attach this supreme 
importance to the trunk, when his limbs are always forcing 
themselves on his notice by their movements, and when he 
is so deeply interested in them as the parts of the body 
which do things? I suspect that the principal reason is 
that a child soon learns to connect with the trunk J:he re- 
current and most impressive of his feelings of comfort and 
discomfort, such as hunger, thirst, stomachic pains and the 
corresponding reliefs. We know that the ''vital sense" 
forms the sensuous basis of self-consciousness in the adult, 
and it is only reasonable to suppose that in the first years 
of life, when it fills so large a place in the consciousness, it 
has most to do with determining the idea of the sentient 
or feeling body. Afterwards the observation of maimed 
men and animals would confirm the idea that the trunk 
is the seat and essential portion of the living body. The 
language of others too by identifying * body ' and ' trunk ' 
would strengthen the tendency. 

About this interesting trunk-body, what is inside it, and 
how it works, the child speculates vastly. References to 
the making of bone, the work of the stomach, and so forth 
have to be understood somehow. It would be interesting 


to get at a child's unadulterated view of his anatomy and 
physiology. The Worcester Collection illustrates what 
funny ideas a child can entertain of the mechanism of his 
body. A little girl between five and six thought it was the 
little hairs coming against the lids which made her sleepy. 

At a later stage of the child's development, no doubt, 
when he comes to form the idea of a conscious thinking 
' I,' the head will become a principal portion of the bodily 
self. In the evolution of the self-idea in the race, too, we 
find that the soul was lodged in the trunk long before it 
was assigned a seat in the head. As may be seen in C.'s 
case children are quite capable of finding their way, in part 
at least, to the idea that the soul has its lodgment in the 
head. But it is long before this thought grows clear. This 
may be seen in children's talk, as when a girl of four 
spoke of her dolly as having no sense in her eyes. Even 
when a child learns from others that we think with our 
brains he goes on supposing that our thoughts travel 
down to the mouth when we speak. 

Very interesting in connexion with the first stages of 
development of the idea of self is the experience of the 
mirror. It would be absurd to expect a child when first 
placed before a mirror to recognise his own face. He will 
smile at the reflexion as early as the tenth week, though 
this is probably merely an expression of pleasure at the 
sight of a bright object. If he is held in the nurse's arms 
before a glass when about six months old a baby may at 
once show that he recognises the image of the familiar face 
of the nurse by turning round to the real face, whereas he 
will not recognise his own. He appears at first and for 
some months to take it for a real object, sometimes smiling 
to it as to a stranger and even kissing it, or, as in the case of a 
little girl (fifteen months old), offering it things and saying 
' Ta ' (sign of acceptance). In many cases curiosity 
prompts to an attempt to grasp the mirror-figure with the 
hand, to turn up the glass, or to put the hand behind it in 


order to see what is really there. This is very much like 
the behaviour of monkeys before a mirror, as described by 
Darwin and others. Little by little the child gets used to 
the reflexion, and then by noting certain agreements 
between his bodily self and the image, as the movement of 
his hands when he points, and partly, too, by a kind of infer- 
ence of analogy from the doubling of other things by the 
mirror, he reaches the idea that the reflexion belongs to 
himself. By the sixtieth week Preyer's boy had associated 
the name of his mother with her image, pointing to it when 
asked where she was. By the twenty-first month he did 
the same thing in the case of his own image. 1 

An infant will, we know, take a shadow to be a real 
object and try to touch it. Some children on noticing their 
own and other people's shadows on the wall are afraid as 
at something uncanny. Here, too, in time the strange 
phenomenon is taken as a matter of course and referred to 
the sun. 

We are told that the phenomena of reflexions and 
shadows, along with those of dreams, had much to do with 
the development, in the early thought of the race, of the 
animistic conception that everything has a double nature 
and existence. Do children form similar ideas ? We can 
see from the autobiography of George Sand how a clever 
girl, reflecting on the impressive experience of the echo, ex- 
cogitates such a theory of her double existence ; and we 
know, too, that the boy Hartley Coleridge distinguished 
among the * Hartleys ' a picture Hartley and a shadow 
Hartley. C.'s biography suggests that being photographed 
may appear to a child as a transmutation, if not a doubling,, 
of the self. But much more needs to be known about these 

The prominence of the bodily pictorial element in the 
child's first idea of self is seen in the tendency to restrict 

1 See the very full account of the mirror experiment in Preyer's 
book, p. 459 seq. 



personal identity within the limits of an unchanged bodily 
appearance. The child of six, with his shock of curls, 
refuses to believe that he is the same as the hairless baby 
whose photograph the mother shows him. How different, 
how new, a being a child feels on a Sunday morning after 
the extra weekly cleansing and brushing and draping. The 
bodily appearance is a very big slice of the content of most 
people's self-consciousness, and to the child it is almost 

But in time the conscious self, which thinks and suffers 
and wills, comes to be dimly discerned. I believe that a 
real advance towards this true self-consciousness is marked 
by the appropriation and use of the difficult forms of 
language, 'I,' 'me/ 'mine'. This will be dealt with in 
another essay. 

Sometimes the apprehension of the existence of a hidden 
self distinct from the body comes as a sudden revelation, as 
to little George Sand. Such a swift awakening of self- 
consciousness is apt to be an epoch-making and memorable 
moment in the history of the child. 

A father sends me the following notes on the develop- 
ment of self-consciousness : " My girl, three years old, 
makes an extraordinary distinction between her body and 
herself. Lying in bed she shut her eyes and said : ' Mother, 
you can't see me now '. The mother replied : ' Oh, you 
little goose, I can see you but you can't see me'. To 
which she rejoined : ' Oh, yes, I know you can see my body, 
mother, but you can't see me\" The same child about the 
same time was concerned for the reality of her own 
existence. One day playing with her dolls she asked her 
mother: " Mother, am / real, or only a pretend like my 
dolls ? " Here again, it is plain, the emphasis was laid on 
something non-corporeal, something that animated the 
body, and not a mere bit of mechanism put inside it. Two 
years later she showed a still finer intellectual differen- 
tiation of the visible and the invisible self. Her brother 


happened to ask her what they fed the bears on at the 
Zoo. She answered impulsively: "Dead babies and that 
sort of thing ". On this the mother interposed : " Why, R, 
you don't think mothers would give their dead babies to the 
animals?" To this she replied : "Why not, mother? It's 
only their bodies. I shouldn't mind your giving mine." 
This contempt for the body is an excellent example of the 
way in which a child when he gets hold of an idea pushes 
it to its logical extreme. This little girl by-the-bye was 
she who, about the same age, took compassion on the 
poor autumn leaves dying on the ground, so that we may 
suppose her mind to have been brooding at this time on 
the conscious side of existence. 

The mystery of self-existence has probably been a 
puzzle to many a thoughtful child. A lady, a well-known 
writer of fiction, sends me the following recollection of her 
early thought on this subject : " The existence of other 
people seemed natural : it was the * I ' that seemed so 
strange to me. That I should be able to perceive, to 
think, to cause other people to act, seemed to me quite to 
be expected, but the power of feeling and acting and 
moving about myself, under the guidance of some internal 
self, amazed me continually." 

It is of course hard to say how exactly the child thinks 
about this inner self. It seems to me probable that, allow- 
ing for the great differences in reflective power, children in 
general, like uncivilised races, tend to materialise it, think- 
ing of it dimly as a film-like shadow-like likeness of the 
visible self. The problem is complicated for the child's 
consciousness by religious instruction with its idea of an 
undying soul. 

As may be seen in the recollections just quoted, this 
early thought about self is greatly occupied with its action 
on the body. Among the many things that puzzled the 
much- questioning little lad already frequently quoted was 
this : " How do my thoughts come down from my brain to 


my mouth : and how does my spirit make my legs walk ? " 
C.'s sister when four years and ten months old wanted to 
know how it is we can move our arm and keep it still when 
we want to, while the curtain can't move except somebody 
moves it. The first attempts to solve the puzzle are of 
course materialistic, as may be seen in our little questioner's 
delightful notion of thoughts travelling through the body. 
This form of materialism, however, I find surviving in 
grown-ups and even in students of psychology, who are 
rather fond of talking about sensations travelling up the 
nerves to the brain. 

Very curious are the directions of the first thought 
about the past self. The idea of personal identity, so dear 
to philosophers, does not appear to be fully reached at first. 
On the contrary, as we shall see in the case of C., the past 
self is divorced from the present under the image of the 
opposite sex in the odd expression : " when I was a little 
girl ". This probably illustrates the importance of the 
bodily appearance as a factor in the self, for C. had, I be- 
lieve, been photographed when in the petticoat stage, and no 
doubt looked back on this person in skirts as a girl. This is 
borne out by the fact that another little boy when about 
three and a half years old asked his mother : " Was I a girl 
when I was small? " and that the little questioner whom I 
have called our zoologist was also accustomed to say: "When 
I was a 'ickle dirl (girl) ". But discarded petticoats do not 
explain all the child's ideas about his past self. This same 
little zoologist would also say, " When I was a big man," to 
describe the state of things long, long ago. What does 
this mean? In discussing the quaint idea of senile 
shrinkage I have suggested that a child may think of 
human existence as a series of transformations from little- 
ness to bigness, and the reverse, and here we have lighted 
on another apparent evidence of it. For though we are 
apt to call children ' old men ' we do not suggest to them 
that they are or have been big men. 


The difficulty to the child of conceiving of his remote 
past, is surpassed by that of trying to understand the state 
of things before he was born. The true mystery of birth 
for the child, the mystery which fascinates and holds his 
mind, is that of his beginning to be. This is illustrated 
in C.'s question: "Where was I a hundred years ago? 
Where was I before I was born ? " It remains a mystery 
for all of us, only that after a time we are wont to put it 
aside. The child, on the other hand, is stung, so to say, 
by the puzzle, his whole mind being roused to passionate 

It is curious to note the differences in the attitude of 
children's minds towards the mystery. The small person 
accustomed to petting, to be made the centre of others" 
thought and action, may be struck with the blank in the 
common home life before his arrival. A lady was talking 
to her little girl H., aged three years, about something she 
had done when she was a child. H. then wanted to know 
what she was doing then, and was told by her mother : 
"Oh, you were not here at all". She seemed quite 
amazed at this, and said : " And what did you do without 
H. ? Did you cry all day for her ? " On being informed 
that this was not the case, she seemed quite unable to 
realise how her mother could have existed without her. 
There -is something of the charming egoism of the 
child here, but there is more : there is the vague expression 
of the unifying integrating work of love. Lovers, one is 
told, are wont to think in the same way about the past 
before they met, and became all in all to one another. 
For this little girl with her strong sense of human attach- 
ment, the idea of a real life without that which gave it 
warmth and gladness was a contradiction. 

Sometimes again, in the more metaphysical sort of 
child, the puzzle relates to the past existence of the outer 
world. We have all been perplexed by the thought of 
the earth and sky, and other folk existing before we were, 


and going on to exist after we cease to be ; though here 
again, save in the case of the philosopher perhaps, we get 
used to the puzzle. Children may be deeply impressed 
with this apparent contradiction. Jean Ingelow in her 
interesting reminiscences thus writes of her puzzlings on 
this head : " I went through a world of cogitation as to 
whether it was really true that anything had been and 
lived before I was there to see it. ... I could think there 
might have been some day when I was very little as 
small as the most tiny pebble on the road but not to have 
been at all was so very hard to believe." A little boy of 
five who was rather given to saying ' clever ' things, was 
one day asked by a visitor, who thought to rebuke what 
she took to be his conceit : "Why, M., however did the 
world go round before you came into it?" M. at once 
replied: " Why, it didn't go round. It only began five years 
ago." Was this, as perhaps nine persons out of ten would 
say, merely a bit of dialectic smartness, the evasion of an 
awkward question by denying the assumed fact? I am 
disposed to think that there was more, that the virtuous 
intention of the visitor had chanced to discover a hidden 
child-thought ; for the child is naturally a Berkeleyan, in 
so far at least that for him the reality of things is reality 
for his own sense-perceptions. A world existent before he 
was on the spot to see it, seems to the child's intelligence 
a contradiction. 

A child will sometimes use theological ideas as an 
escape from this puzzle. The myth of babies being 
brought down from heaven is particularly helpful. The 
quick young intelligence sees in this pretty idea a way of 
prolonging existence. The brother of the little girl 
that was so concerned to know what her mother had 
done without her, happened one day to be passing a 
street pump with his mother, when he stopped and 
observed with perfect gravity : " There are no pumps 
in heaven where I came from ". He had evidently thought 


out the legend of the God-sent baby to its logical con- 

Children appear to have very vague ideas about time. 
Their minds cannot at first of course rise to the abstraction, 
time, or duration, or to its measured portions, as a day. 
They talk about the days as if they were things. Thus 
to-day, yesterday, and to-morrow, which, as we may see 
in C.'s way of talking about time, are used very vaguely 
for present, past and future, are spoken of as things which 
move. A girl of four asked : ' Where is yesterday gone to ? ' 
and ' Where will to-morrow come from ? ' The boy C. 
as well as other children, as we saw, asked where all the 
days go to. Such expressions may of course be figurative, 
a child having no other way of describing the sequence 
yesterday and to-day, to-day and to-morrow ; yet I am 
disposed to think that these are examples of the child's 
' concretism,' his reduction of our abstractions to living 
realities. 1 

It is equally noticeable that children have no adequate 
mental representations of our time-measurements. As in 
the case of space, so in that of time their standard is not 
ours : an hour, say the first morning at school, may seem 
an eternity to a child's consciousness. The days, the 
months, the years seem to fly faster and faster as we get 
older. On the other hand, as in the case of space-judg- 
ments, too, the child through his inability to represent 
time on a large scale is apt to bring the past too near the 
present. Mothers and young teachers would be surprised 
if they knew how children interpreted their first historical 
instruction introduced by the common phrase, 'Many years 
ago,' or similar expression. A child of six years when 
crossing the Red Sea asked to be shown Pharaoh and his 
hosts. This looks like the effect of a vivid imagination of 

1 A child quoted by P. Lombroso thought of a year as a round 
thing having the different festivals on it, and bringing these round in 
due order by its rotation (op. cit., p. 49). 


the scene, which even in grown people may beget an 
expectation of seeing it here and now. The following 
anecdote of a boy of five and a half years sent me by his 
aunt more clearly illustrates a child's idea of the historical 
past. " H. was beginning to have English history read to 
him and had got past the ' Romans ' as he said. One day 
he noticed a locket on my watch-chain, and desired that it 
should be opened. It contained the hair of two babies 
both dead long before. He asked about them. I told 
him they died before I was born. ' Did father know 
them?' he asked. 'No, they died before he was born.' 
'Then who knew them and when did they live?' he asked, 
and as I hesitated for a moment, seeking how to make the 
matter plain, * Was it in the time of the Romans ? ' he 
gravely asked." The odd-looking historical perspective 
here was quite natural. He had to localise the babies' 
existence somewhere, and he could only do it conjecturally 
by reference to the one far-off time of which he had heard, 
and which presumably covered all that was before the 
life-time of himself and of those about him. 

Theological Ideas. 

We may now pass to another group of children's ideas, 
a group already alluded to, those which have to do with 
the invisible world, with death and what follows this God 
and heaven. Here we find an odd patchwork of thought, 
the patchwork-look being due to the heterogeneous sources 
of the child's information, his own observations of the 
visible world on the one hand, and the ideas supplied him 
by what is called religious instruction on the other. The 
characteristic activity of the child-mind, so far as we can 
disengage it, is seen in the attempt to co-ordinate the dis- 
parate and seemingly contradictory ideas into something 
like a coherent system. 

Like the beginning of life, its termination, death, is one 
of the recurring puzzles of childhood. This might be 



illustrated from almost any autobiographical reminiscences 
of childhood. Here indeed the mystery, as may be seen 
in C.'s case, is made the more impressive and recurrent to 
consciousness by the element of dread. A little girl of 
three and a half years asked her mother to put a great 
stone on her head, because she did not want to die. She 
was asked how a stone would prevent it, and answered with 
perfect childish logic : " Because I shall not grow tall if you 
put a great stone on my head ; and people who grow tall 
get old and then die ". 

Death seems to be thought of by the unsophisticated 
child as the body reduced to a motionless state, devoid of 
breath and unable any longer to feel or think. This is 
the idea suggested by the sight of dead animals, which but 
few children, however closely shielded, can escape. 

The first way of envisaging death seems to be as a 
temporary state like sleep, which it so closely resembles. 
A little boy of two and a half years, on hearing from his 
mother of the death of a lady friend, at once asked : " Will 
Mrs. P. still be dead when we go back to London ? " 

The knowledge of burial gives a new and terrible turn 
to his idea of death. He now begins to speculate much 
about the grave. The instinctive tendency to carry over 
the idea of life and sentience to the buried body is 
illustrated in C.'s fear lest the earth should be put over his 
eyes. The following observation from the Worcester Col- 
lection illustrates the same tendency. " A few days ago 
H. (aged four years four months) came to me and said : 
' Did you know they'd taken Deacon W. to Grafton ? ' I. 
'Yes.' H. 'Well, I s'pose it's the best thing. His folks 
(meaning his children) are buried there, and they wouldn't 
know he was dead if he was buried here.' " This reversion 
to savage notions of the dead in speaking of a Christian 
deacon has a certain grim humour. All thoughts of 
heaven were here forgotten in the absorbing interest in 
the fate of the body. 


Do children when left to themselves work out a theory 
of another life, that of the soul away from the dead de- 
serted body? It is of course difficult to say, all children 
receiving some instruction at least of a religious character 
respecting the future. One of the clearest approaches to 
spontaneous child-thought that I have met with here is 
supplied by the account of the Boston children. " Many 
children (writes Professor Stanley Hall) locate all that is 
good and imperfectly known in the country, and nearly a 
dozen volunteered the statement that good people when 
they die go to the country even here from Boston." The 
reference to good people shows that the children are here 
trying to give concrete definiteness to something that has 
been said by another. These children had not, one sus- 
pects, received much systematic religious instruction. They 
had perhaps gathered in a casual way the information 
that good people when they die are to go to a nice place. 
Children pick up much from the talk of their better-in- 
structed companions which they only half understand. In 
any case it is interesting to note that they placed their 
heaven in the country, the unknown beautiful region, where 
all sorts of luxuries grow. One is reminded of the idea of 
the happy hunting grounds to which the American Indian 
consigns his dead chief. It would have been interesting 
to examine these Boston children as to how they combined 
this belief in going to the country with the burial of the 
body in the city. 

In the case of children who pick up something of the 
orthodox religious creed the idea of going to heaven has 
somehow to be grasped and put side by side with that of 
burial. How the child-mind behaves here it is hard to 
say. It is probable that there are many comfortable and 
stupid children who are not troubled by any appearance of 
contradiction. As we saw in the remark of the American 
child about the deacon, the child-mind may oscillate be- 
tween the native idea that the man lives on in a sense 


underground, and the alien idea that he has passed into 
heaven. Yet undoubtedly the more thoughtful kind of 
child does try to bring the two ideas into agreement. The 
boy C. attempted to do this first of all by supposing that 
the people who went to heaven (the good) were not buried 
at all ; and later by postponing the going to heaven, the 
true entrance being that of the body by way of the tomb. 
Other ways of getting a consistent view of things are 
also hit upon. Thus a little girl of five years thought 
that the head only passed to heaven. This was no doubt a 
way of understanding the communication from others that 
the ' body ' is buried. This inference is borne out by 
another story of a boy of four and a half who asked how 
much of his legs would have to be cut off when he was 
buried. The legs were not the 'body'. But the idea of the 
head passing to heaven meant more than this. It pretty 
certainly involved a localisation of the soul in the crown of 
the body, and it may possibly have been helped by pictures 
of cherub heads. Sometimes this process of child-thought 
reflects that of early human thought, as when a little boy 
of six said that God took the breath to heaven (cf. the 
ideas underlying spiritus and TTVCV/JLO}. 

In what precise manner children imagine the entrance 
into heaven to take place I do not feel certain. The legend 
of being borne by angels through the air probably assists 
here. As we have seen, children tend to think of people 
when they die as shrinking back to baby-dimensions so as 
to be carried in the angels' arms. 

The idea of people going to heaven is, as we know, 
pushed by the little brain to its logical consequences. 
Animals when they die pass to another place also. A boy 
three years and nine months asked whether birds, insects, 
and so forth go to heaven where people go when they die. 
Yet a materialistic tendency shows itself here, especially in 
connexion with the observation that animals are eaten. 
A little American boy in his fifth year was playing 


with a tadpole till it died. Immediately the other tad- 
poles ate it up, and the child burst out crying. His elder 
sister with the best of intentions tried to comfort him by 
saying : ' Don't cry, William, he's gone to a better place '. 
To which rather ill-timed assurance he retorted sceptically : 
' Are his brothers and sisters' stomachs a better place ? ' 

Coming now to ideas of supernatural beings, it is to be 
noted that children do not wholly depend for their con- 
ceptions of these on religious or other instruction. The 
liveliness of their imagination and their impulses of dread 
and trust push them on to a spontaneous creation of in- 
visible beings. In C.'s haunting belief in the wolf we see 
a sort of survival of the tendency of the savage to people 
the unseen world with monsters in the shape of demons. 
Another little boy of rather more than two years who had 
received no religious instruction acquired a similar haunt- 
ing dread of ' cocky,' the name he had given to the cocks 
and hens when in the country. He localised this evil 
thing in the bathroom of the house, and he attributed 
pains in the stomach to the malign influence of 'cocky'. 1 
Fear created the gods, said an ancient writer ; and in this 
invention of evil beings bent on injuring him the child of a 
modern civilised community may reproduce the process by 
which man's thoughts were first troubled by the apprehen- 
sion of invisible and supernatural agents. 

On the other hand we find that the childish impulse to 
seek aid leads to a belief in a more benign sort of being. 
C.'s staunch belief in his fairies who could do the most 
wonderful things for him, and more especially his invention 
of the rain-god (the "Rainer"), are a clear illustration of 
the working of this impulse. 

Even here, of course, while we can detect the play of a 

spontaneous impuhe, we have to recognise the influence 

of instruction. C.'s tutelary deities, the fairies, were no doubt 

suggested by his fairy stories ; even though, as in the myth 

1 See Mind, vol. xi., p. 149. 


of the Raincr, we see how his active little mind proceeded 
to work out the hints given him into quite original shapes. 
This original adaptation shows itself on a large scale where 
something like systematic religious instruction is supplied. 
An intelligent child of four or five will in the laboratory of 
his mind turn the ideas of God and the devil to strange 
account. It would be interesting, if we could only get it, to 
have a collection of all the hideous eerie forms by which the 
young imagination has endeavoured to interpret the notion 
of the devil. His renderings of the idea of God appear 
to show hardly less of picturesque diversity. 1 

It is to be noted at the outset that for the child's intelli- 
gence the ideas introduced by religious instruction at once 
graft themselves on to those of fairy-lore. Mr. Spencer 
has somewhere ridiculed our university type of education 
with its juxtaposition of classical polytheism and Hebrew 
monotheism. One might, perhaps, with still greater reason, 
satirise the mixing up of fairy-story and Bible-story in the 
instruction of a child of five. Who can wonder that the little 
brain should throw together all these wondrous invisible 
forms, and picture God as an angry or amiable old giant, 
the angels as fairies and so forth ? In George Sand's child- 
romance of Corambe we see how far this blending of the 
ideas of the two domains of the invisible world can be 

For the rest, the child in his almost pathetic effort to 
catch the meaning of this religious instruction proceeds in 
his characteristic matter-of-fact way by reducing the abstruse 
symbols to terms of familiar every-day experience. He has 
to understand and he can only understand by assimilating to 
homely terrestrial facts. Hence the undisguised materialism 
of the child's theology. According to Stanley Hall's 

1 According to Professor Earl Barnes, the Californian children seem 
to occupy themselves but little with the devil and hell. See his inter- 
esting paper, " Theological Life of a Californian Child," Pedagogical 
Seminary, ii., 3, p. 442 seq. 


collection of observations, God was imaged by one child as a 
man preternaturally big a big blue man ; by another as a 
huge being with limbs spread all over the sky ; by another 
as so immensely tall that he could stand with one foot on 
the ground, and touch the clouds, strong like the giant, his 
prototype. He is supposed, in conformity with what is taught, 
to have his home in heaven, that is just the other side of 
the blue and white floor, the sky. He is so near the clouds 
that according to one small boy (our little friend the 
zoologist) these are a sort of pleasaunce, composed of hills 
and trees, which he has made to saunter in. But some 
children are inventive even in respect of God's whereabouts. 
He has been regarded as inhabiting one of the stars. One 
of Mr. Kratz's children localised him ' up in the moon,' an 
idea which probably owes something to observation of the 
man in the moon. We note, too, a tendency to approxi- 
mate heaven and earth, possibly in order to account for 
God's frequent presence and activity here. Thus one of 
Mr. Kratz's children said that God was " up on the hill," 
and one little girl of five was in the habit of climbing 
an old apple tree to visit him and tell him what she wanted. 
Diversities of feeling, as well as differences in the 
mode of instruction and in intelligence, seem to reflect them- 
selves in these ideas of the divine dwelling-place. As we 
have seen, the childish intelligence is apt to envisage God 
as a sort of grand lord with a house or mansion. Two 
different tendencies show themselves in the thought about 
this dwelling-place. On the one hand the feeling of childish 
respect, which led a German girl of seven to address him 
in the polite form, ' Ich bitte Sie,' leads to a beautifying of 
his house. According to some of the Bostonian children 
he has birds, children, and Santa Claus living with him. 
Others think of him as having a big park or pleasaunce 
with trees, flowers, as well as birds. The children are 
perhaps our dead people who in time will be sent back to 
earth. Whether the birds, that I find come in again and 



again in the ideas of heaven, are dead birds, I am not sure. 
While however there is this half-poetical adorning of Gcd's 
palace, we see also a tendency to humanise it, to make it 
like our familiar houses. This is quaintly illustrated in the 
following prayer of a girl of seven whose grandfather had 
just died : " Please, God, grandpapa has gone to you. 
Please take great care of him. Please always mind and 
shut the door, because he can't stand the draughts." We see 
the same leaning to homely conceptions in the question of 
a little girl of four : ' Isn't there a Mrs. God ? ' 

While thus relegated to the sublime regions of the sky 
God is supposed to be doing things, and of course doing 
them for us, sending down rain and so forth. What seems 
to impress children most, especially boys, in the traditional 
account of God is his power of making things. He is 
emphatically the artificer, the demiurgos, who not only has 
made the world, the stars, etc., but is still kept actively 
employed by human needs. According to the Boston 
children he fabricates all sorts of things from babies to 
money, and the angels work for him. The boy has a great 
admiration for the maker, and our small zoologist when 
three years and ten months old, on seeing a group of work- 
ing men returning from their work, asked his astonished 
mother : " Mamma, is these gods ? " " God ! " retorted his 
mother, " why ? " " Because," he went on, " they makes 
houses, and churches, mamma, same as God makes moons, 
and people, and 'ickle dogs." Another child watching a 
man repairing the telegraph wires that rested on a high 
pole at the top of a lofty house, asked if he was God. In 
this way the child is apt to think of God descending to 
earth in order to make things. Indeed, in their prayers, 
children are wont to summon God as a sort of good genius 
to do something difficult for them. A boy of four and a 
half years was one day in the kitchen with his mother, and 
would keep taking up the knives and using them. At last 
his mother said : " L., you will cut your fingers, and if you 


do they won't grow again ". He thought for a minute and 
then said with a tone of deep conviction : " But God would 
make them grow. He made me, so he could mend my 
fingers, and if I were to cut the ends off I should say, ' God, 
God, come to your work,' and he would say, ' All right V 1 

While this way of recognising God as the busy artificer 
is common, it is not universal. The child's deity, like the 
man's (as Feuerbach showed), is a projection of himself, 
and as there are lazy children, so there is a child's God 
who is a luxurious person sitting in a lovely arm-chair all 
day, and at most putting out from heaven the moon and 
stars at night 

This admiration of God's creative power is naturally 
accompanied by that of his skill. A little boy once 
said to his mother he would like to go to heaven to see 
Jesus. Asked why, he replied : " Oh ! he's a great conjurer". 
The child had shortly before seen some human conjuring 
and used this experience in a thoroughly childish fashion 
by envisaging in a new light the New Testament miracle- 

The idea of God's omniscience seems to come naturally 
to children. They are in the way of looking up to older 
folks as possessing boundless information. C.'s belief in 
the all-knowingness of the preacher, and his sister's belief 
in the all-knowingness of the policeman, show how readily 
the child-mind falls in with the notion. 

On the other hand I have heard of the dogma of God's 
infinite knowledge provoking a sceptical attitude in the 
child-mind. This seems to be suggested in a rather rude 
remark of a boy of four, bored by the long Sunday dis- 

1 To judge from a story for the truth of which I will not vouch 
children will turn the devil to the same useful account. A little girl 
was observed to write a letter and to bury it in the ground. The con- 
tents ran something like this : " Dear Devil, please come and take 
aunt soon, I cannot stand her much longer". The burying is sig- 
nificant of the devil's dwelling-place. 


course of his mother : " Mother, does God know when you 
are going to stop ? " Our astute little zoologist, when five 
years and seven months old, in a talk with his mother, im- 
piously sought to tone down the doctrine of omniscience in 
this way : " I know a 'ickle more than Kitty, and you know 
a 'ickle more than me ; and God knows a 'ickle more than 
you, I s'pose ; then he can't know so very much after all " . 
Another of the divine attributes does undoubtedly shock 
the childish intelligence : I mean God's omnipresence. It 
seems, indeed, amazing that the so-called instructor of 
the child should talk to him almost in the same breath 
about God's inhabiting heaven, and about his being every- 
where present. Here, I think, we see most plainly the 
superiority of the child's mind to the adult's, in that it does 
not let contradictory ideas lie peacefully side by side, but 
makes them face one another. To the child, as we have 
seen, God lives in the sky, though he is quite capable of 
coming down to earth when he wishes or when he is politely 
asked to do so. Hence he rejects the idea of a diffused 
ubiquitous existence. The idea which is apt to be. intro- 
duced early as a moral instrument, that God can always see 
the child, is especially resented by that small, sensitive, 
proud creature, to whom the ever-following eyes of the 
portrait on the wall seem a persecution Miss Shinn, a 
careful American observer of children, has written strongly, 
yet not too strongly, on the repugnance of the child-mind 
to this idea of an ever-spying eye. 1 My observations fully 
confirm her conclusions here. Miss Shinn speaks of a little 
girl, who, on learning that she was under this constant 
surveillance, declared that she " would not be so tagged ". 
A little English boy of three, on being informed by his 
older sister that God can see and watch us while we cannot 
see him, thought awhile, and then in an apologetic tone 
said : " I'm very sorry, dear, I can't (b)elieve you ". What 
the sister, aged fifteen, thought of this is not recorded. An 

1 Overland Monthly, Jan., 1894, p. 12. 


American boy of five, learning that God was in the room 
and could see even if the shutters were closed, said : " I know, 
it's jugglery ". 

When the idea is accepted odd devices are excogitated 
for the purpose of making it intelligible. Thus one child 
thought of God as a very small person who could easily 
pass through the keyhole. The idea of God's huge frame- 
work illustrated above is probably the result of an attempt 
to figure theconception of omnipresence. Curious conclusions 
too are sometimes drawn from the supposition. Thus a little 
girl of three years and nine months one day said to her 
mother in the abrupt childish manner : " Mr. C. (a gentle- 
man she had known who had just died) is in this room". 
Her mother, naturally a good deal startled, answered: "Oh, 
ino ! " Whereupon the child resumed : " Yes, he is. You 
told me he is with God, and you told me God was every- 
where, so as Mr. C. is with God he must be in this room." 
With such trenchant logic does the child's intelligence cut 
through the tangle of incongruous ideas which we try to pass 
off as methodical instruction. 

It might easily be supposed that the child's readiness to 
pray to God is inconsistent with what has just been said. 
Yet I think there is no real inconsistency. Children's idea 
of prayer is, probably, that of sending a message to some 
one at a distance. The epistolary manner noticeable in 
many prayers seems to illustrate this. 1 The mysterious 
whispering is, I suspect, supposed in some inscrutable 
fashion known only to the child to transmit itself to the 
divine ear. 

Of the child's belief in God's goodness it is needless to 
say much. For these little worshippers he is emphatically 
the friend in need who can help them out of their difficulties 
in a hundred ways. Our small zoologist thanked God for 
making " the sea, the holes with crabs in them, and the 
trees, the fields, and the flowers," and regretted that he did 
1 Cf. the story of writing a letter to the devil given above. 


not follow up the making of the animals we eat by doing 
the cooking also. As their prayers show he is ever ready 
to make nice presents, from a fine day to a toy -gun, and 
will do them any kindness if only they ask prettily. Happy 
the reign of this untroubled optimism. For many children, 
alas, it is all too short, the colour of their life making them 
lose faith in all kindness, and think of God as cross and 
even as cruel. 

One of the real difficulties of theology for the child's 
intelligence is the doctrine of God's eternity. Puzzled at 
first with the fact of his own beginning, he comes soon to 
be troubled with the idea of God's having had no begin- 
ning. C. showed a common trend of childish thought in 
asking what God was like in his younger days. The 
question, "Who made God?" seems to be one to which 
all inquiring young minds are led at a certain stage of 
child-thought. The metaphysical impulse of the child to 
follow back the chain of events ad infinitum finds the ever- ' 
existent unchanging God very much in the way. He 
wants to get behind this " always was " of God's existence, 
just as at an earlier stage of his development he wanted 
to get behind the barrier of the blue hills. This is quaintly 
illustrated in the reasoning of a child observed by M. 
Egger. Having learnt from his mother that before the 
world there was only God the Creator, he asked : " And 
before God ? " The mother having replied, " Nothing," 
he at once interpreted her answer by saying : " No ; there 
must have been the place (i.e., the empty space) where 
God is ". So determined is the little mind to get back to 
the ' before,' and to find something, if only a prepared 

Other mysteries of which the child comes to hear find 
their characteristic solution in the busy little brain. A 
friend tells me that when a child he was much puzzled by 
the doctrine of the Trinity. He happened to ,be an only 
child, and so he was led to put a meaning into it by 


assimilating it to the family group, in which the Holy Ghost 
became the mother. 

I have tried to show that children seek to bring 
meaning, and a consistent meaning, into the jumble of 
communications about the unseen world to which they 
are apt to be treated. I agree with Miss Shinn that 
children about three and four are not disposed to theo- 
logise, and are for the most part simply confused by the 
accounts of God which they receive. Many of the less 
bright of these small minds may remain untroubled by the 
incongruities lurking in the mixture of ideas, half mytho- 
logical or poetical, half theological, which is thus intro- 
duced. Such children are no worse than many adults, who 
have a wonderful power of entertaining contradictory ideas 
by keeping them safely apart in separate chambers of their 
brain. The intelligent thoughtful child on the other hand 
tries at least to reconcile and to combine in an intelligible 
whole. His mind has not, like that of so many adults, 
become habituated to the water-tight compartment arrange- 
ment, in which there is no possibility of a leakage of ideas 
from one group into another. Hence his puzzlings, his 
questionings, his brave attempts to reduce the chaos to 
order. I think it is about time to ask whether parents are 
doing wisely in thus adding to the perplexing problems 
of early days. 




Prelinguistic Babblings. 

No part of the life of a child appeals to us more powerfully 
perhaps than the first use of our language. The small 
person's first efforts in linguistics win us by a certain 
graciousness, by the friendly impulse they disclose to get 
mentally near us, to enter into the full fruition of human 
intercourse. The difficulties, too, which we manage to lay 
upon the young learner of our tongue, and the way in 
which he grapples with these, lend a peculiar interest, half 
pathetic, half humorous, to this field of infantile activity. 
To the scientific observer of infancy, moreover, the noting 
of the stages in the acquisition of speech is of the first 
importance. Language is sound moulded into definite 
forms and so made vehicular of ideas ; and we may best 
watch the unfoldings of childish thought by attending to 
the way in which the word-sculptor takes the plastic sound- 
material and works it into its picturesque variety of shapes. 
A special biological and anthropological interest attaches 
to the child's first essays in the use of words. Language 
is that which most obviously marks off human from animal 
intelligence. One of the most interesting problems in the 
science of man s origin and early development is how he 
first acquired the power of using language-signs. If we 
proceed on the biological principle that the development 
of the individual represents in its main stages that of the 
race, we may expect to find through the study of children's 


use of language hints as to how our race came by the in- 
valuable endowment. ' How far it is reasonable to expect 
from a study of nursery linguistics a complete explanation 
of the process by which man became speechful, homo 
articulans, will appear later on. But an examination of 
these linguistics ought surely to be of some suggestive 
value here. 

While there is this peculiar scientific interest in the first 
manifestations of the speech-faculty in the child, they 
are of a kind to lend themselves particularly well to a 
methodic and exact observation. Articulate sounds are 
sensible objects having well-defined characters which may be 
accurately noted and described where the requisite fineness 
of ear and quickness of perception are present. The diffi- 
culties are no doubt great here : but they are precisely the 
difficulties to sharpen the appetite of the true naturalist. 
Hence we need not wonder that early articulation fills a 
large place in the naturalist's observation of infant life. 
Preyer, for example, devotes one of the three sections of 
his well-known monograph to this subject, and gives us a 
careful and elaborate account of the progress of articulation 
and of speech up to the end of the period dealt with (first 
three years). 

Since these studies are especially concerned with the 
characteristics of the child after language has been acquired 
I shall not enter into the history of his rudimentary speech 
at any great length. At the same time, since language is 
a realm of activity in which the child betrays valuable 
characteristics long after the third year, it deserves a special 
study in this volume. 

As everybody knows, long before the child begins to 
speak in the conventional sense he produces sounds. These 
are at first cries and wanting in the definiteness of true 
articulate sounds. Such cries are expressive, that is, utter- 
ances of changing conditions of feeling, pain and pleasure, 
and are also instinctive, springing out of certain congenital 



nervous arrangements by which feeling acts upon the 
muscular organs. This crying gradually differentiates itself 
into a rich variety of expressions for hunger, cold, pain, 
joy and so forth, of which it is safe to say that the majority 
of nurses and mothers have at best but a very imperfect 

These cries disclose from the first a germ of articulate 
sound, viz., according to Preyer an approach to the vowel 
sounds u (oo) and a (Engl. a in ' made '). This articulate 
element becomes better defined and more varied in the 
later cries, and serves in part to differentiate them one 
from the other. Thus a difference of shade in the a (in 
'ah'), difficult to describe, has been observed to mark off 
the cry of pleasure and of pain. Along with this articu- 
late sounds begin to appear in periods of happy contentment 
under the form of infantile babbling or ' la-la-ing'. Thus 
the child will bring out a string of a and other vowel sounds. 
In this baby- twittering the several vowel sounds of our 
tongue become better distinguishable, and are strung together 
in queer ways, as ai-a-au-d. An attempt is made by Preyer 
and others to give the precise order of the appearance of 
the several vowel sounds. It is hardly to be expected that 
observers would agree upon a matter so difficult to seize 
and to describe ; and this is what we find. 1 After allow- 
ing, however, for differences in the reading off, it seems 
probable that there is a considerable diversity in the order 
of development in the case of different children. This 
applies still more to the appearance of the consonantal 
sounds which long before the end of the sixth month 
become combined with the vowels into syllabic sounds, as 
pa, ma, mam, and so forth. Thus, though the labials b, p, 

1 See Preyer, op. cit., Cap. 20 ; cf. the account given by De la Calle, 
Perez, First Three Years, p. 248. Stanley Hall observes that the first 
vocalisation of the infant could hardly be classified even with 
the help of Bell's phonic notation or with a phonograph (Pedagogical 
Seminary, i., p. 132) 


m, seem to come first in most cases, they may be ac- 
companied, if not preceded, by others, as the back open 
sound ch (in Scotch 'loch'), or (according to Preyer 
and others) by the corresponding voiced sound, the hard 
g. Similarly, sounds as / and r y which commonly 
appear late, are said in some instances to occur quite 
early. 1 Attempts have been made to show that the 
order of sounds here corresponds with that of advancing 
physiological difficulty or amount of muscular effort involved. 
Yet apart from the fact just touched on, that the order is not 
uniform, it is very questionable whether the more common 
order obeys any such simple physiological law. 

This primordial babbling is wonderfully rich and varied. 
According to Preyer it contains most, if not all the sounds 
which are afterwards used in speaking, and among these 
some which cause much difficulty later on. It is thus a 
wondrous contrivance of nature by which the child is made 
to rehearse months beforehand for the difficult performances 
of articulate speech. It is a preliminary trying of the 
vocal instrument throughout the whole of its register. 

Though nurses are apt to fancy that in this pretty 
babbling the infant is talking to itself there is no reason to 
think that it amounts even to a rudiment of true speech. 
To speak is to use a sound intentionally as the sign of an 
idea. The babbling baby of five months cannot be sup- 
posed to be connecting all these stray sounds with ideas, if 
indeed it can be said to have as yet any definite ideas, 
The only signification which this primitive articulation can 
have is emotional. Undoubtedly, as we have seen, it grows 
out of expressive cries. Even the happy bubblings over of 
vowel sounds as the child lies on his back and ' crows/ may 
be said to be expressive of his happiness like the movements 
of arms and legs which accompany it. Yet it would be an 
exaggeration to suppose that the elaborate phonation is 

1 Prayer's boy first used consonants in the combinations tahu, gv, 
(ruvu = the French eu), op. cit., p. 366; cf. Cap. 21 



merely expressive, that all the manifold and subtle changes 
of sound are due to obscure variations of feeling. 

The true explanation seems to be that the appearance 
of this infantile babbling, just like that of the movements of 
the limbs which accompany it, is the result of changes in 
the nervous system. As the centres of vocalisation get 
developed, motor impulses begin to play on the muscles of 
throat, larynx, and, later on, lips, tongue, etc., and in this 
way a larger and larger variety of sound and sound- 
combination is produced. Such phonation is commonly 
described as impulsive. It is instinctive, that is to say, 
unlearnt, and due to congenital nervous connexions; and 
at best it can only be said to express in its totality a mood 
or relatively permanent state of feeling. 

As this impulsive articulation develops it becomes com- 
plicated by a distinctly intentional element. The child 
hears the sounds he produces and falls in love with them. 
From this moment he begins to go on babbling for the 
pleasure it brings. We see the germ of such a pleasure- 
seeking babbling in the protracted iterations of the same 
sound. The first reduplications and serial iterations, a-a, 
ma-ma, etc., may be due to physiological inertia, the mere 
tendency to move along any track that happens to be struck, 
the very same tendency which makes a prosy speaker go 
on repeating himself. At the same time there is without 
doubt in these infantile iterations a rudiment of self- 
imitation. That is to say, the child having produced a 
sound, as na or am, impulsively proceeds to repeat the per- 
ormance in order to obtain a renewal of the sound-effect. 
This renewed impulse may be supposed further to bring 
with it a germ of the pleasure of iteration of sound, or 
assonance. The addition of a simple rhythmic character 
to the series of sounds is a further indication of its pleasure- 
seeking character. Indeed \ve have in this infantile ' la- 
la-ing' more a rudiment of song and music than of articulate 
speech. The rude vocal music of savages consists of a 


similar rhythmic threading of meaningless sounds in which 
as in this infantile song changes of feeling reflect themselves. 
We may best describe this infantile babbling then as voice- 
play and as rude spontaneous singing, the utterance of a 
mood, indulged in for the sake of its own delight, and 
serving by a happy arrangement of nature as a preliminary 
practice in the production of articulate or linguistic sounds. 

Transition to Articulate Speech. 

Let us now seek to understand how this undesigned 
trying of the articulate instrument passes into true signifi- 
cant articulation, how this speech-protoplasm develops into 
the organism that we call language. And here the question 
at once arises : Does the child tend to utilise the sounds, 
thus acquired as signs apart from the influence of education, 
that is to say, of the articulate sounds produced by others, 
and impressed as signs upon his attention ? The question 
is not easy to answer owing to the early development of 
the imitative impulse and to the constant and all-pcrvading r 
influence of education in the nursery. Yet I will offer 
a tentative answer. 

That a child when he has reached a certain stage of in- 
telligence would be able to make use of signs quite apart 
from example and education is what one might expect. 
Any one who has noticed how a young cat, completely 
isolated from the influence of example, will spontaneously 
hit on the gesture of touching the arm of a person sitting 
at a meal by way of asking to be fed, cannot be surprised 
that children should prove themselves capable of inventing 
signs. We know, too, that deaf-mutes will, self-prompted, 
develop among themselves an elaborate system of gesture- 
signs, and further express their feelings and desires by- 
sounds, which though not heard by themselves may be 
understood by others and so serve as effective signs of 
their needs and wishes. The normal child, too, in spite of 


the powerful influences which go to make him adopt as 
signs the articulate sounds employed by others, shows a 
germ of unprompted and original sign-making. The 
earliest of such unlearnt signs are simple gesture-move- 
ments, such as stretching out the arms when the child 
desires to be taken by the nurse. 1 Nobody has suggested 
that these are learnt by imitation. The same is true of 
other familiar gesture-movements, which appear towards the 
end of the first year or later, as pulling your dress just as a 
dog does, when the child wants you to go with him, touching 
the chair when he wants you to sit down, or (as Darwin's 
child did when just over a year) taking a bit of paper and 
pointing to the fire by way of signifying his wish to see the 
paper. burnt The gesture of pointing, though no doubt 
commonly aided by example, is probably capable of being 
reached instinctively as an outgrowth from the grasping 

These gesture-signs, I find, play a larger part in the 
case of children who are backward in talking, and so are 
nearer the condition of the deaf-mute. Thus a la .!y in 
sending me notes on her three children remarks that the 
one who was particularly backward in his speech made a 
free use of gesture-signs. When sixteen months old he 
had certain general signs of this sort, using a sniff as a sign- 
of flower, and a mimic kiss as a sign of living things, />.. 
all sorts of animals. 2 

Just as movements may thus be used instinctively, that 
is, without aid from others' example, both as expressing 
simple feelings and desires, and also, as in the case just 
mentioned, as indicating ideas, so spontaneously formed 1 

1 The nature of gesture, its relation to language proper, and its; 
prevalence in infancy, among imbecile children, deaf-mutes, etc., are 
discussed by Romanes, Mental Evolution in Man, chap. vi. 

2 A charming example of pantomimic gesture on the part of a 
little girl in describing to her father her first bath in the sea is given^ 
by Romanes, op., cit., p. 220. 


sounds may be used as signs. As pointed out above the 
first self-prompted articulation is closely connected with 
feeling, and we find that in the second half-year when the 
preliminary practice has been gone through certain sounds 
take on a distinctly expressive function. Thus one little 
boy when eight months old habitually used the sound ' ma- 
ma ' when miserable, and ' da-da ' when pleased. Among 
these instinctive expressive sounds one of the most import- 
ant is that indicative of hunger. I find again and again 
that a special sound is marked off as a mode of expression 
or sign of this craving. This fact will be referred to again 

True language-sounds significant of things grow out of 
this spontaneous expressive articulation. Thus the demon- 
strative sign da which accompanies the pointing, and which 
seems to be frequently used with slight modifications by 
German as well as by English children, is probably in its 
inception merely an interjectional expressio of the faint 
shock of wonder produced by the appearance in the visual 
field of a new object. But used as a concomitant of the 
pointing gesture it takes on a demonstrative or indicative 
function, announcing the presence or arrival of an object in 
a particular locality or direction. A somewhat similar case 
is that of ' ata ' or ' tata,' a sign used to denote the depar- 
ture or disappearance of an object. These signs are, as 
Preyer shows, spontaneous and not imitative (e.g., of 
'there' (da), 'all gone'). This is confirmed by the fact 
that they vary greatly. Thus Preyer's boy used fo r 
" there " ' da,' ' nda/ ' nta,' etc., and for " all gone " ' atta,' 
' f-tu,' 'tuff/ etc. Again, Tiedemann's boy used the 
sound 'ah-ah,' and one of Stanley Hall's children 
the sound 'eh,' when pointing to an object. We may 
conclude then that there are spontaneous vocal reactions 
expressive of the contrasting mental states answering to the 
appearance or arrival and the disappearance or departure 
of an impressive and interesting object, and that, further, 


these reactions when recognised by others tend to become 
fixed as linguistic signs. 1 

Just as in the case of the gesture-movements, sniffing, 
kissing, so in that of expressive vocal sounds we may see 
a tendency to take on the function of true signs of ideas. 
One of the best illustrations of this is to be found in the 
invention of a word-sound for things to eat. I have pointed 
out that the state of hunger with its characteristic misery 
becomes at an early stage marked off by a distinctive ex- 
pressive sign. At a later stage this or some other sound 
comes to be used intelligently as a means of asking for food. 
Darwin's boy employed the sound mum in this way; another 
English child used 'numby,' and yet another 'nini'; a French 
child observed by M. Taine made use of ' ham '. The pre- 
dominance of the labial m shows the early formation of 
these quasi-linguistic signs, and suggests that they were 
developed out of the primary instinctive ';' sound. 2 Such 
sounds, coming to be understood by the nurse, tend to- 
become fixed as modes of asking for food. 

It seems but a step from the demand 'Give me food' to 
the pointing out or naming of things as food. And so good 
an observer as Darwin says that his boy used the sound 
'mum' not only for conveying the demand or command 
' Give me food,' but also as a substantive ' food ' of wide 
application. He later went on to erect a rudimentary 
classification on the basis of this substantive, calling sugar 
'shu-mum' and even breaking up this subdivision by calling 
liquorice "black shu-mum". 3 This however seems, so far as 
I can ascertain, to be exceptional. In most vocabularies of 
children of two or three no generic term for food is found, 

1 See Preyer, op. cit., pp. 353, 390, 391. 

2 See the quotation from Lieber, in Taine's On Intelligence, part ii. r 
book iv., chap. i. The sign for ' I want to eat' is in some cases 
formed by a generalising process out of a sound supplied by 
another, as the name of a particular edible. See the example given 
by Preyer, op. cit., p. 362. 

3 See Mind, vol. ii., p. 293. 


though names for particular kinds of food, e.g., milk, bread, 
:are in use. This agrees with the general order rf develop- 
ment of thought-signs, the names of easily distinguished 
species appearing in the case of the individual as in that 
of the race before those of comprehensive and ' abstract ' 
genera such as ' food '. It is probable, therefore, that these 
early signs for food are but imperfectly developed into true 
thought-symbols or names. They retain much of their 
primordial character as expressions of desire and possibly 
>of the volitional state answering to a command. This is 
borne out by the fact that the child spoken of by Taine 
used the sound 'tern' as a sort of general imperative for 
" give ! ' ' take ! ' 'look ! ' etc. 1 

Another early example of an emotional expression 
passing into a germinal sign is that called forth at the sight 
-of moving creatures. This acts as a strong stimulus to the 
baby brain, and vigorous muscular reactions, vocal and 
other, are wont to appear. One little boy of twelve and 
three-quarter months usually expressed his excitement by the 
sound " Do-boo-boo," which was used regularly for about 
ten days on the appearance of a dog, a horse, a bird, and 
so forth. Here we have a protoplasmic condition of the 
lingual organism which we call a name, a condition destined 
never to pass into another and higher. Sometimes, how- 
ever, these explosives at the sight of animal life grow into 
comparatively fixed signs of recognition. 

In this spontaneous invention of quasi-linguistic sounds 
imitation plays a considerable part. It is evident, indeed, 
that gestures are largely imitative. Thus the sniff and the 
mimic kiss referred to just now are plainly imitations of 
movements. The pointing gesture, too, may be said to be 
a kind of imitation of the reaching and appropriating move- 
ment of the arm. The sound 'do-boo-boo ' used on seeing 
an animal was probably imitative. According to Preyer 
the sounds called forth by the sight of moving objects, 
1 See Mind, vol. ii., p. 255. 


*\\, rolling balls and wheels, are imitative. 1 Whether the 
signs of hunger, 'mum,' 'numby,' are due to modifications of 
the movements carried out in sucking, seems to be more 
problematic. 2 

In certain cases imitation is the one sufficient source of 
the sound. In what are called onomatopoetic sounds the 
child seeks to mimic some natural sound, and such imitation 
is capable of becoming a fruitful source of original linguistic 
invention. A boy between nine and ten months imitated 
the sound of young roosters by drawing in his breath, and 
this noise became for a time a kind of name for any 
feathered creature, including small birds. More commonly 
such onomatopoetic sounds come to be distinctive recogni- 
tion-signs of particular classes of animals, such as ' oua-oua ' 
or * bow-wow ' for the dog, ' moo-moo ' for the cow, ' ouack- 
ouack ' or ' kuack ' for the duck, and so forth. 

It may, of course, be said that these mimic sounds are 
in part learnt from the traditional vocabulary of the nursery, 
in which the nurse takes good care to instruct the child. 
But it is to be remembered that the traditional nursery 
language itself is largely an adoption of children's own 
sounds. There is, moreover, ample independent evidence 
to show that children are zealous and indefatigable imitators 
of the sounds they hear as of the movements they see. 
Towards the end of the first six months and during the 
second half-year a child is apt to imitate eagerly any sound 
you choose to produce before him. In the case of Preyer's 
boy this impulse to repeat the sounds he heard developed 
into a kind of echoing mania. The acquisition of others' 
language plainly depends on the existence and the vigour 
of this mimetic impulse. And this same impulse leads the 
child beyond the servile adoption of our conventional 

1 Op. cit., p. 358. 

2 A fact that appears to tell against imitation here is that one 
little boy of seventeen months used the sound ' did'n ' for anything 
to eat. 


sounds to the invention of new or onomatopoetic sounds. 
Thus one little child discovered the pretty sound ' tin-tin " 
as a name for the bell. Another child, a girl, quite un- 
prompted, used a chirping sound for a bird, and a curious- 
clicking noise on seeing the picture of a horse (no doubt ir> 
imitation of the sound of a horse's hoofs) ; while a little boy 
used a faint whistle to indicate a bird, and the sound 'click- 
click' to denote a horse. In some cases a grown-up person's- 
imitation of a sound is imitated. Thus a child of about 
two used the sound ' afta ' as a name for drinking, and also 
for drinking-vessel, " in imitation of the sound of sucking in 
air which the nurse used to make when pretending to drink ".* 
In these two sources of original child-language, ex- 
pression of states of feeling, desire, etc., and imitation, we 
have the two commonly assigned origins of human 
language. Into the difficult question how man first came 
to the use of language-sounds I do not propose to enter 
here. Whatever view may be taken with respect to the 
first beginnings of human speech, there seems little doubt 
that both expressive cries and imitations of natural sounds 
have had their place. To this extent, then, we may say 
that there is a parallelism between the early evolution of 
language in the case of the individual and in that of the 
race. Not only so, it may be said that our study of these 
tentatives of the child in language- formation tends to 
confirm the conclusions of philology and anthropology that 
the current of human speech did probably originate, in 
main part at least, by way of these two tributaries. 2 

1 Quoted by Romanes, Mental Evolution in Man, p. 143. 

2 The concerted cries during co-operative work to which Noiree 
ascribes the origin of language-sounds would seem, while having a 
special physiological cause as concomitant and probably auxiliary 
motor processes, to be analogous at least to emotional cries, in so far 
as they spring out of a peculiar condition of feeling, that of effort.. 
On the other hand, as concerted they came under the head of imitative 
movements. So far as I can learn the nursery supplies no analogies 
to these utterances. 


While vocal sounds which are clearly traceable to 
emotional expressions or to imitations form the staple of 
the normal child's inventions they do not exhaust them. 
Some of these early self-prompted linguistic sounds cannot 
be readily explained. I find, for example, that children 
are apt to invent names for their nurses and sometimes for 
themselves which, so far as I can ascertain, bear no dis- 
coverable resemblance to the sounds used by others. Thus 
the same little girl that invented 'numby' for food and 
' afta ' for drinking called her nurse ' Lee ' though no one 
else called her by any other name than 'nurse'. It is 
difficult to suppose that the child was transforming the sound 
' nurse ' in this case. Preyer's boy called his nurse, whom 
others addressed as Marie, ' Wola,' which Preyer explains 
rather forcedly as deriving by inversion from the fre- 
quently heard ' Ja wohl ! ' A lady friend informs me that 
her little boy when thirteen months old called himself 
' Bla-a,' though he was always addressed by others as 
Jeffrey, and that he stuck to ' Bla-a ' for six months. 1 A 
germ of imitation is doubtless recognisable here in the 
preservation of the syllabic form or structure (that of mono- 
syllable or dissyllable). Yet the amount of transformation 
is, to say the least, surprising in children, who show them- 
selves capable of fairly close imitation. Possibly a child's 
ear notes analogies of sound which escape our more so- 
phisticated organ. However this be, the fact of such origin- 
ation of names (other than those clearly onomatopoetic) is 

Lastly a reference may be made to the fact that children 
have shown themselves capable of inventing the rudiments 
of a simple kind of language. Professor Horatio Hale of 
America has made a special study of these spontaneous 
child-languages. One case is that of twin American boys 

1 His brother when one year old called his nurse, whose real 
name was Maud, Bur, which was probably a rough rendering of 
' nurse '. 



who when the talking age came employed not the English 
sounds that they heard others speak but a language of their 
own. Another, and in some ways more remarkable case, 
is that of a little girl who at the age of two was backward 
in speaking, only using the names ' papa ' and ' mamma," 1 
and who, nevertheless, at that age, and in the first instance 
without any stimulus or aid from a companion, proceeded 
to invent a vocabulary and even simple sentence-forms of 
her own, which she subsequently prevailed on a younger 
brother to use with her. The vocables struck out, though 
suggesting some slight aural acquaintance with French 
which, however, was never spoken in her home are appar- 
ently quite arbitrary and not susceptible of explanation by 
imitation. 1 

I think the facts here brought together testify to the 
originality of the child in the field of linguistics. It may 
be said that in none of these cases is the effect of education 
wholly absent. A child, as we all know, is taught the 
names of objects and actions long before he can articulate. 
Thus Darwin's boy knew the name of his nurse five months 
before he invented the vocable ' mum '. It is obvious 
indeed that wherever children are subjected to normal 
training their sign-making impulse is stimulated by the 
example of others. At the same time the facts here given 
show that the working of this impulse may, in a certain 
-.number of children at least, strike out original lines of its 
own independently of the direct action of example and 
education. What is wanted now is to experiment care- 
fully with an intelligent child, encouraging him to make 
signs by patient attention and ready understanding, but 
at the same time carefully abstaining from giving the lead 
or even taking up and adopting the first utterances so as to 
bring in the influence of imitation. I think there is little 
doubt that a child so situated might develop the rudiments 

1 For a summary of Professor Bale's researches see Romanes, 
Mental Evolution in Man, p. 138 ff. 


of a vocal language. The experiment would be difficult to 
carry out, as it would mean the depriving of the child for a 
time of the advantages of education. 1 

Beginnings of Linguistic Imitation. 

The learning of the mother-tongue is one of the most 
instructive and, one may add, the most entertaining chapters 
in the history of the child's education. The brave efforts 
to understand and follow, the characteristic and quaint 
errors that often result, the frequent outbursts of originality 
in bold attempts to enrich our vocabulary and our linguistic 
forms all this will repay the most serious study, while it 
will provide ample amusement. 

As pointed out above the learning of the mother- 
tongue is essentially a kind of imitation. The process 
is roughly as follows. The child hears a particular sound 
used by another, and gradually associates it with the 
object, the occurrence, the situation, along with which it 
again and again presents itself. When this stage is reached 
he can understand the word-sound as used by another 
though he cannot as yet use it. Later, by a considerable 
interval, he learns to connect the particular sound with the 
appropriate vocal action required for its production. As 
soon as this connexion is formed his sign-making impulse 
imitatively appropriates it by repeating it in circumstances 
similar to those in which he has heard others employ it. 

The imitation of others' articulate sounds begins, as 
already remarked, very early and long before the sign- 
making impulse appropriates them as true words. The 

1 Of course, as Max Miiller says (The Science of Language, i., p. 
481 f.), the facts ascertained do not prove that 'infants left to them- 
selves would invent a language'. The influence of example, the 
appeal to the imitative impulse, has been at work before the inven- 
tions appear. Yet they do, I think, show that they have the sign- 
making instinct, and might develop this to some extent even were 
the educative influence of others' language removed. 


impulse to imitate others' movements seems first to come 
into play about the end of the fourth month ; and traces 
of imitative movements of the mouth in articulation are 
said to have been observed in certain cases about this time. 
But it is only in the second half-year that the imitation of 
sounds becomes clearly marked. At first this imitation is 
rather of tone, rise and fall of voice, and apportioning of 
stress or accent than of articulate quality ; but gradually 
the imitation takes on a more definite and complete 
character. 1 

Towards the end of the year, in favourable cases, true 
linguistic imitation commences. That is to say, word- 
sounds gathered from others are used as such. Thus, a 
boy of ten months would correctly name his mother, 
' Mamma/ his aunt, ' Addie ' (Aunty), and a person called 
Maggie, 'Aggie'. 2 As already suggested, this imitative 
reproduction of others' words synchronises, roughly at least, 
with the first onomatopoetic imitation of natural sounds. 

Transformations of our Words. 

As is well known the first tentatives in the use of the 
common speech-forms are very rough. The child in re- 
producing transforms, and these transformations are often 
curious and sufficiently puzzling. 

The most obvious thing about these first infantile 
renderings of the adult's language is that they are a 
simplification. This applies to all words alike. Mono- 
syllables if involving a complex mass of sound are usually 
reduced, as when 'dance' is shortened to 'da'. This 
clearly illustrates the difficulty of certain sound-combina- 
tions, a point to be touched on presently. More striking is 
the habitual reduction of dissyllables and polysyllables. 

1 Preyer's boy gave the first distinct imitative response to 
articulate sound in the eleventh month. This is, so far as I can 
ascertain, behind the average attainment. 

2 Tracy, The Psychology of Childhood, p. 71. 



Here we note that the child concentrates his effort on the 
reproduction of a part only of the syllabic series, which 
part he may of course give but very imperfectly. The 
shortening tends to go to the length of reducing to a 
monosyllable. Thus 'biscuit' becomes 'bik,' 'Constance' 
' tun,' ' candle ' ' ka,' * bread and butter ' ' bup ' or ' bti '. 
Polysyllables, though occasionally cut down to monosyll- 
ables, as when ' hippopotamus ' became ' pots,' are more 
frequently reduced to dissyllables, as when ' periwinkle ' 
was shortened to ' pinkie '. Handkerchief is a trying word 
for the English child, and for obvious reasons has to be 
learnt. It was reduced by the eldest child of a family to 
'hankish,' by the two next to 'hamfish' and by the last 
two to ' hanky '. The little girl M. also reduced the last 
two syllables to ' fish,' making the sound ' hanfish '. 

There seems to be no simple law governing these re- 
ductions of verbal masses. The accentuated syllable, by 
exciting most attention, is commonly the one reproduced, 
as when 'nasturtium ' became 'turtium V In the case of 
long words the position of a syllable at the beginning 
or at the end of the word seems to give an advantage 
in this competition of sounds, the former by impressing 
the sound as the first heard (compare the way in which 
we note and remember the initial sound of a name), 2 the 
latter by impressing it as the last heard, and therefore best 
retained. The unequal articulatory facility of the several 
sound-combinations making up the word may also have an 
influence on this unconscious selection. I think it not 
unlikely, too, that germs of a kind of aesthetic preference 

1 In the reduction of 'Constance' to 'tun' the same thing is 
seen, for this child uniformly turned k's into 's. Cf. Preyer, op. cit., 
P- 397- 

2 It has been pointed out to me by Dr. Postgate that the second- 
ary stress on the first syllable of English words over four syllables 
(and some four-syllabled words) may assist in impressing the first 


for certain sounds as new, striking or fine, may co-operate 
here. 1 

Such simplification of words is from the first opposed, 
and tends in time to be counteracted, by the growth of a 
feeling for their general form as determined by the number 
of syllables, as well as the distribution of stress and any 
accompanying alterations of tone or pitch. The infant's 
first imitations of the sounds 'good-bye,' ' all gone/ and 
so forth, by couples which preserve hardly anything of 
the articulatory character, though they indicate the 
syllabic form, position of stress, and rising and falling 
inflection, illustrate the early development of this feeling. 
Hence we find in general an attempt to reproduce the 
number of syllables, and also to give the proper distribution 
of stress. Thus 'biscuit' becomes 'bftchic,' 'cellar' 'si'too,' 
'umbrella' 'nobella," elephant' 'etteno,' or (by a German 
child) 'ewebon,' 'kangaroo' * kogglegoo,' 'hippopotamus' 
' ippenp6tany,' and so forth. 2 

As suggested above there goes from the first with the 
cutting down of the syllabic series a considerable alteration 
of the single constituent sounds. The vowel sounds are 
rarely omitted ; yet they may be greatly modified, and 
these modifications occur regularly enough to suggest that 
the child finds certain nuances of vowel sounds compara- 
tively hard to reproduce. Thus the short a in hat, and the 
long I (ai), seem to be acquired only after considerable 
practice. 3 But it is among the consonants that most 

1 Recent psychological experiments show that similar influences 
are at work when a person attempts to repeat a long series of verbal 
sounds, say ten or twelve nonsense syllables. Initial or final position 
or accent may favour the reproduction of a member of such a series. 

2 Here again we see a similarity between a child's repetition of a 
name heard, and an adult's attempt to repeat a long series of syllabic 
sounds. In the latter case also there is a general tendency to pre- 
serve the length and rhythmic form of the whole series. 

3 With the diphthong or glide I may be taken oi, which was first 
mastered by the child M. at the age of two years three months. 


trouble arises. Many of these, as the sibilants or ' hisses/ 
s, sh, .the various / and r sounds, the dentals, the " point- 
teeth-open " th and dh (in 'thin/ 'this'), the back or 
guttural 'stops/ i.e., k and hard g, and others as j or soft^' 
(as in ' James/ ' gem '), appear, often at least, to cause 
difficulty at the beginning of the speech period. With 
these must be reckoned such combinations as st, str. 

In many cases the difficult sounds are merely dropped. 
Thus ; poor' may become 'poo/ 'look' 'ook/ 'Schulter' 
(German) 'Ulter'. In the case of awkward combinations 
this dropping is apt to be confined to the difficult sound, 
provided, that is to say, the other is manageable alone. 
Thus ' dance ' becomes ' dan/ ' trocken ' (German) becomes 
tokko '. More particularly s and sh are apt to be omitted 
before other consonants. Thus 'stair' becomes ' tair/ 
'sneeze' 'neeze/ 'schneiden' (German) ' neida/ and so 

Along with such lame omissions we have the more 
vigorous procedure of substitutions. In certain cases there 
seems little if any kinship between the sounds or the 
articulatory actions by which they are produced. At the 
early stage more particularly almost any manageable sound 
seems to do duty as substitute. The early-acquired 
labials, including the labio-dental f, come in as serviceable 
' hacks ' at this stage. What we call lisping is indeed 
exemplified in this class of infantile substitutions. Chil- 
dren have been observed to say 'fank' for 'thank' and 
'mouf for 'mouth/ 'feepy' for 'sleepy/ 'poofie' for 'pussy/ 
' wiver ' for ' river,' ' Bampe ' for ' Lampe ' (German). The 
dentals, too, d and /, are turned to all kinds of vicarious 
service. Thus we find ' ribbon ' rendered by 'dib/ ' gum ' 
by ' dam/ ' Grete ' (German) by ' Dete,' ' Gummi ' (German) 
by 'Dummi/ 'cut' by 'tut/ and 'klopfen' (German) by ' top- 
fen '. Similarly 'gee-gee' (horse), which oddly enough was 
first rendered by the child M. as 'dee-gee/ is altered to 'dee- 
dee'. I find too that new sounds are apt to be put to this 


miscellaneous use. Thus one child after learning the as- 
pirate (h) at two years not only brought it out with great 
emphasis in its proper place but began to use it as a 
substitute for other and unmanageable sounds. Thus he 
would say, ' hie down on hofa ' for ' lie down on sofa '. 
The aspirate is further used in place of s/i, as when 'shake' 
was rendered by ' hate,' and of st, as when Preyer's boy 
called ' Stern ' { Hern '. In other cases we see that the little 
linguist is trying to get as near as possible to the sound, 
and such approximations are an interesting sign of pro- 
gress. Thus in one case ' chatterbox ' was rendered by 
'jabberwock,' in another case 'dress' by 'desh,' in another 
(Preyer's boy), 'Tisch' (German) by 'Tiss'. 1 

Besides omissions and substitution of sounds, occasional 
insertions are said to occur. According to one set of obser- 
vations r may be inserted after the broad a, as when 
' pocket ' was rendered by ' barket '. A cockney is apt to 
do the same, as when he talks of having a ' barth ' (bath). 
Yet this observation requires to be verified. 

These alterations of articulate sound by the child remind 
one of the changes which the languages of communities 
undergo. We know, indeed, that these changes are due to 
imperfect imitation by succeeding generations of learners. 2 
Hence we need not be surprised to find now and again 
analogies between these nursery transformations and those 
of words in the development of languages. In reproducing 
the sounds which he hears a child often illustrates a law of 
adult phonetic change. Thus changes within the same 
class of sounds, as the frequent alteration of ( this ' into 
' dis,' clearly correspond with those modifications recognised 
in Grimm's Law. So, too, the common substitution of a 
dental for a guttural has its parallel in the changes of racial 

1 1 find according to the notes sent me that the sounds s and sh 
develop unequally in the cases of different children. Some acquire 
s, others sh before the other. 

2 See Sweet, History of English Sounds, p. 15. 



language. 1 Nobody again can note the transformation of 
n into ;;/ before /"in the form ' hamfish ' for 'handkerchief 
without thinking of the Greek change of <rvv into o-vp before 
fi, and like changes. Philologists may probably find many 
other parallels. One of them tells me that his little girl, on 
rendering s/i by the guttural h, reproduced a change in 
Spanish pronunciation. M. Egger compares a child's 
rendering of ' /rop ' (French) by ' crop ' with the transfor- 
mation of the Latin ' /remere ' into ' rraindre '. 

I have assumed here that children's defective reproduc- 
tion of our verbal sounds is the result of inability to produce 
certain sounds and not due to the want of a discrimination of 
the sounds by the ear. This may seem strange in the light 
of Preyer's statement that the earlier impulsive babbling in- 
cludes most, if not all, of the sounds required later on for 
articulation. This may turn out to be an exaggeration, yet 
there is no doubt, I think, that certain sounds, including 
some as the initial / which are common in the earlier 
babbling stage, are not produced at the beginning of the 
articulatory period. As the avoidance of these occurs in all 
children alike it seems reasonable to infer that they involve 
difficult muscular combinations in the articulatory organ. 
At the same time it seems going too far to say, with Dr. F. 
Schultze, that the order of acquisition of sounds corresponds 
with the degree of difficulty. The very variability of this 
order in the case of different children shows that there is 
no such simple correspondence as this. 2 

The explanation of those early omissions and alterations 
is probably a rather complex matter. To begin with, the 
speech-organs of a child may lose special aptitudes by the 
development of other and opposed aptitudes. A friend of 
mine, a physiologist, tells me that his little boy who said 
' ma-ma ' (but not ' da-da ') at ten months lost at the age of 

1 See Sievers, Phonetik, p. 230. 

2 C/. Pollock, Mind, vi., p. 436, and Preyer, op. cit., p. 434. 


nineteen months the use of m y for which he regularly substi- 
tuted b. He suggests that the nasal sound ;, though easy 
for a child in the sucking stage and accustomed to close the 
lips, may become difficult later on through the acquisition of 
open sounds. It is worth considering whether this principle 
does not apply to other inabilities. This, however, is a 
question for the science of phonetics. 

We must remember, further, that it is one thing to 
carry out an articulatory movement as a child of nine 
months carries it out, 'impulsively,' through some congeni- 
tally arranged mode of exciting the proper motor centre, 
another thing to carry it out volitionally, i.e., in order to 
produce a desired result. This last means that the sound- 
effect of the movement has been learned, that the image or 
representation of it has been brought into definite connexion 
with a particular impulse, viz., that of carrying out the 
required movement : and this is now known to depend on 
the formation of some definite neural connexion between 
the auditory and the motor regions of the speech -centre. 
This process is clearly more complex than the first instinc- 
tive utterance, and may be furthered or hindered by various 
conditions. Thus a child's own spontaneous babblings 
may not have sufficed to impress a particular sound on the 
memory; in which case his acquisition of it will be favoured 
or otherwise by the frequency with which it is produced by 
others in his hearing. It is probable that differences in the 
range and accuracy of production of sounds by nurse and 
mother tell from the first. The differences observable in 
the order of acquisition of sounds among children may be 
in part due to this, and not merely to differences in the 
speech-organ. It is probable, too, that children's attention 
may be especially called to certain sounds or sound-groups, 
either because of a preferential liking for the sounds them- 
selves, or because of a special need of them as useful names. 
M.'s mother assures me that the child seemed to dislike 
particular sounds as j, which she could and did occasion 



ally pronounce, though she was given to altering them. 1 
Another lady writes that her boy at the age of twenty-two 
months surprised her by suddenly bringing out the com- 
bination ' scissors '. He had just begun to use scissors in 
cutting up paper, and so had acquired a practical interest 
in this sound-mass. 

We may now pass to another of the commonly recognised 
defects of early articulation, viz., the transposition of sounds 
or metathesis. Sometimes it is two contiguous sounds 
which are transposed, as when ' star ' is rendered by ' tsar ' 
and ' spoon ' by ' psoon '. Here the motive of the change is 
evidently to facilitate the combination. We have a parallel 
to this in the use of ' aks ' (ax) for ' ask,' a transposition 
which was not long since common enough in the West of 
England. 2 In other transpositions sounds are shifted 
further from their place. Preyer quotes a case in which 
there was a dislocation of vowel sounds, viz., in the trans- 
formation of ' bite ' (German) into ' beti J . 3 Here there 
seems to be no question of avoiding a difficult combination. 
Other examples are the following : ' hoogshur ' for ' sugar ' 
(one of the first noticed at the age of two) ; ' mungar ' for 
'grandmamma/ 'punga' for 'grandpapa,' and ' natis ' for 
'nasty' (boy between eighteen and twenty-four months); and 
' boofitul ' for ' beautiful '. Here again we have an analogy 
to defective speech in adults. When a man is very tired 
he is liable to produce similar inversions of order. The 
explanation seems to be that the right group of sounds may 
present itself to the speaker's consciousness without any 
clear apprehension of their temporal order. Perhaps quasi- 
aesthetic preferences play a part here too. The child M. 

1 The same child, capriciously as it might look, would sometimes 
avoid y, as in saying ' esh ' for ' yes,' though she regularly used this 
sound as a substitute for I, saying 'yook' for ' look,' and so on. 

2 See Sweet, History of English Sounds, p. 33 ; cf. also the change 
of 'frith' to 'firth'. 

3 Op. cit., p. 397. 


seems to have preferred the sequence m-n to n-m, saying 
( jaymen ' for ' geranium, ' burman ' for ' laburnum '. 

Another interesting feature in this early articulation is 
the impulse to double sounds, to get a kind of effect of 
assonance or of rhyme by a repetition of sound or sound - 
group. The first and simplest form of this is where a whole 
sound-mass or syllable is iterated, as in the familiar ' ba-ba,' 
' gee-gee ' ' ni-ni ' (for nice). Some children frequently turn 
monosyllables into reduplications, making book ' boom- 
boom ' and so forth. It is, however, in attempting dis- 
syllables that the reduplication is most common. Thus 
'naughty' becomes 'na-na,' 'faster' 'fa-fa,' 'Julia' 'dum-dum,' 
and so forth, where the repeated syllable displaces the 
second original syllable and so serves to retain something 
of the original word-form. In some cases the second and 
unaccented syllable is selected for reduplication, as in the 
instance quoted by Perez, ' peau-peau ' for ' chapeau '. 
Such reduplications are sometimes aided by kinship of 
sound, as when the little girl M. changed ' purple ' into its 
primitive form ' purpur '. 

These early reduplications are clearly a continuation of 
the repetitions observable in the earlier babbling, and grow 
out of the same motive, the impulse to go on doing a thing, 
and the pleasure of repetition and self-imitation. As is 
well known, these reduplications have their parallel in many 
of the names used by savage tribes. 1 

In addition to these palpable reduplications of sound- 
masses we have repetitions of single sounds, the repeated 
sound being substituted for another and foreign one. This 
answers to what is called in phonetics ' assimilations '. 2 
In the majority of cases the assimilation is ''progressive,' 
the change being carried out by a preceding on a 

1 See Tylor, Primitive Culture, i., 198. On the taking up of baby 
reduplications into language see the same work, i., 204. Cf. the same 
writer's Anthropology, p. 129. 

2 See above, p. 137 ; cf. Sievers, Phonetik, p. 236. 



succeeding sound. Examples are 'Kikie* for 'Kitty,' 
and ' purpur ' for 'purple'. This last transformation, 
though it was made by the little daughter of a distinguished 
philologist, was quite innocent of classical influence, and 
was clearly motived by the childish love of reduplication 
of sound. In many cases the substitution of an easy for a 
difficult sound seems to be determined in part by assimila- 
tion, as when ' another ' was rendered by ' annunner/ 
' gateau ' (French) by ' ca-co '. The assimilation seems, too, 
sometimes to work " regressively," as when ' thick ' be- 
comes 'kick/ 'Bonnie Dundee' 'Bun-dun,' and ' tortue ' 
(French) 'tu-tu,' in which two last reduplication is 
secured approximately or completely by change of vowel. 1 
There seem also to be cases of what may be called 
partial assimilation, that is, a tendency to transform a 
sound into one of the same class as the first. "If (writes 
a mother of her boy) a word began with a labial he 
generally concluded it with a labial, making ' bird,' for 
example, 'bom '." But these cases are not, perhaps, per- 
fectly clear examples of assimilation. 

Along with the tendency to reduplicate syllabic masses > 
we see a disposition to use habitually certain favourite 
syllables as terminations, more particularly the pet ending 
' ie '. Thus ' sugar ' becomes ' sugie,' ' picture ' ' pickle,' and 
so forth. One child was so much in love with this syllable 
as to prefer it even to the common repetition of sound in 
onomatopoetic imitation, naming the hen not ' tuck-tuck * 
as one might expect, but ' tuckie '. 

What strikes one in these early modifications of our 
verbal sounds by the child is the care for metrical qualities 
and the comparative disregard for articulatory characteristics. 
The number of syllabic sounds, the distribution of stress, 
as well as the rise and fall of vocal pitch, are the first things 

1 Dr. Postgate suggests that the current terms ' progressive ' and 
'regressive' would be better rendered by 'retrospective' and 'pro- 
spective '. 


to be attended to, and these are, on the whole, carefully 
rendered when the constituent sounds are changed into 
other and often very unlike ones, and the order of the 
sounds is reversed. Again, the comparative fidelity in 
rendering the vowel sounds illustrates the prominence of the 
metrical or musical quality in childish speech. The love of 
reduplication, of the effect of assonance and rhyme, illustrates 
the same point. This may be seen in some of the more 
playful sayings of the child M., as ' Babba hiding, Ice 
(Alice) spiding (spying) '. 

As I have dwelt at some length on the defective articu- 
lation of children, I should like to say that their early per- 
formances, so far from being a discredit to them, are very 
much to their credit I, at least, have often been struck 
with the sudden bringing forth without any preparatory 
audible trial of difficult combinations, and with a wonder- 
ful degree of accuracy. A child can often articulate better 
than he is wont to do. The little girl M., when one year 
six months, being asked teasingly to say ' mudder,' said 
with a laugh ' mother,' quite correctly but only on 
this one occasion. The precision which a child, even in 
the second year, will often give to our vocables is quite 
surprising, and reminds me of the admirable exactness 
which, as I have observed, other strangers to our language, 
and more especially perhaps Russians, introduce into their 
articulation, putting our own loose treatment of our 
language to the blush. This precision, acquired as it would 
seem without any tentative practice, points, I suspect, to a 
good deal of silent rehearsal, nascent groupings of muscular 
actions which are not carried far enough to produce sound. 

The gradual development of the child's articulatory 
powers, as indicated partly by the precision of the sounds 
formed, partly by their differentiation and multiplication, 
is a matter of great interest. At the beginning, when he 
is able to reproduce only a small portion of a vocable, 
there is of course but little differentiation. Thus it has 



been remarked by more than one observer, that one and 
the same sound (so far at least as our ears can judge) will 
represent different lingual signs, ' ba ' standing in the case 
of one child for both 'basket' arid 'sheep' (' ba lamb '), and 
'bo' for 'box' and 'bottle'. Little by little the sound grows 
differentiated into a more definite and perfect form, and 
it is curious to note the process of gradual evolution by 
which the first rude attempt at articulate form gets im- 
proved and refined. Thus, writes a mother, " at eighteen 
to twenty months 'milk' was ' gink,' at twenty-one months 
it was ' ming,' and soon after two years it was a sound 
between ' mik ' and ' milk '." The same child in learning 
to say ' lion ' went through the stages ' un ' (one year eight 
months), ' ion ' (two years), and 'lion ' (two years and eight 
months). The little girl M., in learning the word ' break- 
fast,' advanced by the stages ' bepper,' ' beffert/ ' beffust '. 
In an example given by Preyer, 'grosspapa' (grandpapa) 
began as ' opapa,' this passed into ' gropapa,' and this 
again into 'grosspapa'. In another case given by Dr. 
Fritz Schultze the word 'wasser' (pronounced 'vasser') 
went through the following stages : (i) ' faffaff,' (2) ' vaffvaff,' 
(3)'vasse/ and (4) 'vasser'. In this last we have an in- 
teresting illustration of a struggle between the imitative 
impulse to reproduce the exact sound and the impulse 
to reduplicate or repeat the sound, this last being very 
apparent in the introduction of the second v and the ^"in 
the first stage, and in the substitution of the /'s for v's 
under the influence of the dominant final sound in the 
second stage. The student of the early stages of lan- 
guage growth might, one imagines, find many suggestive 
parallels in these developmental changes in children's 

The rapidity of articulatory progress might be measured 
by a careful noting of the increase in the number of vocables 
mastered from month to month. Although Preyer and 
others have given lists of vocables used at particular ages, 


and parents have sent me lists, I have met with no methodi- 
cal record of the gradual extension of the articulate field. 
It is obvious that any observations under this head, save in 
the very early stages, can only be very rough. No observer 
of a talkative child, however attentive, can make sure of all 
the word-sounds used. It is to be noted, too, as we have 
seen above, that a child will sometimes show that he can 
master a sound and will even make a temporary use of it, 
without retaining it as a part of the permanent linguistic 
stock. 1 

Logical Side of Children's Language. 

It is now time to pass from the mechanical to the logical 
side of this early child-language, to the meanings which the 
small linguist gives to his articulate sounds and the ways in 
which he modifies these meanings. The growth of a child's 
speech means a concurrent progress in the mastery of word- 
forms and in the acquisition of ideas. In this each of the 
two factors aids the other; the advance of ideas pushing the 
child to new uses of sounds, and the growing facility in 
word-formation reacting powerfully on the ideas, giving 
them definiteness of outline and fixity of structure. I shall 
not attempt here to give a complete account of the process, 
but content myself with touching on one or two of its more 
interesting aspects. 

A child acquires the proper use or application of a word 
by associating the sound heard with, the object, situation or 
action in connexion with which others are observed to use 

1 As samples of the observations the following may be taken. A 
friend tells me his boy when one year old used just 50 vocables. The 
performances vary greatly. One American girl of twenty-two months 
had 69. whereas another about the same age had 136, just twice the 
number. A German girl eighteen months old is said by Preyer to 
have used 119 words, and to have raised this to 435 in the next six 
months. The composition of these early vocabularies will occupy us 


it. But the first imitation of words does not show that the 
little mind has seized their full and precise meaning. A 
clear and exact apprehension of meaning comes but slowly, 
and only as the result of many hard thought-processes, 
comparisons and discriminations. 

In these first attempts to use our speech, the child's 
mind is innocent of grammatical distinctions. These arise 
out of the particular uses of words in sentence-structure, 
and of this structure the child has as yet no inkling. If, 
then, following a common practice, I speak of a child of 
twelve or fifteen months as naming an object, the reader 
must not suppose that I am ascribing to the baby-mind 
a clear grasp of the function of what grammarians call 
nouns (substantives). All that is implied in this way of 
speaking, is that the infant's first words are used mainly as 
recognition-signs. There is from the first, I conceive, even 
in the gesture of pointing and saying ' da ! ' a germ of this 
naming process. 

The progress of this rude naming or articulate recog- 
nition is very interesting. The names first learnt are either 
those of individuals, what we call proper names, as 
'mamma,' 'nurse,' or those which, like 'bath,' 'bow-wow,' 
are at first applied to one particular object. It is often 
supposed that a child uses these as true singular names, 
recognising individual objects as such. But this is pretty 
certainly an error. He cannot note differences well enough 
or grasp a sufficient number of differential marks to know 
an individual as such, and he will, as occasion arises, quite 
spontaneously extend his names to other things which 
happen to have some interesting and notable points in 
common with the first. Thus * bow-wow,' though first 
applied to one particular dog, is, as we know, at once ex- 
tended to other dogs, pictures of dogs, and not infrequently 
other things as well. If then we speak of the child as 
generalising or widening the application of his terms, we 
must not be taken to mean that he goes through a process 



of comparing things which he perceives to be distinct, and 
discovering a likeness in these, but that he merely assimi- 
lates or recognises something like that which he has seen 
before without troubling to note the differences. 

This extension of names or generalising process proceeds 
primarily and mainly by the feeling for the likenesses or the 
common aspects of things, though as we shall see presently 
their connexions of time and place afford a second and 
subordinate means of extension. The transference of a 
name from object to object through this apprehension of a 
likeness or assimilation has already been touched upon. It 
moves along thoroughly childish lines, and constitutes one 
of the most striking and interesting of the manifestations 
of precocious originality. Yet if unconventional in its mode 
of operation it is essentially thought-activity, a connecting 
of like with like, and a rudimentary grouping of things in 

This tendency to comprehend like things or situations 
under a single articulate sign is seen already in the use of 
the early indicative sign ' atta ' (all gone). It was used by 
Preyer's child to mark not only the departure of a thing 
but the putting out of a flame, later on, an empty glass 
-or other vessel. By another child it was extended to the 
ending of music, the closing of a drawer and so on. Here, 
however, the various applications probably answer more to 
a common feeling of ending or missing than to an appre- 
hension of a common objective situation. 

Coming to words which we call names we find that the 
child will often extend a recognition-sign from one object 
to a second, and to our thinking widely dissimilar object 
through the discovery of some analogy. Such extension, 
moving rather along poetic lines than those of our logical 
classifications, is apt, as we have seen, to wear a quaint 
metaphorical aspect. A star, for example, looked at, I 
suppose, as a small bright spot, was called by one child an 
eye. The child M. called the opal globe of a lighted lamp 


a ' moon '. * Pin ' was extended by another child to a crumb 
just picked up, a fly, and a caterpillar, and seemed to mean 
something little to be taken between the fingers. The same 
child used the sound "at' (hat) for anything put on the 
head, including a hair-brush. Another child used the word 
1 key ' for other bright metal things, as money. Romanes' 
child extended the word ' star,' the first vocable learned 
after 'Mamma' and 'Papa,' to bright objects, generally, 
candles, gas-flames, etc. Taine speaks of a child of one 
year who after first applying the word " fafer " (from 
"chemin de fer") to railway engines went on to transfer 
it to a steaming coffee-pot and everything that hissed or 
smoked or made a noise. In these last illustrations we 
have plainly a rudimentary process of classification. Any 
point of likeness, provided it is of sufficient interest to 
strike the attention, may thus serve as a basis of childish 

As with names of things so with those of actions. The 
crackling noise of the fire was called by one child 'barking," 
and the barking of a dog was named by another 'coughing'. 
We see from this that the particular line of analogical ex- 
tension followed by a child will depend on the nature of 
the first impressions or experiences which serve as his 
starting point. 

A like originality is apt to show itself in the first crude 
attempt to seize and name the relations of things. The 
child C. called dipping bread in gravy 'ba' (bath). Another 
child extended the word ' door ' to " everything that stop- 
ped up an opening or prevented an exit, including the 
cork of a bottle, and the little table that fastened him in 
his high chair". 

In these extensions we see the tendency of child -thought 
towards ' concretism,' or the use of a simple concrete idea in 
order to express a more abstract idea. Children frequently 
express the contrast big, little, by the pretty figurative 
language ' Mamma ' and ' baby '. Thus a small coin was 


called by an American child a ' baby dollar '. Romanes' 
daughter, named I Ida, pointed out the sheep in a picture 
as 'Mamma-ba' and the lambs as ' Ilda-ba'. It is some- 
what the same process when the child extends an idea 
obtained from the most impressive experience of childish 
difficulty, viz., ( too big," so as to make it do duty for the 
abstract notion ' too difficult ' in general. 

In this extension of language by the child we may 
discern, along with this play of the feeling for similarity, 
the working of association. This is illustrated by the case 
of Darwin's grandchild, who when just beginning to speak 
used the common sign ' quack ' for duck, then extended this 
to water, then, following up this associative transference by 
a double process of generalisation, made the sound serve 
as the name of all birds and insects on the one hand, and 
all fluid substances on the other. 1 

The transference of the name 'quack' from the animal 
to the water is a striking example of the tendency of the 
young mind to view things which are presented together 
as belonging one to another and in a mariner identical. 
Another curious instance is given by Professor Minto, in 
which a child, who applied the word ' mambro ' to her 
nurse, went on to extend it by associative transference to the 
nurse's sewing machine, then by analogy applied it to a 
hand-organ in the street, later on, through an association 
of hand-organ with monkey, to his india-rubber monkey. 
Here we have a whole history of change of word-mean- 
ing illustrating in curiously equal measure the play of 
assimilation and of association, and falling within a period 
of two ye v ars. 2 

There is another way in which children are said to 
' extend ' names somewhat analogous to the processes of 
assimilation and associate transference. They are very 
fond of using the same word for opposed or other 

1 Quoted by Romanes, Mental Evolution in Man, p. 283. 

2 Logic (University Extension Manuals), pp. 83-84. 


correlative ideas. In some cases we can see that this is 
due merely to confusion or want of discrimination. When, 
for example, Preyer's boy confused 'too little' with 'too 
much,' and ' yesterday ' with 'to-morrow,' going so far as 
to make a compound ' heitgestern ' (i.e., heutegestern) to 
include both, 1 it is easy to see that the child's mind had 
reached merely the vague idea unsuitable in quantity in 
the one case, and time not present in the other ; and that 
he failed to differentiate these ideas. In other cases where 
correlatives are confused, as when a child extended the 
sign of asking for an eatable (' bit-ye ') to the act of offer- 
ing anything to another, or when as in C.'s case * spend ' 
was made to do duty for 'cost,' 'borrow' for 'lend,' and 
'learn' for 'teach,' the explanation is slightly different 
A child can only acquire an idea of abstract relations 
slowly and by stages. Such words as lend, teach, call 
up first a pictorial idea of an action in which two persons 
are seen to be concerned. But the exact nature of the 
relation, and the difference in its aspect as we start from 
the one or the other term, are not perceived. Thus in 
thinking of a purchase over the counter, a child may be 
supposed to image the action but not clearly to distinguish 
the part taken by the person who buys and gives out money 
(' spends ') and the part taken by the person who demands 
a price or fixes the cost. Perhaps we get near this vague 
awareness of a relation when we are aiding a violinist to 
tune his instrument. We may know that his note and our 
piano note do not accord, and yet be quite unable to deter- 
mine their exact relation, and to fix the one as higher, the 
other as lower. 

An interesting variety of this extension of names to 
correlatives is the transference of the attributes of causal 
agent to passive object, and vice versa. Thus a little girl 
of four called her parasol when blown by the wind ' a windy 
parasol,' and a stone that made her hand sore 'a very sore 
1 See op. cit., p. 420, also pp. 414 and 418. 


stone'. A little Italian girl that had taken some nasty 
medicines expressed the fact by calling herself nasty 
(' bimba cattiva '). 1 

There is much in the whole of these changes introduced 
by the child into the uses or meanings of words which may 
remind one of the changes which go on in the growth of 
languages in communities. Thus the child's metaphorical 
use of words, his setting forth of an abstract idea by some 
analogous concrete image, has its counterpart, as we know, 
in the early stages of human language. Tribes which have 
no abstract signs employ a metaphor exactly as the child 
does. Our own language preserves the traces of this early 
figurative use of words ; as in ' imbecile/ weak, which 
originally meant leaning on a staff, and so forth. 2 

Again, we may trace in the development of languages 
the counterpart of those processes by which children 
spontaneously expand what logicians call the denotation 
of their names. The word ' sun ' has only quite recently 
undergone this kind of extension by being applied to other 
centres of systems besides our familiar sun. The multi- 
plicity of meaning^ of certain words, as ' post,' * stock ' and 
so forth, points to the double process cf assimilative and 
associative extension which we saw illustrated in the use 
of the child's word ' mambro '. 

Once more, the child's extension of a word from an 
idea to its correlative has its parallel in the adult's use of 
language. As the vulgar expression ' I'll larn you' shows 
(cf, the Anglo-Saxon leornian], a word may come to mean 
both to teach and to become taught. A like embracing 
of agent and object acted upon by the same word is seen 
in the ' active ' and ' passive ' meanings of words like the 
Latin penetrabilis ('piercing' and ' pierceable '), and in the 
1 objective ' and ' subjective ' meanings of * pleasant ' and 

1 Paola Lombroso, Saggi di Psicologia del Bambino, p. 16. 

2 See Trench's account of poetry in words, On the Study of Words, 
lect. vi. 



similar words. We are beginning, like the little girl 
quoted above, to speak of a 'sore' topic. Lastly, the 
movement of thought underlying the saying of the little 
Italian girl, 'nasty baby,' seems to be akin to that of the 
savage when he supposes that he appropriates the qualities 
of that which he eats. 

The changes here touched upon have to do with what 
philologists call generalisation. As supplementary to these 
there is in the case of the growth of a community-language 
a process of specialisation, as when ' physician ' from 
meaning a student of nature has come to mean one who 
has acquired and can practically apply one branch of nature- 
knowledge. In the case of the child we have an analogue 
of this in the gradual limitation of names to narrower 
classes or to individuals as the result of carrying out certain 
processes of comparison and discrimination. Thus ' ba-ba,' 
which is used at first for a miscellaneous crowd of woolly 
or hairy quadrupeds, gets specialised as a name for a sheep, 
and the much-abused ' papa ' becomes restricted to its 
rightful owner. 

This process of differentiation and specialisation assumes 
an interesting form in a characteristic feature of the language- 
invention of both children and savages, viz., the formation of 
compound words. These compounds are often true meta- 
phors. Thus in the case already quoted where an eye-lid was 
called an eye-curtain the child may be said to have resorted 
to a metaphorical way of describing the lid. It is much the 
same when M. at the age of one year nine months invented 
the expression ' bwite (bright) penny ' for silver pieces. A 
slightly different example is the compound ' foot-wing ' 
invented by the child C. to describe the limb of a seal. As 
a further variety of this metaphoric formation I may quote 
the pretty name 'tell-wind ' which a boy of four years and 
eight months hit upon as a name for the weather-vane. 

In these and similar cases, there is at once an analogical 
transference of meaning (e.g., from curtain to lid) or process 


of generalisation, and a limitation of meaning by the 
appended or qualifying word ' eye,' and so a process of 

In certain cases the analogical extension gives place 
to what we should call a classification. One child for 
example, knowing the word steam-ship and wanting the 
name sailing-ship, invented the form ' wind-ship '. The little 
girl M., when one year and nine months old, showed quite 
a passion for classing by help of compounds, arranging the 
rooms into ' morner-room,' ' dinner-room ' (she was fond of 
adding ' er ' at this time) and * nursery-room '. 

It might be supposed from a logical point of view that 
in these inventions the qualifying or determining word would 
come more naturally after the generic name, as in the French 
moulin a vent, cygne noir. I have heard of one English 
child who used the form ' mill-wind ' in preference to ' wind- 
mill/ and the order 'dog black' in preference to 'black dog'. 
It would be worth while to note any similar instances. 

In these inventions, again, we may detect a close resem- 
blance between children's language and that of savages. In 
presence of a new object a savage behaves very much as a 
child, he shapes a new name out of familiar ones, a name 
that commonly has much of the metaphorical character. 
Thus the Aztecs called a boat a ' water-house ' ; and the 
Vancouver islanders when they saw a screw-steamer called 
it the ' kick-kicker'. 1 

A somewhat different class of word-inventions is that 
in which a child frames a new word on the analogy 
of known words. A common case is the invention 
of new substantives from verbs after the pattern of other 
substantives. The results are often quaint enough. Some- 
times it is the agent who is named by the new word, as 
when the boy C. talked of the ' Rainer,' the fairy who 
makes rain, or when another little boy dubbed a teacher 
the ' lessoner '. Sometimes it is the product of the action 
1 Tylor, Anthropology, chap, v 


I6 9 

that is named, as when the same child C. and the deaf-mute 
Laura Bridgman both invented the form ' thinks ' for 
' thoughts '. In much the same way a boy of three called 
the holes which he dug in his garden his * digs '. The re- 
verse process, the formation of a verb from a substantive, 
also occurs. Thus one child invented the form ' dag ' for 
striking with a dagger ; and Preyer's boy when two years 
and two months old formed the verb ' messen ' to express 
cut from the substantive ' messer ' (a knife). It was 
probably a similar process when the child M. at one year 
ten months, after seeing a motionless worm and being told 
that it was dead, asked to see another worm ' deading '. 
The same child coined the neat verb-form ' unparcel '. 
This readiness to form verbs from substantives and vice 
versa, which is abundantly illustrated in the development 
of language, is without doubt connected with the primitive 
and natural mode of thinking. The object is of greatest 
interest both to the child and to primitive man as an agent, 
or as the last stage or result of an action. 

In certain of these original formations we may detect 
a fine feeling for verbal analogy. Thus a French boy, 
after killing the * limaces ' (snails) which were eating 
the plants in the garden, dignified his office by styling 
himself a Mimacier'; where the inventive faculty was no 
doubt led by the analogy of ' voiturier ' formed from 
1 voiture '. l 

In other verbal formations it is difficult to determine 
the model which is followed. Signorina Lombroso 
gives a good example. A little girl of two and a half 
years had observed that when her mother allowed her 
to take, eat, or drink something, she would say 'prendilo" 1 
(take it), 'bevilo' (drink it), or 'mangialo' (eat it). She pro- 
ceeded to make a kind of adjective or substantive out of 
each of these, asking 'eprendilo?' *e bevilo?' 'e man- 
gialo?' i.e., ' Is it takable or a case of taking?' etc., when 

1 Compayre, op. '., p. 249, where other examples are given. 


she wanted to take, drink, or eat something. 1 By such 
skilful artifices does the little word-builder find his way to 
the names which he has need of. 

In certain cases these original constructions are of a 
more clumsy order and due to a partial forgetfulness of a 
word and an effort to complete it. Thus a boy of four 
spoke of being ' sorrified,' where he was evidently led out of 
the right track by the analogy of 'horrified'. The same little 
boy who talked of his ' digs ' used the word ' magnicious ' 
for 'magnificent'. This is a choice example of word- 
transformation. No doubt the child was led by the feeling 
for the sound of this termination in other grand words, as 
'ambitious'. Possible, too, he might have heard the form 
' magnesia "and been influenced by a reminiscence of this 
sound-complex. The talk of * Jeames ' with which Mr. 
Punch makes us acquainted is full of just such delightful 
missings of the mark in trying to reproduce big words. 

Sen tence-building. 

We may now follow the child in his later and more 
ambitious linguistic efforts. The transition to this higher 
plane is marked by the use of the completed form of 
thought, the sentence. 

At first, as already pointed out, there is no sentence- 
structure. The child begins to talk by using single words. 
These words consist of what we call substantives, as 
'Mamma,' 'nurse,' 'milk,' a few adjectives, as 'hot,' 'nice,' 
' good,' a still smaller number of adverbial signs, as ' ta-ta,' 
or ' away,' ' over,' ' down,' ' up,' and one or two verb-forms, 
apparently imperatives, as 'go'. The exact order in 
which these appear, and the proportion between the 
different classes of constituents at a particular age, say 
two and a half or three, appear to vary greatly. Words 

1 Op. cit., p. 12. 



descriptive of actions, though very few at first, appear to 
grow numerous in a later stage. 1 

In speaking of these words as substantives, adjectives, 
and so forth, I am merely adopting a convenient mode of 
description. We must not suppose that the words as used 
in this simple disjointed talk have their full grammatical 
value. It is not generally recognised that the single-worded 
utterance of the child is an abbreviated sentence or 
4 sentence-word ' analogous to the sentence-words found in 
the simplest known stage of adult language. As with the race 
so with the. child, the sentence precedes the word. More- 
over, each of the child's so-called words in his single-worded 
talk stands for a considerable variety of sentence-forms. 
Thus the words in the child's vocabulary which we call 
substantives do duty for verbs and so forth. As Preyer 
remarks, ' chair ' (stuhl) means ' There is no chair,' * I 
want to be put in the chair,' ' The chair is broken,' and 
so forth. In like manner ' dow ' (down) may mean ' The 
spoon has fallen down," ' I am down/ ' I want to go down,' 
etc. 2 The particular shade of meaning intended is indicated 
by intonation and gesture. 

This sentence-construction begins with a certain 
timidity. The age at which it is first observed varies 
greatly. It seems in most cases to be somewhere about 
the twenty-first month, yet I find good observers among 
my correspondents giving as dates eighteen and a half 
and nineteen months ; and a friend of mine, a Professor 
of Literature, tells me that his boy formed simple 
sentences as early as fifteen months. We commonly have 
at first quite short sentences formed by two words in 
apposition. These may consist of what we should call 
an adjective added to and qualifying a substantive, as 
in the simple utterance of the child C., ' Big bir ' (bird), 
or the exclamation, ' Papa no ' (Papa's nose) ; or they 

1 For lists of vocabularies and an analysis of their composition see 
Preyer, op. cit. (4th ed.), p. 372 ff. ; Tracy, Psychology of Childhood, p. 76 ff. 
- See Preyer, op. cit., p. 361 : Romanes, op. cit., p. 296 ff. 


may arise by a combination of substantives, as in the 
sentence given by Tracy, ' Papa cacker,' i.e., ' Papa has 
crackers/ and one quoted by Preyer, ' Auntie cake ' 
(German, 'Danna Kuha,' i.e., 'Tante Kuchen')for 'Auntie 
has given me ca'ce ' ; and in a somewhat different example 
of a compound sentence also given by Preyer, ' Home 
milk' (German, ' Haim Mimi '), interpreted as ' I want to 
go home and have milk '. In the case of one child about 
the age of twenty-three months most of the sentences were 
composed of two words, one of which was a verb in the 
imperative. The love of commanding, so strong in the 
child, makes the use of the imperative, as is seen in this 
case, very common. M.'s first performance in sentence- 
building (at eighteen and a half months) was, ' Mamma, 
tie,' i.e., ' tie gloves '. 

Little by little the learner manages longer sentences, 
economising his resources to the utmost, troubling nothing 
about inflections or the insertion of prepositions so as to 
indicate precise relations, but leaving his hearer to dis- 
cover his meaning as best he may ; and it is truly wonder- 
ful how much the child manages to express in this rude 
fashion. A boy nineteen and a half months old gave this 
elaborate order to his father : 'Dada toe toe ba,' that is, 
' Dada is to go and put his toes in the bath'. Pollock's 
little girl in the first essay at sentence-building, recorded 
at the age of twenty-one and a half months, actually 
managed a neat antithesis : ' Cabs dati, clam clin,' that is 
to say, ' Cabs are dirty, and the perambulator is clean '. 
Preyer's boy- in the beginning of the third year brought 
out the following, ' Mimi atta teppa papa oi,' that is to say, 
* Milch atta Teppich Papa fui,' which appears to have 
signified, " The milk is gone, it is on the carpet, and papa 
said 'Fie'". It may be added that the difficulties of 
deciphering these early sentences are aggravated by the 
frequent resort to slurs, as when a child says, c m' out' for 
' take me out,' * 't on ' for ' put it on '. 


The order of words in these first tentative sentences 
is noticeable. Sometimes the subject is placed after 
the predicate, as in an example given by Pollock, 
' Run away man,' i.e., ' The man runs (or has run) away,' 
and in the still quainter example given by the same writer, 
' Out-pull-baby 'pecs (spectacles),' i.e., ( Baby pulls or will 
pull out the spectacles'. In like manner the adjective 
used as predicate may precede the subject, as in the 
examples given by Maillet, ' Jolie la fleur,' etc. 1 Some- 
times, again, the object comes before the verb, as ap- 
parently in the following example given by Miss Shinn : 
a little girl delighted at the prospect of going out to see 
the moon exclaimed, " Moo ! ky ! (sky) baby I shee ! (see) ". 2 
Here is a delightful example of a transposition of subject 
and object A boy two years and three months asked, 
'Did Ack (Alec) chocke an apple?' i.e., 'Did an apple 
choke Alec ? ' though in this case we very probably have to 
do with a misunderstanding of the action choke. Other 
kinds of inversion occur when more complex experiments 
arc attempted, as in connecting ' my ' with an adjective. 
Thus one child said prettily, 'Poor my hands'; 3 which 
archaic form may be compared with the following Gallic- 
looking idiom used by M. at the age of one year ten 
months : ' How Babba (baby, i.e., herself) does feed nicely ! ' 
The same little girl put the auxiliary out of its place, 
saying, 'Tan (can) Babba wite ' for 'Baby can write/ 
though this was probably a reminiscence of the question- 

These inversions of our familiar order are suggestive. 
They have some resemblance to the curious order which 
appears in the spontaneous sign-making of deaf-mutes. 
Thus a deaf-mute answered the question, ' Who made God?' 

1 See Compayre, op. cit., p. 206. 

2 Notes on the Development of a Child, p. 84. 

3 Canton, The Invisible Playmate, p. 32, who adds that this exactly 
answers to the form, " Good my lord 1 " 


by saying, " God made nothing," i.e., " nothing made God ". 
Similarly the deaf-mute Laura Bridgman expressed the 
petition, ' Give Laura bread,' by the form, ' Laura bread 
give'. 1 Such inversions, as we know, are allowable and 
common in certain languages, e.g., Latin. The study of the 
syntax of child-language and of the sign-making of deaf- 
mutes might suggest that our English order is not in certain 
cases the most natural one. 

A somewhat similar inversion of what seems to us the 
proper order appears in the child's first attempts at negation. 
The child C. early in his third year expressed the idea that 
he was not going into the sea thus : ' N. (his own name) go 
in water, no'. Similarly Pollock's child expressed ac- 
quiescence in a prohibition in this manner, ' Baby have 
papa (pepper) no,' where the ' no ' followed without a pause. 
The same order appears in the case of French children, e.g., 
1 Papa non,' i.e., ' It is not Papa/ and seems to be a common, 
if not a universal form of the first half-spontaneous sentence- 
building. Here again we see an analogy to the syntax of 
deaf-mutes, who appear to append the sign of negation in 
a similar way, e.g., ' Teacher I beat, deceive, scold no,' i.e., 
' I must not beat, deceive, scold my teacher '. We see 
something like it, too, in the formations of savage-languages; 
as when * fool no ' comes to be the sign of * not fool,' that is 
of wise. 2 When ' not ' comes into use it is apt to be put in 
a wrong place, as when the little girl M. said, ' No Babba 
look' (i.e., 'Babba will not look'), and 'Mr. Dill not did turn' 
for ' Mr. Gill did not come '. 3 

Another closely related characteristic of this early 
childish sentence-building is the love of antithesis under the 

1 See Romanes, op. cit.,p. 116 f., where other examples may be 

2 Annual Report of the Bureau of Ethnology, 1879-80, p. 391 ff. 

3 It may be added that this child regularly used ' not ' or ' n't ' as 
a negating or cancelling sign for the whole sentence, saying, for ex- 
ample, ' Bahba mus'n't go in,' for ' Babba may stay out '. 



form of two balancing statements. Thus a child will often 
oppose an affirmative to a negative statement as a means of 
bringing out the full meaning of the former. The boy C., 
for example, would say, 'This a nice bow-wow, not nasty 
bow-wow '. The little girl M. said, ' Boo (the name of her 
cat) dot (got) tail ; poor Babba dot no tail,' proceeding to 
search for a tail under her skirts. This use of a negative 
statement by way of contrast or opposition to an affirma- 
tive grew in the case of one child aged two years and two 
months into a habit of description by negations. Thus an 
orange was described by the saying, ' No, 'tisn't apple/ 
porridge by ' No, 'tisn't bread and milk '. It is interesting 
to note that deaf-mutes proceed in a similar fashion by way 
of antithetic negative statement. Thus one of these ex- 
pressed the thought, ' I must love and honour my teacher,' 
by the order, ' Teacher I beat, deceive, scold no ! I love 
honour yes ! ' 1 

These first essays in the construction of sentences illus- 
trate the skill of the child in eking out his scanty vocabulary 
by help of a metaphorical transference of meaning. Taine 
gives a charming example of this device. A little girl 
of eighteen months had acquired the word ' Coucou ' as 
used by her mother or nurse when playfully hiding behind 
a door or chair, and the expression 'ga brule' as employed 
to warn her that her dinner was too hot, or that she must 
put on her hat in the garden to keep off the hot sun. One 
day on seeing the sun disappear behind a hill she ex- 
claimed, ' A bule coucou '. 2 

It is a fearful moment when the child first tries his hand 
at inflections, and, more especially in our language, those 
of verbs. Pollock's child made the attempt, and success- 
fully, at the age of twenty-two months. Such first essays 

1 A curious example of negative antithesis is given by Perez, 
op. cit., p. 196. On other analogies between the syntax of children and 
of deaf-mutes, see Compayre, op. cit., p. 251 f. 

2 On Intelligence, pt. i., bk. i., chap, ii., sect. vi. 


are probably examples of pure imitation, the precise forms 
used having been previously heard from others. Hence 
while they show a growing power of thought, of a differenc- 
ing of the relations of number and time, they do not involve 
verbal construction properly so called. This last appears 
as soon as the child carries over his knowledge of particu- 
lar cases of verbal inflection and applies it to new words. 
This involves a nascent appreciation of the reason or rule 
according to which words are modified. The development 
of this feeling for the general mode of verbal change under- 
lies all the later advance in correct speaking. 

While the little explorer in the terra incognita of lan- 
guage can proceed safely in this direction up to a certain 
point he is apt, as we all know, to stumble now and again ; 
nor is this to be wondered at when we remember the in- 
tricacies, the irregularities, which characterise a language 
like ours. In trying, for example, to manage the preterite 
of an English verb he is certain, as, indeed, is the foreigner, 
to go wrong. The direction of the error is often in the 
transformation of the weak to the strong form ; as when 
* screamed ' becomes ' scram,' ' split ' (preterite) ' splat ' or 
' splut,' and so forth. In other cases the child will convert 
a strong into a weak form, as when Laura Bridgman, like 
many another child, would say, ' I eated,' ' I seed/ and so 
forth. 1 Sometimes, again, delightful doublings of the past 
tense occur, as ' sawed ' for * saw,' ' eatened ' for ' eaten,' 
'didn't saw' for 'didn't see,' 'did you gave me?' for 'did 
you give me?' Active and passive forms are sometimes 
confused, as when M. said ' not yike being picking up ' for 
' not like being picked up,' etc. It is curious to note the 
different lines of imitative construction followed out in these 

One thing seems clear here : the child's instinct is to 

1 The same double tendency from weak to strong forms and vice, 
versa is seen in the list of transformed past participles given by Preyer, 
op. cit., p. 360. 



simplify our forms, to get rid of irregularities. This is 
strikingly illustrated in the use of the heterogeneous 
assemblage of forms known as the verb 'to be'. It is 
really hard on a child to expect him to answer the question, 
' Are you good now ? ' by saying, ' Yes, I am '. He says, of 
course, 'Yes, I are'. Perhaps the poor verb 'to be' has 
suffered every kind of violence at the hands of children. 1 
Thus the child M. used the form 'bed' for 'was'. Pro- 
fessor Max Mtiller somewhere says that children are the 
purifiers of language. Would it not be well if they could 
become its simplifiers also, and give us in place of this con- 
geries of unrelated sounds one good decent verb-form ? 

Other quaint transformations occur when the child 
begins to combine words, as when M. joining adverb to 
verb invented the form of past tense ' fall downed ' for 
' fell down '. Another queer form is ' Am't I ? ' used for 
'am I not?' after the pattern of 'aren't we?' An even 
finer linguistic stroke than this, is 'Bettern't you?' for 
' Had you not better ? ' where the child was evidently 
trying to get in the form ' hadn't you,' along with the 
awkward 'better,' which seemed to belong to the 'had,' 
and solved the problem by treating 'better' as the verb, 
and dropping ' had ' altogether. 

A study of these solecisms, which are nearly always 
amusing, and sometimes daintily pretty, is useful to mothers 
and young teachers by way of showing how much hard 
work, how much of real conjectural inference, enters into 
children's essays in talking. We ought not to wonder 
that they now and again slip ; rather ought we to wonder 
that, with all the intricacies and pitfalls of our language 
this applies of course with especial force to the motley 
irregular English tongue they slip so rarely. As a matter 
of fact, the latter and more 'correct' talk which is correct 

1 Cf. Preyer's account of a German child's liberties with the 
same verb, where we find ' gebist,' 'binst,' and other odd forms, 
op. cit., p. 438. 



just because the child has stored up a good stock of par- 
ticular word-forms, and consequently has a much wider 
range of pure uninventive imitation is less admirable than 
the early inventive imitation ; for this last not only has the 
quality of originality, but shows the germ of a truly gram- 
matical feeling for the general types or norms of the 

The English child is not much troubled by inflections 
of substantives. The pronouns, however, as intelligent 
mothers know, are apt to cause much heart-burning to the 
little linguist. The mastery of ' I ' and 'you,' 'me,' mine,' 
etc., forms an epoch in the development of the linguistic 
faculty and of the power of thought which is so closely 
correlated with this. Hence it will repay a brief in- 

As is well known, children begin by speaking of them- 
selves and of those whom they address by names, as when 
they say, ' Baby good,' ' Mamma come'. This is sometimes 
described as speaking " in the third person," yet this is not 
quite accurate, seeing that there is as yet no distinction of 
person at all in the child's language. 

The first use of ' I ' and ' you ' between two and 
three years is apt to be erroneous. The child proceeds 
imitatively to use 'I,' 'me,' 'my' for 'you' and 'your'. 
Thus one child said, 'What I'm going to do,' for, 
' What are you going to do ? ' In this case, it is plain, 
there is no clear grasp of what we mean by subject, or 
of the exact relation of this subject to the person he is 

Yet along with this mechanical repetition of the 
pronominal forms we see the beginnings of an intelli- 
gent use of them. So far as I can ascertain most 
children begin to say ' me ' or ' my ' before they say 
'you'. Yet I have met with one or two apparent ex- 
ceptions to this rule. Thus the boy C. certainly seemed 
to get hold of the form of the second person before that 


of the first, and the priority of ' you ' is attested in another 
case sent to me. It is desirable to get more observations 
on this point. 

To determine the exact date at which an intelligent use 
of the first person appears, is much less easy than it looks. 
The ' I ' is apt to appear momentarily and then disap- 
pear, as when M. at the age of nineteen months three 
weeks was observed to say ' I did ' once, though she did 
not use ' I ' again until some time afterwards. Allowing 
for these difficulties it may be said with some degree of 
confidence that the great transition from ' baby 'to ' I ' is 
wont to take place in favourable cases early in the first half 
of the third year. Thus among the dates assigned by differ- 
ent observers I find, twenty-four months, twenty-five months 
(cases given by Preyer), between twenty-five and twenty- 
six (Pollock), twenty-seven months (the boy C.). A lady 
friend tells me that her boy began to use ' I ' at twenty- 
four months. In the case of a certain number of precocious 
children this point is attained at an earlier date. Thus 
Preyer quotes a case of a child speaking in the first person 
at twenty months. Schultze gives a case at nineteen 
months. A friend of mine, a Professor of English Litera- 
ture, whose boy showed great precocity in sentence-build- 
ing, reports that he used the forms ' me ' and * I ' within the 
sixteenth month. Preyer's boy, on the other hand, who 
was evidently somewhat slow in lingual development, first 
used the form of the first person ' to me ' (mir) at the age 
of twenty-nine months. 

The precise way in which these pronominal forms first 
appear is very curious. Many children use 'me' before 'I*. 
Preyer's boy appears to have first used the form ' to me ' 
(mir). ' My ' too is apt to appear among the earliest forms. 
In such different ways does the child pass to the new and 
difficult region of pronominal speech. 

The meaning of this transition has given rise to much 
discussion. It is plain, to begin with, that a child cannot 


acquire these forms as he acquires the name 'papa,' 
'nurse/ by a direct and comparatively mechanical mode 
of imitation. When he does imitate in this fashion he 
produces, as we have seen, the absurdity of speaking of 
himself as 'you'. Hence during the first year or so of 
speech he makes no use of these forms. He speaks of 
himself as ' baby ' or some equivalent name, others coming 
down to his level and setting him the example. 

The transition seems to be due in part, as I have 
elsewhere pointed out, to a growing self-consciousness, to a 
clearer singling out of the ego or self as the centre of 
thought and activity, and the understanding of the other 
' persons ' in relation to this centre. Not that self-con- 
sciousness begins with the use of ' I '. The child has no 
doubt a rudimentary self-consciousness when he talks 
about himself as about another object : yet the use of the 
forms ' I,' ' me,' may be taken to mark the greater precision 
of the idea of 'self as not merely a bodily object and 
nameable just like other sensible things, but as something" 
distinct from and opposed to all objects of sense, as what 
we call the ' subject ' or ego. 

While, however, we may set down this exchange of the 
proper name for the forms ' I ' and ' me ' as due to the 
spontaneous growth of the child's intelligence, it is possible 
that education exerts its influence too. It is conjectur- 
able that as a child's intelligence grows, others in speaking 
to him tend unknowingly to introduce the forms ' I ' and 
' you ' more frequently. Yet I am disposed to think that 
the child commonly takes the lead here. However this 
be, it is clear that growing intelligence, involving greater 
interest in others' words, will lead to a closer attention to 
these pronominal forms as employed by others. In this 
way the environment works on the growing mind of the 
child, stimulating it to direct its thoughts to these subtle 
relations of the ' me and not me,' ' mine and thine '. The 
more intelligent the environment the greater will be the 


stimulating influence : hence, in part at least, the difference 
of age when the new style of speech is attained. 1 

The acquirement of these pronominal forms is a slow 
and irksome business. At first they are introduced hesi- 
tatingly, and alongside of the proper name ; the child, 
for example, saying sometimes, ' Baby ' or ' I Ida,' some- 
times ' I ' or 'me '. In some cases, again, the two forms are 
used at the same time in apposition, as in the delightful 
form not unknown in older folk's language, ' Hilda, my 
book '. The forms ' I ' and ' me ' are, moreover, confined 
at first to a few expressions, as ' I am,' ' I went/ and so 
forth. The dropping of the old forms, as may be seen by 
a glance at the notes on the child C, and at Preyer 's 
methodical diary, is a gradual process. 

Quaint solecisms mark the first stages of the use of 
these pronouns. As in the case of the earlier use of 
substantives, one and the same form will be used econo- 
mically for a variety of meanings, as when ' me ' was by 
the boy C. used to do duty for ' mine ' also, and ' us ' for 
' ours '. Here it is probable there is a lack of perfect dis- 
crimination. The connexion between the self and its be- 
longings is for all of us of the closest. When a child of two, 
who was about to be deprived of her doll, shouted, * Me, 
me ! ' may we not suppose that the doll was taken up into 
the inner circle of the self ? 2 Sometimes in this enrichment 
of the vocabulary by pronouns new and delightful forms 
are struck off, as when the little experimenter invents the 
possessive form ' she's '. 

The perfect unfettered use of these puzzling forms 
comes much later. Preyer quotes a case in which a child 

1 Preyer (op. cit., Cap. 22) seems to argue that children have a 
clear self-consciousness before they attempt to use the forms ' I,' 
etc. ; and that the acquisition of the latter is due to imitation. But 
he does not show why this imitation should begin to work so 
powerfully at a particular period of linguistic development. 

2 Compare above, p. 43. 


Olga, aged four years, would say, ' She has made me wet/ 
meaning that she herself had done it. But this perhaps 
points to that tendency to split up the self into a number 
of personalities, to which reference was made in an earlier 

The third year, which witnesses the important addition 
of the pronouns, sees other refinements introduced. Thus 
the definite article was introduced in the case of Preyer's 
boy in the twenty-eighth month, in that of an English boy 
at the age of two years eight months. Prepositions are 
introduced about the same time. In this way childish 
talk begins to lose its primitive disjointed character, and 
to grow into an articulated structure. 1 Yet the perfect 
mastery of these takes time. A feeling for analogy easily 
leads the little explorer astray at first, as when the child 
M. said ' far to ' after the model ' near to '. 

Through this whole period of language-learning the 
child continues to show his originality, his inventiveness. 
He is rarely at a loss, and though the gaps in his verbal 
acquisitions are great he is very skilful in filling them up. 
If, for example, our bright little linguist M., at the age of 
one year eight and a half months, after being jumped by 
her father, wants him to jump her mother also, she says, in 
default of the word 'jump,' "Make mamma high". A boy 
of twenty-seven months ingeniously said, ' It rains off,' for 
'The rain has .left off'. Forms are sometimes combined, 
as when a boy of three years three months used ' my lone,' 
1 your lone,' for ' me alone ' or ' by myself/ ' you alone' or 
' by yourself. Another girl, two years ten months, said, 
* No two 'tatoes left/ meaning ' only one potato is left '. 
Pleonasms occur in abundance, as when a boy of two 
would say, ' Another one bicca (biscuit),' and, better still, 
4 another more '. 

1 For a fuller account of this progress, the reader cannot do 
better than consult Preyer, op. cit., Cap. 20 and 21. 



Getting at our Meanings. 

There is one part of this child's work of learning our 
language of which I have said hardly anything, viz., the 
divining of the verbal content, of the meaning we put or try 
to put into our words. A brief reference to this may well 
bring this study of childish linguistics to a close. 

The least attention to a child in the act of language- 
learning will show how much of downright hard work goes 
to the understanding of language. If we are to judge by 
the effort required we might say that the child does as 
much in deciphering his mother-tongue as an Oriental 
scholar in deciphering a system of hieroglyphics. Just think, 
for example, how many careful comparisons the small child- 
brain has to carry out, comparisons of the several uses of 
the word by others in varying circumstances, before he can 
get anything approaching to a clear idea, answering even 
to such seemingly simple words as ' clean,' 'old' or 'clever'. 
The way in which inquiring children plague us with ques- 
tions of the form, ' What does such and such a word mean ?' 
sufficiently shows how much thought-activity goes in the 
trying to get at meanings. This difficulty, moreover, 
persists, reappearing in new forms as the child pushes his 
way onwards into the more tangled tracts of the lingual 
terrain. It is felt, and felt keenly, too, when most of the 
torments of articulation are over and forgotten. Many of 
us can remember how certain words haunted us as uncanny 
forms into the nature of which we tried hard, but in vain, to 

Owing to these difficulties the little learner is always 
drifting into misunderstanding of words. Such misappre- 
hensions will arise in a passive way by the mere play of 
association in attaching the word especially to some striking 
feature or circumstance which is apt to present itself when the 
word is used in the child's hearing. In this way, for ex- 
ample, general terms may become terribly restricted in range 
by the incorporation" of accidentals into their meaning, as 


when a Sunday school scholar rendered the story of the 
good Samaritan by saying that a gentleman came by and 
poured some paraffin (i.e., oil) over the poor man. A word 
may have its meaning funnily transformed by such associa- 
tive suggestions, as when a little girl, being told that a 
thing was a secret, remarked, ' Well, mamma, 'ou (you) 
can whisper it in my ear'. As this example shows, a 
child in his 'concreting' fashion tries to get sensible 
realities out of our names. A mask was called by a boy of 
six a ' grimace,' this abstract name standing to his mind for 
the grinning face. A like tendency shows itself in the 
following quaint story. A boy and a girl, twins, had been 
dressed alike. Later on the boy was put into a ' suit '. A 
lady asked the girl about this time whether they were not 
the twins, when she replied : ' No, we used to be '. ' Twin ' 
was inseparably associated in her mind with the similarity 
in dress. A somewhat similar effect of association of ideas 
is seen in the quaint request of the little girl M. that her 
mamma should ' smell ' the pudding and make it cool. 
The action of bringing the face near an object yet so as 
not to touch it was associated with smelling, as in the 
little girl who, according to Mr. Punch, had her sense of 
propriety shocked by some irreverent person who did not 
" smell his hat " when he took his seat in church. Moral 
expressions get misunderstood in much the same manner. 
A little girl of three and a half years, pretending that her 
mother was her little girl, said : ' You mustn't do anything 
on purpose'. The usual verbal context of this highly- 
respectable phrase (e.g., ' You did it on purpose ') had in 
the child's mind given it a naughty meaning. 

With these losings of the verbal road through associa- 
tive by-paths may be taken the host of misapprehensions 
into which children are apt to fall through the ambiguities 
of our words and expressions, and our short and elliptical 
modes of speaking. Thus an American child, noting that 
children were 'half price' at a certain show, wanted his 


I8 5 

mother to get a baby now that they were cheap. 1 With 
this may be compared the following : Jean Ingelow tells 
us she can well remember how sad she was made by her 
father telling her one day after dancing her on his knee 
that he must put her down as he ' had a bone in his leg'. 2 
Much misapprehension arises, too, from our figurative use 
of language, which the little listener is apt to interpret in a 
very literal way. It would be worth knowing what odd 
renderings the child-brain has given to such expressions as 
'an upright man,' 'a fish out of water,' and the like. 

In addition to these comparatively passive misapprehen- 
sions there are others which are the outcome of an intellectual 
effort, the endeavour to penetrate into the mystery of some 
new and puzzling words or expression. Many of us have 
had our special horror, our bete noire among words, which 
tormented us for months and years. I remember how 
I was plagued by the word ' wean,' the explanation of which 
was very properly, no doubt, denied me by the authorities, 
and by what quaint fancies I tried to fill in a meaning. 

As with words, so with whole expressions and sayings. 
It was a natural movement of childish thought when a little 
school-girl answered the question of the Inspector, ' What 
is an average?' by saying ' What the hen lays eggs on'. 
She had heard her mother say, " The hen lays so many eggs 
' on the average ' every week," and had no doubt imagined 
a little myth about this ' average '. Again, most of us know 
what queer renderings the child-mind has given to Scripture 
language. Mr. James Payn tells us that he knew a boy 
who for years substituted for the words, ' Hallowed be thy 
name,' ' Harold be thy name '. 3 In this and similar cases it 
is not, as might be supposed, defective hearing children 
hear words as a rule with great exactness it is the impulse 

1 Worcester Collection, p. 21. 

2 Cf. the account Goltz gives of the anxiety he felt as a child on 
hearing that his uvula (zapfen) had ' fallen down,' op. cit. t p. 261. 

3 In the Illustrated London- News, 3Oth June, 1894. 


to give a familiar and significant rendering to what is strange 
and meaningless. 1 A friend of mine when a boy was ac- 
customed on hearing the passage, ' If I say peradventure the 
darkness shall cover me,' etc., to insert a pause after ' per- 
adventure,' apprehending the passage in this wise: "If I say 
' Peradventure! ' the darkness," etc. In this way he turned 
the mysterious ' peradventure ' into a mystic ' open sesame,' 
and added a thrilling touch of magic to the passage. My 
friend's daughter tells me that on hearing the passage, "I ... 
visit the sins of the fathers upon the children unto the third 
and fourth generation, . . . and show mercy unto thousands," 
she construed the strange word 'generation' to mean an im- 
mense number like ' billion,' and was thus led to trouble 
herself about God's seeming to be more cruel than kind. 2 f 
In some cases, too, where the language is simple enough 
a child's brain will find our meaning unsuitable and follow 
a line of interpretation of its own. Mr. Canton relates that 
his little heroine, who knew the lines in Struwwelpeter 

The doctor came and shook his head, 
And gave him nasty physic too 

was told that she would catch a cold, and that she at once 
replied, "And will the doctor come and shook my head ? " 3 
It was so much more natural to suppose that when the 
doctor came and did something this was carried out on the 
person of the patient. 

There is nothing more instructive in this connexion 
than the talk of children among themselves about words. 
They build up quaint speculations about meanings, and 
try their hand bravely at definitions. Here is an example : 

1 Of course defective auditory apprehension may assist in these 
cases. Goltz gives an example from his own childhood. He took 
the words "Namen nennen Dich nicht " to be " Namen nenne Dich 
nicht." and was sorely puzzled at the idea of bidding a name not to 
name itself. 

2 Psalm cxxxix. and Second Commandment, Prayer-book version. 

3 The Invisible Playmate, p. 35. 


I8 7 

A boy of five was instructing his comrade as to the puzzling 
word 'home-sick'. He did it in quite a scientific fashion. 
" It's like sea-sick, you know : you are sea-sick when you 
are sick at sea, and so you're home-sick when you're sick 
at home ". 

There is something of this same desire to get behind 
words in children's word-play, as we call it, their discovery 
of odd affinities in verbal sounds, and their punning. Though 
no doubt this contains a genuine element of childish 
fun, it betokens a more serious trait also, an interest in 
word-sounds as such, and a curiosity about their origin 
and purpose. It is difficult for grown-up people to go 
back in thought to the attitude of the child-mind towards 
verbal sounds. Just as children show ' the innocence of 
the eye ' in seeing the colours of objects as they are and 
not as our habits of interpretation tend to make them, so 
they show an innocence of the ear, catching the intrinsic 
sensuous qualities of a word or a group of words, in a way 
which has become impossible for us. 

This half-playful, half-serious scrutiny of word-sounds 
leads to the attempt to find by analysis and analogy a 
familiar meaning in strange words. For example, a little 
boy about four years old heard his mother speak of nurse's 
neuralgia, from which she had been suffering for some time. 
He thereupon exclaimed, 'I don't think it's new ralgia, I 
call it old ralgia '. A child called his doll Shakespeare ' 
because its spear-like legs could be shaken. Another boy 
of three explained ' gaiters ' as things ' to go out of the gate 
with '. Another said that the ' Master ' which he prefixed 
to his name meant that he was master of his dog. A little 
girl in her third year called ' anchovies ' ' ham-chovies, 
'mermaid' 'worm-maid,' 'whirlwind' 'world-wind,' 'gnomes' 
' no-mans ' (un-menschen), taking pleasure apparently in 
bringing some familiar element even when this seems 
to other ears at least not very explanatory into the 
strange jumble of word-sound that surrounded her. A child 


may know that he is ' fooling ' in such cases, yet the word- 
play brings a certain satisfaction, which is at least akin to 
the pleasure of the older linguist. 

This quasi-punning transformation of words is curiously 
like what may be called folk-etymology, where a foreign 
word is altered by a people so as to be made to appear 
significant and suitable for its purpose, as in the oft-quoted 
forms ' sparrow grass ' (asparagus) and ' cray-fish ' (from the 
French ecrevisse, cf. the O. H. German Krebiz), where the 
attempt to suit the form to the thing is still more apparent. 1 
When, for example, a boy calls a holiday a 'hollerday,' 
because it is a day ' to holloa in,' we may say that he is 
reflecting the process by which adults try to put meaning 
into strange words, as when a cabman I overheard a few 
days ago spoke about putting down as/tphalt (for 'asphalt'). 
Some children carry out such transformation and invention 
of derivation on a large scale, often resorting to pretty myths, 
as when the butterflies are said to make butter, or to eat 
butter, grasshoppers to give grass, honeysuckles to yield 
all the honey, and so forth. 2 

A child will even go further, and, prying into the forms 
of gender, invent explanatory myths in which words are 
personified and sexualised. Thus a little boy of five years 
and three months who had learned German and Italian as 
well as English was much troubled about the gender of the 
sun and moon. So he set about myth-making on this 
wise : " I suppose people 3 think the sun is the husband, the 
moon is the wife, and all the stars the little children, and 
Jupiter the maid". A German girl of six was thus ad- 
dressed by her teacher: "'Der' ist mannlich ; Was sind 
'Die' und 'Das'?" To which she replied prettily : " Die ist 

1 The other form of the word, ' craw-fish,' seems a still more in- 
genious example of folk-etymology. 

- These last are taken from a good list of children's punnings in 
Dr. Stanley Hall's article, "The Contents of Children's Minds". 

3 That is, I take it, the majority, viz., Italians and English. 


damlich (i.e., 'ladyish') und das 1st kindlich". The tendency 
to attribute differences of sex and age to names observable 
in this last is seen in other ways. An Italian child asked 
why 'barba' (beard) was not called 'barbo'. With this may 
be compared the pretty myth of another Italian child that 
'barca' (boat) was the little girl of 'barcaiuolo' (boatman). 1 

One other characteristic feature in the child's attitude 
towards words must be touched on, because it looks like the 
opposite of the impulse to tamper with words just dealt 
with. A child is a great stickler for accuracy in the 
repetition of all familiar word-forms. The zeal of a child 
in correcting others' language, and the comical errors he 
will now and again fall into in exercising his pedagogic 
function, are well known to parents. Sometimes he shows 
himself the most absurd of pedants. ' Shall I read to you 
out of this book, baby ? ' asked a mother of her boy, about 
two and a half years old. ' No,' replied the infant, ' not 
out of dot book, but somepy inside of it.' The same little 
stickler for verbal accuracy, when his nurse asked him, ' Are 
you going to build your bricks, baby ? ' replied solemnly, 
' We don't build bricks, we make them and then build with 
them'. In the notes on the boy C. we find an example of 
how jealously the child-mind insists on the ipsissima verba 
in the recounting of his familiar stories. 

Are these little sticklers for verbal correctness, who object 
to everything figurative in our language, who, when they 
learn that a person or an animal has ' lost his head,' take 
the expression literally, and who love nothing better than 
tying us down to literal exactness, themselves given to 
' word-play ' and verbal myth-making, or have we here to 
do with two varieties of childish mind ? My observations 
do not enable me to pronounce on this point. 

I have in this chapter confined myself to some of the 
more common and elementary features of the child's 

1 Both of these are given by Paola Lombroso in the work already 


linguistic experience. Others present themselves when the 
reading stage is reached, and the new strange stupid-looking 
word-symbol on the printed page has to do duty for the 
living sound, which for the child, as we have seen, seems to 
belong to the object and to share in its life. But this sub- 
ject, tempting as it is, must be left. And the same must be 
said of those special difficulties and problems which arise 
for the child-mind when two or more languages are spoken. 
This is a branch of child-linguistics which, so far as I know, 
has never been explored. 



Children's Sensibility. 

IN passing from a study of children's ideas to an investiga 
tion of their feelings, we seem to encounter quite another 
kind of problem. A child has the germs of ideas long 
before he can give them clear articulate expression ; and, 
as we have seen, he has at first to tax his ingenuity in 
order to convey by intelligible signs the thoughts which 
arise in his mind. For the manifestation of his feelings of 
pleasure and pain, on the other hand, nature has endowed 
him with adequate expression. The states of infantile 
discontent and content, misery and gladness, pronounce 
themselves with a clearness and an emphasis which leave 
no room for misunderstanding. 

This full frank manifestation of feeling holds good 
more especially of those states of bodily comfort and dis- 
comfort which make up the first rude experiences of life. 
It is necessary for the child's preservation that he should 
be able to announce by clear signals the oncoming of his 
cravings and of his sufferings, and we all know how well 
nature has provided for this necessity. Hence the fulness 
with which infant psychology has dealt with this first 
chapter of the life of feeling. Preyer, for example, gives 
a full and almost exhaustive epitome of the various shades 
of infantile pleasure and pain which grow out of this life 
of sense and appetite, and has carefully described their 
physiological accompaniments and their signatures. 1 

1 Gp. cr'i., Cap. 6 and 13. 


When we pass from these elementary forms of pleasure 
and pain to the rudiments of emotion proper, as the 
miseries of fear, the sorrows and joys of the affections, 
we have still, no doubt, to do with a mode of manifestation 
which, on the whole, is direct and unreserved to a gratifying 
extent. A child of three is delightfully incapable of the 
skilful repressions, and the yet more skilful simulations 
of emotion which are easy to the adult. 1 Yet frank and 
transparent as is the first instinctive utterance of feeling, 
it is apt to get checked at an early date, giving place 
to a certain reserve. So that, as we know from published 
reminiscences of childhood, a child of six will have learnt 
to hide some of his deepest feelings from unsympathetic 

This shyness of the young heart, face to face with old 
and strange ways of feeling, exposed to ridicule if not to 
something worse, makes the problem of registering the 
pulsations of its emotions more difficult than it at first seems. 
As a matter of- fact we are still far from knowing the precise 
range and depth of children's feelings. This is seen plainly 
enough in the quite opposite views which are entertained of 
childish sensibility, some describing it as restricted and 
obtuse, others as morbidly excessive. Such diversity of 
view may no doubt arise from differences in the fields of 
observation, since, as we know, children differ hardly less 
than adults perhaps in breadth and fineness of emotional 
susceptibility. Yet I think that this contrariety of view 
points further to the conclusion that we are still far from 
sounding with finely measuring scientific apparatus the 
currents of childish emotion. 

It seems, then, to be worth while to look further into 
the matter in the hope of gaining a deeper and fuller insight, 

1 This does not apply to older children. As Tolstoi's book, 
Childhood, Boyhood and Youth, tells us, a boy of twelve may be much 
given to straining after feelings which he thinks he ought to ex- 



and as a step in this direction I propose to inquire into 
the various forms and the causes of one of the best 
marked and most characteristic of children's feelings 
namely, fear. 

That fear is one of the characteristic feelings of the 
child needs no proving. It seems to belong to these wee, 
weakly things, brought face to face with a new strange 
world, to tremble. They are naturally timid, as all that is 
weak and ignorant in nature is apt to be timid. 

I have said that fear is well marked in the child. Yet, 
though it is true that fully developed fear or terror shows 
itself by unmistakable signs, there are many cases where 
it is difficult to say whether the child is the subject of this 
feeling. Thus it is doubtful whether the tremblings and 
disturbances of respiration which are said to betray fear in 
the new-born infant are a full expression of this state. 1 
Again, the reflex movement of a start on hearing a sound 
hardly amounts to the full reaction of fear, though it is akin 
to it. 2 A child may, further, show a sort of aesthetic dislike 
for an ugly form or sound, turning away in evident aversion, 
and yet not be afraid in the full sense. Fear proper betrays 
itself in the stare, the grave look, and in such movements 
as turning away and hiding the face against the nurse's or 
mother's shoulder, and sometimes in covering it with the 
hands. In severer forms it leads to trembling and to wild 
shrieking. Changes of colour also occur. It is commonly- 
said that great fear produces paleness; but according to one 
of my correspondents who has had considerable experience, 
a child may show the feeling by his face turning scarlet. 
Fear, if not very intense, leads to voluntary movements, as 
turning away, putting the object aside, or moving away. In 
its more violent forms, however, it paralyses the child. It 

1 Perez regards these as signs of fear, and points out that tremu- 
lous movements may occur in the foetus (^Education dh le berceau, 
p. 94). 

2 For an account of this reflex, see Preyer, op. cit., Cap. 10, 176. 



is desirable that parents should carefully observe and 
describe the first signs of fear in their children. l 

Startling Effect of Sounds. 

It may be well to begin our study of fear by a reference 
to the effect of startling. As is well known, sudden and 
loud sounds, as that of a door banging, will give a shock 
to an infant in the first weeks of life, which though not 
amounting to fear is its progenitor. A clearer manifesta- 
tion occurs when a new and unfamiliar sound calls forth 
the grave look, the trembling lip, 'and possibly the fit of 
crying. Darwin gives an excellent example of this. He 
had, he tells us, been accustomed to make all sorts of 
sudden noises with his boy, aged four and a half months, 
which were well received ; but one day having introduced a 
new sound, that of a loud snoring, he found that the child 
was quite upset, bursting out into a fit of crying. 2 

As this incident suggests, it is not every new sound 
which is thus disconcerting to the little stranger. Sudden 
sharp sounds of any kind seem to be especially disliked, as 
those of a dog's bark. The child M. burst out crying on 
first hearing the sound of a baby rattle ; and she did the 
same two months later on accidentally ringing a hand bell. 
Louder and more voluminous sounds, too, are apt to have 
an alarming effect The big noise of a factory, of a steam- 
ship, of a passing train, are among the sounds assigned by 
my correspondents as causes of this early startling and 
upsetting effect. A little girl when taken into the country 
at the age of nine months, though she liked the animals 
she saw on the whole, showed fear by seeking shelter against 
the nurse's shoulder, on hearing the bleating of the sheep. 
So strong is this effect of suddenness and volume of so md 

1 1 know of no good account of the manifestations of childish 
fear. Mosso's book, La Peur, chap. v. and following, will be found 
most useful here. 

2 Mind, vol. ii., p. 288 



that even musical sounds often excite some alarm at first. 
1 He (a boy of four months) cried when he first heard the 
piano,' writes one lady, and this is but a sample of many 
observations. A child of five and a half months showed 
such a horror of a banjo that he would scream if it 
were played or only touched. Preyer's boy at sixteen 
months was apparently alarmed when his father, in order to 
entertain him, produced what seems to us a particularly 
pure musical tone by rubbing a drinking-glass. He remarks 
that this same sound had been produced when the child 
was in his third month without any ill effects. 1 

This last fact suggests that such shrinkings from sound 
may be developed at a comparatively late date. This idea 
is supported by other observations. " From about two 
years four months (writes a mother) to the present time 
(two years eleven months), he has shown signs of fear of 
music. At two years five months he liked some singing of 
rounds, but when a fresh person with a stronger voice than 
the rest joined, he begged the singer to stop. Presently he 
tolerated the singing as long as he might stand at the 
farthest corner of the room." This child was also about 
the same time afraid of the piano, and of the organ, when 
played by his mother in a church. 

It is worth noting that animals show a similar dread of 
musical sounds. I took a young cat of about eight weeks 
in my lap and struck some chords not loudly on the piano. 
It got up, moved uneasily from side to side, then bolted 
to a corner of the room and seemed to try to get up the 
walls. Dogs, too, certainly seem to be put out, if not to 
be terrified, by the music of a brass band. 

It is sometimes supposed that this startling effect of 
loud sounds is wholly an affair of nervous disturbance : 2 
but the late development of the repugnance in certain 

1 Op. cit., p. 131. 

- This seems to be the view of Perez: 
Childhood (English translation), p. 64. 

The First Three Years of 


cases seems to show that this is not the only cause at work. 
Of course a child's nervous organisation may through ill 
health become more sensitive to this disturbing effect ; and, 
as the life of Chopin tells us, the delicate organisation of 
a future musician may be specially subject to these shocks. 
Yet I suspect that vague alarm at the unexpected and un- 
known takes part here. There is something uncanny to 
the child in the very production of sound from a silent 
thing. A banjo lying now inert, harmless, and then 
suddenly firing off a whole gamut of sound may well 
shock a small child's preconceptions of things. The second 
time that fear was observed in one child at the age of ten 
months, it was excited by a new toy which squeaked on 
being pressed. 1 This seems to be another example of the 
disconcerting effect of the unexpected. In other cases the 
alarming effect of the mystery is increased by the absence 
of all visible cause. One little boy of two years used to 
get sadly frightened at the sound of the water rushing into 
the cistern .which was near his nursery. The child was 
afraid at the same time of thunder, calling it ' water 
coming '. 

I am far from saying that all children manifest this 
fear of sounds. Miss Shinn points out that her niece was 
from the first pleased with the piano, and this is no doubt true 
of many children. Children behave very differently towards 
thunder, some being greatly disturbed by it, others being 
rather delighted. Thus Preyer's boy, who was so igno- 
miniously upset by the tone of the drinking-glass, laughed 
at the thunderstorm ; and we know that the little Walter 
Scott was once found during a thunderstorm lying on his 
back in the open air clapping his hands and shouting 
" Bonnie, bonnie ! " at the flashes of lightning. It is possible 
that in such cases the exhilarating effect of the brightness 
counteracts the uncanny effect of the thunder. More 
observations are needed on this point. 

Observation of F. H. Champneys, Mind, vol. vi., p. 106. 


A complete explanation of these early vague alarms of 
the ear may as yet not be possible. Children show in the 
matter of sound capricious repugnances which it is ex- 
ceedingly difficult to account for. They seem sometimes 
to have their pet aversions like older folk. Yet I think 
that a general explanation is possible. 

To begin with, then, it is probable that in many of 
these cases, especially those occurring in the first six 
months, we have to do with an organic phenomenon, with 
a sort of jar to the nervous system. To understand this 
we have to remember that the ear, in the case of man at 
least, is the sense-organ through which the nervous system is 
most powerfully and profoundly acted on. Sounds seem 
to go through us, to pierce us, to shake us, to pound and 
crush us. A child of four or six months has a nervous 
organisation still weak and unstable, and we should 
naturally expect loud sounds to produce a disturbing 
effect on it. 

To this it is to be added that sounds have a v/ay of 
taking us by surprise, of seeming to start out of nothing ; 
and this aspect of them, as I have pointed out above, may 
well excite vague alarm in the small creatures to whom all 
that is new and unlooked for is apt to seem uncanny. 
The fact that most children soon lose their fear by getting 
used to the sounds seems to show how much the new and 
the mysterious has to do with the effect. 

Whether heredity plays any part here, e.g., in the fear of 
the dog's barking and other sounds of animals, seems to 
me exceedingly doubtful. This point will, however, come 
up for closer consideration presently, when we deal with 
children's fear of animals. 

Before considering the manifold outgoings of fear pro 
duced by impressions of the eye, we may glance at another 
form of early disturbance which has some analogy to the 
shock-like effects of certain sounds. I refer here to the 
feeling of bodily insecurity which appears very early \\nen 


the child is awkwardly carried, or let down back-foremost, 
and later when he begins to walk. One child in her fifth 
month was observed when carried to hold on to the nurse's 
dress as if for safety. And it has been noticed by more 
than one observer that on dandling a baby up and down 
in one's arms, it will on descending, that is when the sup- 
port of the arms is being withdrawn, show signs of dis- 
content in struggling movements. 1 Bell, Freyer, and others 
regard this as an instinctive form of fear. Such manifesta- 
tions may, however, be merely the result of sudden and 
rude disturbances of the sense of bodily ease which attends 
the habitual condition of adequate support. A child ac- 
customed to lie in a cradle, on the floor-, or on somebody's 
lap, might be expected to be put out when the supporting 
mass is greatly reduced, as in bad carrying, or wholly 
removed, as in quickly lowering him backwards. The 
fear of falling, which shows itself during the first attempts 
to stand, comes, it must be remembered, as an accom- 
paniment of a new and highly strange situation. The first 
experience of using the legs for support must, one supposes, 
involve a profound change in the child's whole bodily 
consciousness, a change which may well be accompanied 
with a sense of disturbance. Not only so, it comes after 
a considerable experience of partial fallings, as in trying 
to turn over when lying, half climbing the sides of the 
cradle, etc., and still harder bumpings when the crawling 
stage is reached. These would, I suspect, be quite suf- 
ficient to produce the timidity which is observable on 
making the bolder venture of standing. 2 

Fear of Visible Things. 

Fears excited by visual impressions come later than 
those excited by sounds. The reason of this seems pretty 

1 See the quotations from Sir Ch. Bell, Perez, First Three Years 
of Childhood, p. 63. 

2 Preyer seems to regard this as instinctive. Op. cit., p. 131. 



obvious. Visual sensations do not produce the strong 
effect of nervous shock which auditory ones produce. Let 
a person compare the violent and profound jar which he 
experiences on suddenly hearing a loud sound, with the 
slight surface-agitation produced by the sudden movement 
of an object across the field of vision. The latter has less 
of the effect of nervous jar and more of the characteristics 
of fear proper, that is, apprehension of evil. We should 
accordingly expect that eye-fears would only begin to 
show themselves in the child after experience had begun 
its educative work. 1 

At the outset it is well, as in the case of the ear-fears, 
to keep before us the distinction between a mere dislike to 
a sensation and a true reaction of fear. We shall find that 
children's quasi-aesthetic dislikes to certain colours may 
readily simulate the appearance of fears. 

Among the earliest manifestations of fear excited by 
visual impressions we have those called forth by the pre- 
sentation of something new and strange, especially when 
it involves a rupture of customary arrangements. Although 
children love and delight in what is new, their disposition 
to fear is apt to give to new and strange objects a disquiet- 
ing, if not distinctly alarming character. This apprehension 
shows itself as soon as a child has begun to be used or 
accustomed to a particular state of things. 

Among the more disconcerting effects of a rude 
departure from the customary, we have that of change of 
place. At first the infant betrays no sign of disturbance 
on being carried into a new room. But when once it has 
grown accustomed to a certain room it will feel a new one to 

1 M. Perez (op. cit., p. 65) calls in the evolution hypothesis here, 
suggesting that the child, unlike the young animal, is so organised 
as to be more on the alert for dangers which are near at hand 
(auditory impressions) than for those at a distance (visual impres- 
sions). I confess, however, that I find this ingenious writer not 
quite convincing here. 


be strange, and eye its features with a perceptibly anxious 
look. This sense of strangeness in place sometimes 
appears very early. The little girl M., on being taken at 
the age of four months into a new nursery, " looked all round 
and then burst out crying". This feeling of uneasiness 
may linger late. A boy retained up to the age of three 
years eight months the fear of being left alone in strange 
hotels or lodgings. Yet entrance on a new abode does 
not by any means always excite this reaction. A child 
may have his curiosity excited, or may be amused by the 
odd look of things. Thus one boy on being taken at the 
age of fifteen months to a fresh house and given a small 
plain room looked round and laughed at the odd carpet. 
Children even of the same age appear in such circumstances 
to vary greatly with respect to the relative strength of the 
impulses of fear and curiosity. 

How different children's mental attitude may be towards 
the new and unfamiliar is illustrated by some notes on a 
boy sent me by his mother. This child, " though hardly 
ever afraid of strange people or places, was very much 
frightened as a baby of familiar things seen after an in- 
terval" . Thus " at ten months he was excessively frightened 
on returning to his nursery after a month's absence. On 
this occasion he screamed violently if his nurse left his side 
for a moment for some hours after he got home, whereas 
he had not in the least objected to being installed in a 
strange nursery." The mother adds that " at thirteen 
months, his memory having grown stronger, he was very 
much pleased at coming to his home after being away a 
fortnight". This case looks puzzling enough at first, and 
seems to contradict the laws of infant psychology. Per- 
haps the child's partial recognition was accompanied by a 
sense of the uncanny, like that which we experience when 
a place seems familiar to us though we have no clear 
recollection of having seen it before. 

What applies to places applies also to persons : a 



sudden change of customary human surroundings by the 
arrival of a stranger on the scene is apt to trouble the 

At first all faces seem alike for the child. Later on 
unfamiliar faces excite something like a grave inquisitorial 
scrutiny. Yet, for the first three months, there is no 
distinct manifestation of a fear of strangers. It is only later, 
when attachment to human belongings has been developed, 
that the approach of a stranger, especially if accompanied 
by a proposal to take the child, calls forth clear signs of 
displeasure and the shrinking away of fear. Preyer gives 
the sixth and seventh months as the date at which his boy 
began to cry at the sight of a strange face. In one set of 
notes sent me it was remarked that a child of four and a 
half months would cry on being nursed by a stranger. 
To be nursed by a stranger, however, is to have the 
whole baby-world revolutionised ; little wonder then 
that it should bring the feeling of strangeness and home- 

Here, too, curious differences soon begin to disclose 
themselves, some children being decidedly more sociable 
towards strangers than others. It would be curious to 
compare the age at which children begin to take kindly 
to them. Preyer gives nineteen months as the date at 
which his boy surmounted his timidity ; but it is probable 
that the transition occurs at very different dates in the 
case of different children. 1 

It is worth noting that the little boy to whom I re- 
ferred just now displayed the same signs of uneasiness at 
seeing old friends, after an interval, as at returning to old 
scenes. When eight months old, " he moaned in a curious 
way when his nurse (of whom he was very fond) came 
home after a fortnight's holiday". Here, however, the 
signs of fear seem to be less pronounced than in the case 

1 This true fear of strangers must be distinguished from the later 
shyness, which, though akin to it, is a more complex feeling. 


of returning to the old room. It would be difficult to give 
the right name to this curious moan. 

Partial alteration of the surroundings frequently brings 
about a measure of this same mental uneasiness. Preyer's 
boy when one year and five months old was much dis- 
turbed at seeing his mother in a black dress. Children seem 
to have a special dislike to black apparel. George Sand 
describes her fear at having to put on black stockings when 
her father died. Yet any change of colour in dress will 
disturb a child. C, when an infant, was distressed to tears 
at the spectacle of a new colour and pattern on his mother's 
dress. This dislike to any change of dress as such is borne 
out by other observations. A child manifested between the 
age of about seven months and of two and a half years 
the most marked repugnance to new clothes, so that the 
authorities found it very difficult to get them on. It is 
presumable that the donning of new apparel disturbed too 
rudely the child's sense of his proper self. 

In certain cases the introduction of new natural objects 
of great extent and impressiveness will produce a similar 
effect of childish anxiety, as though they made too violent 
a change in the surroundings. One of the best illustrations 
of this obtainable from the life of an average well-to-do 
child is the impression produced by a first visit to the sea. 
Preyer's boy at the age of twenty-one months showed all 
the signs of fear when his nurse carried him on her arm 
close to the sea. 1 The boy C. on being first taken near the 
sea at the age of two was disturbed by its noise. While, 
however, I have a number of well-authenticated cases of 
such an instinctive repugnance to, and something like dread 
of the sea, I find that there is by no means uniformity in 
children's behaviour in this particular. A little boy who 
first saw the sea at the age of thirteen months exhibited 
signs not of fear but of wondering delight, prettily stretching 
out his tiny hands towards it as if wanting to go to it. 

1 Op. cit., p. 131. 



Another child who also first saw the sea at the age of 
thirteen months began to crawl towards the waves. And 
yet another boy at the age of twenty-one months on first 
seeing the sea spread his arms as if to embrace it. 

These observations show that the strange big thing 
affects children very differently. C. had a particular dislike 
to noises, which was, I think, early strengthened by finding 
out that his father had the same prejudice. Hence perhaps 
his hostile attitude towards the sea. 

Probably, too, imaginative children, whose minds take 
in something of the bigness of the sea, will be more disposed 
to this variety of fear. A mother writes me that her elder 
child, an imaginative girl, has not even now at the age of 
six got over her fear of going into the sea, whereas her 
sister, one and a quarter years younger, and not of an 
imaginative temperament, is perfectly fearless. She adds 
that it is the bigness of the sea which evidently impresses 
the imagination of the elder. 

Imaginative children, too, are apt to give life and pur- 
pose to the big moving noisy thing. This is illustrated in 
M. Pierre Loti's graphic account of his first childish im- 
pressions of the sea, seen one evening in the twilight " It 
was of a dark, almost black green : it seemed restless, 
treacherous, ready to swallow : it was stirring and swaying 
everywhere at the same time, with the look of sinister 
wickedness." l 

There seems enough in the vast waste of unresting 
waters to excite the imagination of a child to awe and 
terror. Hence it is needless to follow M. Loti in his 
speculations as to an inherited fear of the sea. He seems 
to base this supposition on the fact that at this first view he 
distinctly recognised the sea. But such recognition may 
have meant merely the objective realisation of what had no 
doubt been before pretty fully described by his mother and 
aunt, and imaginatively pictured by himself. 
1 Le Roman d'un Enfant. 


The opposite attitude, that of the thoroughly unimagin- 
ative child, in presence of the sea is well illustrated by the 
story of a little girl aged two, who, on being first taken to 
see the watery wonder, exclaimed, "Oh, mamma, look at the 
soapy water". The awful mystery of all the stretch of 
ever-moving water was invisible to this child, being hidden 
behind the familiar detail of the ' soapy ' edge. 

There is probably nothing in the natural world which 
makes on the childish imagination quite so awful an im- 
pression as the watery Leviathan. Perhaps the fear which 
one of my correspondents tells me was excited in her when 
a child by the sudden appearance of a mountain may be 
akin to this dread of the sea. 

We may now pass to another group of fear-excitants, 
the appearance of certain strange forms and movements of 

The close connexion between aesthetic dislike and fear 
is seen in the well-marked recoilings of children from odd 
uncanny-looking dolls. The girl M., when just over six 
months old, was frightened at a Japanese doll so that it 
had to be put in another room. Another child when 
thirteen months old was terrified at the sight of an 
ugly doll The said doll is described as black with 
woolly head, startled eyes, and red lips. Such an ogre 
might well call up a tremor in the bravest of children. 
In another case, that of a little boy of two years and two 
months, the broken face of a doll proved to be highly dis- 
concerting. The mother describes the effect as mixed of 
fear, distress, and intellectual wonder. Nor did his anxiety 
depart when some hours later the doll, after sleeping in 
his mother's room, reappeared with a new face. 

In such cases, it seems plain, it is the ugly transforma- 
tion of something specially familiar and agreeable which 
excites the feeling of nervous apprehension. Making 
grimaces, that is the spoiling of the typical familiar face, 
may, it is said, disturb a child even at the early age of two 



months. 1 It is much the same when the child M., at the 
age of thirteen months three weeks, was frightened and 
howled when a lady looked at her close with blue spectacles, 
though she was quite used to ordinary glasses. Such trans- 
formations of the homely and assuring face are, moreover, 
not only ugly but bewildering to the child, and where all is 
mysterious and uncanny the child is apt to fear. Whether 
"inherited associations" involving a dim recognition of the 
meaning of these distortions play any part here I do not 
feel at all certain. 

Children, like animals, will sometimes show fear at the 
sight of what seems to us a quite harmless object. A shying 
horse is a puzzle to his rider : his terrors are so unpredict- 
able. Similarly in the case of a timid child almost any- 
thing unfamiliar and out of the way, whether in the colour, 
the form, or the movement of an object, may provoke a 
measure of anxiety. Thus a little girl, aged one year and 
ten months, showed signs of fear during a drive at a row of 
grey ash trees placed along the road. This was just the 
kind of thing that a horse might shy at. 

As with animals, so with children, any seemingly 
uncaused movement is apt to excite a feeling of alarm. 
Just as a dog will run away from a leaf whirled about by the 
wind, so children are apt to be terrified by the strange and 
quite irregular behaviour of a feather as it glides along the 
floor or lifts itself into the air. A little girl of three, stand- 
ing by the bedside of her mother (who was ill at the time), 
was so frightened at the sight of a feather, which she acci- 
dentally pulled out of the eiderdown quilt, floating in the air 
that she would not approach the bed for days afterwards. 2 

In these cases we may suppose that we have to do with 
a germ of superstitious fear, which seems commonly to have 
its starting point in the appearance of something excep- 

1 Quoted by Tracy, op. cit., p. 29. But this observation seems to 
me to need confirmation. 

2 See The Pedagogical Seminary, i., No. 2, p. 220. 


tional and uncanny, that is to say, unintelligible, and so 
smacking of the supernatural. The fear of feathers as 
uncanny objects plays, I am told, a considerable part in 
the superstitions of folk-lore. Such apparently self-caused 
movements, so suggestive of life, might easily give rise to 
a vague sense of a mysterious presence or power possess- 
ing the object, and so lead to a crude form of a belief in 
supernatural agents. 

In other cases of unexpected and mysterious movement 
the fear is slightly different. A little boy when one year and 
eleven months old was frightened when in a lady's house by a 
toy elephant which shook its head. The same child, writes 
his mother, "at one year seven months was very much 
scared by a toy cow which mooed realistically when its 
head was moved. This cow was subsequently given to 
him, at about two years and three months. He was then 
still afraid of it, but became reconciled soon after, first 
allowing others to make it moo if he was at a safe distance, 
and at last making it moo himself." 

There may have been a germ of the fear of animals here : 
but I suspect that it was mainly a feeling of uneasiness at 
the signs of life (movement and sound) appearing when they 
are not expected, and have an uncanny aspect. The close 
simulation of a living thing by what is known to be not 
alive is disturbing to the child as to the adult. He will 
make his toys alive by his own fancy, yet resent their taking 
on the full semblance of reality. In- this sense he is a born 
idealist and not a realist. More careful observations on 
this curious group of child-fears are to be desired. 

The fear of shadows is closely related to that of moving 
toys. They are semblances, though horribly distorted 
semblances, and they are apt to move with an awful rapidity. 
The unearthly mounting shadows which accompany the 
child as he climbs the staircase at night have been in- 
stanced by writers as one of childhood's freezing horrors. 
Mr. Stevenson writes: 


Now my little heart goes beating like a drum, 

With the breath of the Bogie in my hair ; 

And all round the candle the crooked shadows come, 

And go marching along up the stair ; 

The shadow of the balusters, the shadow of the lamp, 

The shadow of the child that goes to bed 

All the wicked shadows coming tramp, tramp, tramp, 

With the black night overhead. 

I have noticed a young cat the same that showed such 
terror at the playing of the piano watch its own shadow 
rising on the wall, and, as I thought, with a look of appre- 

The Fear of Animals. 

I have purposely reserved for special discussion two 
varieties of children's fear, namely, dread of animals and 
of the dark. As the former certainly manifests itself before 
the latter I will take it first. 

It seems odd that the creatures which are to become 
the companions and playmates of children, and one of the 
chief sources of their happiness, should cause so much alarm 
when they first come on the scene. Yet so it is. Many 
children, at least, are at first put out by quite harmless 
members of the animal family. We must, however, be 
careful here in distinguishing between mere nerve-shock 
and dislike on the one hand and genuine fear on the other. 
Thus a lady whom I know, a good observer, tells me 
that her boy, though when he was fifteen months old his 
nerves were shaken by the loud barking of a dog, had no 
real fear of dogs. With this may be contrasted another case, 
also sent by a good observer, in which it is specially noted 
that the aversion to the sound of a dog's barking developed 
late and was a true fear. 

^Esthetic dislikes, again, may easily give rise to quasi- 
fears, though, as we all know, little children have not the 
horrors of their elders in this respect. The boy C. could 


not understand his mother's scare at the descending cater- 
pillar. A kind of aesthetic dislike appears to show itself 
sometimes towards animals of peculiar shape and colour. 
A black animal, as a sheep or a cow, seems more particu- 
larly to come in for these childish aversions. 

At first it seems impossible to understand why a 
child in the fourteenth week should shrink from a cat. 1 
This is not, so far as I can gather, a common occurrence at 
this age, and one would like to cross-examine the mother 
on the precise way in which the child had its first intro- 
duction to the domestic pet. So far as one can speculate 
on the matter, one would say that such early shrinking 
from animals is probably due to their sudden unexpected 
movements, which may well disconcert the inexperienced 
infant accustomed to comparatively restful surroundings. 

This seems borne out by another instance, also quoted 
by Preyer, of a girl who in the fourth month, as also in 
the eleventh, was so afraid of pigeons that she could not 
bring herself to stroke them. The prettiness of the pigeon, 
if not of the cat, ought, one supposes, to ensure the liking of 
children ; and one has to fall back on the supposition of 
the first disconcerting strangeness of the moving animal 
world for the child's mind. 

Later shrinkings from animals show more of the nature 
of fear. It is sometimes said that children inherit from 
their ancestors the fear of certain animals. Thus Darwin, 
observing that his boy when taken to the Zoological 
Gardens at the age of two years and three months showed 
fear of the big caged animals whose form was unfamiliar 
to him (lions, tigers, etc.), infers that this fear is transmitted 
from savage ancestors whose conditions of life compelled 
them to shun these deadly creatures. But as M. Compayre 
has well shown 2 we do not need this hypothesis here. The 
unfamiliarity of the form of the animal, its bigness, together 

1 Quoted by Preyer, op. cit., p. 127. The word he uses is "scheuen ". 
* Evolution intellectuelle et morale de VEnfant, p. 102. 



with the awful suggestions of the cage, would be quite 
enough to beget a vague sense of danger. 

So far as I can ascertain facts are strongly opposed to 
the theory of an inherited fear of animals. Just as in the first 
months a child will manifest something like recoil from a 
pretty and perfectly innocent pigeon, so later on children 
manifest fear in the most unlikely directions. In The 
Invisible Playmate, we are told of a girl who got her first 
fright on seeing a sparrow drop on the grass near her, 
though she was not the least afraid of big things, and on 
first hearing the dog bark in his kennel said with a little 
laugh of surprise, * Oh ! coughing '. x A parallel case is 
sent me by a lady friend. One day when her daughter 
was about four years old she found her standing, the eyes 
wide open and filled with tears, the arms outstretched for 
help, evidently transfixed with terror, while a small wood- 
louse made its slow way towards her. The next day the 
child was taken for the first time to the "Zoo," and the 
mother anticipating trouble held the child's hand. But 
there was no need. A * fearless spirit ' in general, she 
released her hand at the first sight of the elephant, and 
galloped after the monster. If inheritance played a prin- 
cipal part in the child's fear of animals one would have 
expected the facts to be reversed : the elephant should 
have excited dread, not the harmless insect. 

So far as my own observations have gone there seems 
to be but little uniformity among children's fears of the 
animal world. What frightens one child may delight 
another at about the same age. Perhaps there is a tendency 
to a special dread of certain animals, more particularly the 
wolf, which as folk-lore tells us reflects the attitude of 
superstitious adults. Yet it is probable that, as the case of 
the boy C. suggests, the dread of the wolf grows out of 
that of the dog, the most alarming of the domestic animals, 
while it is vigorously sustained by fairy-story. 
1 See pp. 26, 27. 


For the rest children's shrinking from animals has 
much of the caprice of grown-up people's. Not that there 
is anything really inexplicable in these odd directions of 
childish fear, any more than in the unpredictable shyings of 
the horse If we knew the whole of the horse's history, 
and could keep a perfect register of the fluctuations of ' tone ' 
in his nervous system, we should understand all his shyings. 
So with the child. All the vagaries of his dislike to animals 
would be cleared up if we could look into the secret work- 
ings of his mind and measure the varying heights of his 

That some of this early disquietude at the sight of 
strange animals is due to the workings of the mind is seen 
in the behaviour of Preyer's boy when at the age of twenty- 
seven months he was taken to see some little pigs. The 
boy at the first sight looked earnest, and as soon as the 
lively little creatures began to suckle the mother he broke 
out into a fit of crying and turned away from the sight 
with all the signs of fear. It appeared afterwards that what 
terrified the child was the idea that the pigs were biting 
their mother; and this gave rise in the fourth and fifth years 
to recurrent nocturnal fears of the biting piglets, something 
like C.'s nocturnal fear of the wolf. 1 To an imaginative 
child strongly predisposed to fear, anything suggestive of 
harm will suffice to beget a measure of trepidation. A 
child does not want direct experience of the power of a big 
animal in order to feel a vague uneasiness when near it. 
His own early inductions respecting the correlation of 
bigness with strength, aided as this commonly is by in- 
formation picked up from others, will amply suffice. In the 
case of the dog, the rough shaggy coat, the teeth which he 
is told can bite, the swift movements, and w rse than all 
the appalling bark, are quite enough to disconcert a timid 
child. Even the sudden pouncing down of a sparrow may 
prove upsetting to a fearful mite as suggesting attack ; and 
1 See Preyer, op. cit., p. 130. 


a girl of four may be quite capable of imagining the un- 
pleasantness of an invasion of her dainty person by a small 
creeping wood-louse which though running slowly was 
running towards herself and so of getting a fit of 

It is, I think, undeniable that imaginative children, 
especially when sickly and disposed to alarm, are subject 
to a real terror at the thought of the animal world Its 
very vastness, the large variety of its uncanny and savage- 
looking forms appearing oftentimes as ugly distortions of 
the human face and figure this of itself, as known from 
picture-books, may well generate many a vague alarm. 
We know from folk-lore how the dangers of the animal 
world have touched the imagination of simple peoples, 
and we need not be surprised that it should make the heart 
of the wee weakly child to quake. Yet the child's 
shrinking from animals is less strong than the impulse of 
companionship which bears him towards them. Tiny chil- 
dren quite as often show the impulse to run after ducks 
and other animals as to be alarmed at them. Nothing 
perhaps is prettier in child-life than the pose and look of 
one of these defenceless youngsters as he is getting over 
his trepidation at the approach of a strange big dog and 
' making friends ' with the shaggy monster. The perfect 
love which lies at the bottom of children's hearts towards 
their animal kinsfolk soon casts out fear. And when once 
the reconciliation has been effected it will take a good deal 
of harsh experience to make the child ever again entertain 
the thought of danger. 

Fear of the Dark. 

Fear of the dark, that is, fear excited by the actual 
experience or the idea of being in the dark, and especially 
alone in the dark, and the allied dread of dark places as 
closets and caves, is no doubt very common among chil- 
dren, and seems indeed to be one of their recognised 


characteristics. Yet it is by no means certain that it is 
' natural ' in the sense of developing itself in all children. 

It is certain that children have no such fear at the 
beginning of life. A baby of three or four months if ac- 
customed to a light may very likely be disturbed at being 
deprived of it : but this is some way from a dread of the 
dark. 1 

Fear of the dark seems to arise when intelligence 
has reached a certain stage of development. It apparently 
assumes a variety of forms. In some children it is a vague 
uneasiness, in others it takes the shape of a more definite 
dread. A common variety of this dread is connected with 
the imaginative filling of the dark with the forms of 
alarming animals, so that the fear of animals and of the 
dark are closely connected. Thus, in one case reported to 
me, a boy between the ages of two and six used at night to 
see ' the eyes of lions and tigers glaring as they walked 
round the room '. The boy C. saw his bete noire the wolf 
in dark places. Mr. Stevens in his note on his boy's idea 
of the supernatural remarks that at the age of one year and 
ten months, when he began to be haunted by the spectre 
of ' Cocky,' he was temporarily seized with a fear of the 
dark. 2 It is important to add that even children who have 
been habituated to going to bed in the dark in the first 
months are liable to acquire the fear. 

This mode of fear is, however, not universal among 
children. One lady, for whose accuracy I can vouch, 

1 A mother sends me a curious observation bearing on this. 
One of her children when four months old was carried by her up- 
stairs in the dark. On reaching the light she found the child's face 
black, her hartds clenched, and her eyes protruding. As soon as 
she reached the light she heaved a sigh and resumed her usual 
appearance. This child was in general hardy and bold and never 
gave a second display of terror. This is certainly a curious observa- 
tion, and it would be well to know whether similar cases of apparent 
fright at being carried in the dark have been noticed. 

2 Mind, xi., p. 149. 


assures me that her boy, who is now four years old, 
has never manifested the feeling. A similar statement 
is made by a careful observer, Dr. Sikorski, with reference 
to his own children. l It seems possible to go through 
childhood without making acquaintance with this terror, 
and to acquire it in later life. I know a lady who only 
acquired the fear towards the age of thirty. " Curiously 
enough (she writes) I was never afraid of the dark as a 
child ; but during the last two years I hate to be left alone 
in the dark, and if I have to enter a dark room, like my 
study, beyond the reach of the maids from downstairs, I 
notice a remarkable acceleration in my heart-beat and 
hurry to strike a light or rush downstairs as quickly as 

We can faintly conjecture from what Charles Lamb and 
others have told us about the spectres that haunted their 
nights what a weighty crushing horror this fear of the dark 
may become. Hence we need not be surprised that the 
writer of fiction has sought to give it a vivid and adequate 
description. Victor Hugo, for example, when in Les 
Miser ables he is painting the feelings of little Cosette, who 
has been sent out alone at night to fetch water from a 
spring in a wood, says she "felt herself seized by the 
black enormity of Nature. It was not only terror which 
possessed her, it was something more terrible even than 

Different explanations have been offered of this fear. 
Locke, who when writing on educational matters was rather 
hard on nurses and servants, puts down the whole of 
these fears to those wicked persons, " whose usual method 
is to awe children and keep them in subjection by telling 
them of Raw Head and Bloody Bones, and such other 
names as carry with them the idea of something terrible 
and hurtful, which they have reason to be afraid of when 

1 Quoted by Compayre, op. cit., p. 100. Cf. Perez, L'Education dh 
le berceau, p. 103. 


alone, especially in the dark". 1 Rousseau on the other 
hand urges that there is a natural cause. " Accustomed as 
I am to perceive objects from a distance, and to anticipate 
their impressions in advance, how is it possible for me, 
when I no longer see anything of the objects that surround 
me, not to imagine a thousand creatures, a thousand 
movements, which may hurt me, and against which I am 
unable to protect myself?" 2 

Rousseau here supplements and corrects Locke. For 
one thing I have ascertained in the case of my own child, 
and in that of others, that a fear of the dark has grown up 
when the influence of the wicked nurse has been carefully 
eliminated. Locke forgets that children can get terrifying 
fancies from other children, and from all sorts of sugges- 
tions, unwittingly conveyed by the words of respectable 
grown people. Besides, he leaves untouched the question, 
why children when left alone in the dark should choose 
to dwell on these fearful images, rather than on the bright 
pretty ones which they also acquire. R. L. Stevenson 
has told us how happy a child can make himself at night 
with such pleasing fancies. Yet it must be owned that 
darkness seems rather to favour images of what is weird 
and terrible. How is this ? Rousseau gets some way to- 
wards answering the question by saying (as I understand 
him to say) that darkness breeds a sense of insecurity. 
I do not, however, think that it is the inconvenience of 
being in the dark which generates the fear : a child might, 
I imagine, acquire it without ever having had to explore a 
dark place. 

I strongly suspect that the fear of darkness takes its 
rise in a sensuous phenomenon, a kind of physical repug- 
nance. All sensations of very low intensity, as very soft 
vocal sounds, have about them a tinge of melancholy, 
a ttistesse, and this is especially noticeable in the sensations 

1 Thoughts on Education, sect. 138. 

2 Emile, book ii. 


which the eye experiences when confronted with a dark 
space, or, what is tantamount to this, a black and dull 
surface. The symbolism of darkness and blackness, as 
when we talk of ' gloomy ' thoughts or liken trouble to a 
' black cloud,' seems to rest on this effect of melancholy. 

Along with this gloomy character of the sensation of 
dark, and not always easy to distinguish from it, there goes 
the craving of the eye for its customary light, and the 
interest and the gladness which come with seeing. When 
the eye and brain are not fatigued, that is when we are 
wakeful, this eye-ache may become an appreciable pain ; 
and it is probable that children feel the deprivation more 
acutely than grown persons, owing to the abundance of 
their visual activity as well as to the comparatively scanty 
store of their thought-resources. Add to this that darkness, 
by extinguishing the world of visible things, would give to 
a timid child tenacious of the familiar home-surroundings 
a peculiarly keen sense of strangeness and of loneliness, of 
banishment from all that he knows and loves. The re- 
miniscences of this feeling described in later life show that 
it is the sense of solitude which oppresses the child in his 
dark room. 1 

This, I take it, would be quite enough to make the 
situation of confinement in a dark room disagreeable and de- 
pressing to a wakeful child even when he is in bed and there 
is no restriction of bodily activity. But even this would 
not amount to a full passionate dread of darkness. It 
seems to me to be highly probable that a baby of two or 
three months might feel this vague depression and even 
this craving for the wonted scene, especially just after the 
removal of a light ; yet such a baby, as we have seen, gives 
no clear indications of fear 

Fear of the dark arises from the development of the 
child's imagination, and might, I believe, arise without any 
suggestion from nurse or other children of the notion that 
1 See especially James Payn, Gleams of Memory, pp. 3, 4. 


there are bogies in the room. Darkness is precisely the 
situation most favourable to vivid imagination : the screen- 
ing of the visible world makes the inner world of fancy vivid 
and distinct by contrast. Are we not all apt to shut our 
eyes when we try to ' visualise ' or picture things very 
distinctly ? This fact of a preternatural activity of imagi- 
nation, taken with the circumstance emphasised by Rousseau 
that in the darkness the child is no longer distinctly 
aware of the objects that are actually before him, would 
help us to understand why children are so much given to 
projecting into the unseen black spaces the creatures of their 
imagination. Not only so and this Rousseau does not 
appear to have recognised the dull feeling of depression 
which accompanies the sensation of darkness might suffice 
to give a gloomy and weird cast to the images so projected. 

But I am disposed to think that there is yet another 
element in this childish fear. I have said that darkness 
gives a positive sensation : we see it, and the sensation, apart 
from any difference of signification which we afterwards 
learn to give to it, is of the same kind that is obtained by 
looking at a dull black surface. To the child the difference 
between a black object and a dark unillumined space is as 
yet not clear, and I believe it will be found that children 
tend to materialise or to 'reify' darkness. When, for ex- 
ample, a correspondent tells me that darkness was envisaged 
by her when a child as "a crushing power," I think I see 
traces of this childish feeling. I seem able to recall my 
own childish sense of a big black something on suddenly 
waking and opening the eyes in a very dark room. 

But there is still another thing to be noticed in this sen- 
sation of darkness. The black field is not uniform ; some 
parts of it show less black than others, and the indistinct 
and rude pattern of comparatively light and dark changes 
from moment to moment ; while now and again more de- 
finite spots of brightness may focus themselves. The vary- 
ing activity of the retina would seem to account for this 


apparent changing of the black scene. What, my reader 
may not unnaturally ask, has this to do with a child's fear 
of the dark ? If he will recall what was said about the 
facility with which a child comes to see faces and animal 
forms in the lines of a cracked ceiling, or the vein ing of a 
piece of marble, he will, I think, recognise the drift of my 
remarks. These slight and momentary differences in the 
blackness, these fleeting rudiments of a pattern, may serve 
as a sensuous base for the projected images ; the child with 
a strongly excited fancy sees in these dim traces of the 
black formless waste definite forms. These will naturally 
be the forms with which he is most familiar, and since his 
fancy is at the moment tinged with melancholy they will be 
gloomy and disturbing forms. Hence we may expect to 
hear of children seeing the forms of terrifying living things 
in the dark. 

Here is a particularly instructive case. A boy of four 
years had for some time been afraid of the dark and in- 
dulged by having the candle left burning at night. On 
hearing that the Crystal Palace had been burned down he 
asked for the first time to have the light taken away, fear 
of the dark being now cast out by the bigger fear of fire. 
Some time after this he volunteered an account of his ob- 
solete terrors to his father. "Do you know," he said, "what 
I thought dark was ? A great large live thing the colour 
of black with a mouth and eyes." Here we have the 'reify- 
ing' of darkness, and we probably see the influence of the 
comparatively bright spots in the attribution of eyes to the 
monster, an influence still more apparent in the instance 
quoted above, where a child saw the eyes of lions and tigers 
glaring as they walked round the room. Another suggestive 
instance here is that given by M. Compayre, in which a child 
on being asked why he did not like to be in a dark place 
answered: " I don't like chimney-sweeps". 1 Here the black- 
ness with its dim suggestions of brighter spots determined 
1 Op. cit., pp. 100, 101. 


the image of the black chimney-sweep with his white flashes 
of mouth and eyes. 1 I should like to observe here paren- 
thetically that we still need to learn from children them- 
selves, by talking to them and inviting their confidence 
when the fear of the dark is first noticed, how they are apt 
to envisage it. 

When imagination becomes abnormally active, and the 
child is haunted by alarming images, these by recurring 
with greatest force in the stillness and darkness of the night 
will add to the terrifying associations of darkness. This is 
illustrated in the case of the boy Stevens, who was haunted 
by the spectre of ' Cocky' at night. Dreams, especially of the 
horrible nightmare kind to which nervous children are sub- 
ject, may invest the dark with a new terror. A child suddenly 
waking up and with open eyes seeing the phantom-object of 
his dream against the black background may be forgiven for 
acquiring a dread of dark rooms. Possibly this experience 
gives the clue to the observation already quoted of a boy 
who did not want to sleep in a particular room because 
there were so many dreams in it. 

If the above explanation of the child's fear of the dark 
is a sound one Rousseau's prescription for curing it is not 
enough. Children may be encouraged to explore dark 
rooms, and by touching blind-like their various objects ren- 
dered familiar with the fact that things remain unchanged 
even when enveloped in darkness, that the dark is nothing 
but our temporary inability to see things ; and this may no 
doubt be heloful in checking the fear when calm reflexion 
becomes possible. But a radical cure must go farther, must 
aim at checking the activity of morbid imagination and 
here what Locke says about the effects of the terrifying stories 
of nurses is very much to the point and in extreme cases 

1 It is supposable too that disturbances of the retina giving rise 
to subjective luminous sensations, as the well-known small bright 
moving discs, might assist in the case of nervous children in suggest- 
ing glaring eyes. 


must set about strengthening shaky nerves. Mothers would 
do well to remember that even religious instruction when 
injudiciously presented may add to the terrors of the dark 
for these wee tremulous organisms. One observation sent 
me strongly suggests that a child may take a strong dislike 
to being shut up in the dark with the terrible all-seeing God. 

Fears and their Palliatives. 

I have probably illustrated the first fears of children at 
sufficient length. Without trying to exhaust the subject 
I have, I think, shown that fear of a well-marked and in- 
tense kind is a common feature of the first years of life, 
and that it assumes a Protean variety of shapes. 

Much more will no doubt have to be done in the way 
of methodical observation, and more particularly statistical 
inquiry into the comparative frequency of the several fears, 
the age at which they commonly appear, and so forth, 
before we can build up a theory of the subject. One or 
two general observations may, however, be hazarded even 
at this stage. 

The thing which strikes one most perhaps in these 
early fears is how little they have to do with any remem- 
bered experience of evil. The child is inexperienced, and 
if humanely treated knows little of the acuter forms of 
human suffering. It would seem at least as if he feared 
not because experience had made him apprehensive of 
evil, but because he was constitutionally and instinctively 
nervous, and possessed with a feeling of insecurity. This 
feeling of weakness and insecurity comes to the surface in 
presence of what is unknown in so far as this can be 
brought by the child's mind into a relation to his welfare 
as disturbing noises, and the movements of things, es- 
pecially when they take on the form of approaches. The 
same thing is, as we have seen, illustrated in the fear of the 
dark. A like explanation seems to offer itself for other 
common forms of fear, especially those excited by others' 


threats, as the dread of the policeman, and little George 
Sand's horror at the idea of being shut up all night in the 
* crystal prison' of a lamp. The fact that children's fears 
are not the direct product of experience is expressed other- 
wise by saying that they are the offspring of the imagina- 
tion. A child is apt to be afraid because he fancies things, 
and it will probably be demonstrated by statistical evi- 
dence that the most imaginative children (other things 
being equal) are the most subject to fear. 

In certain of these characteristics, at least, children's 
fears resemble those of animals. In both alike fear is 
much more an instinctive recoil from the unknown than an 
apprehension of known evil. The shying of a horse, the 
apparent fear of dogs at certain noises, probably too the 
fear of animals at the sight and sound of fire so graphically 
described by Mr. Kipling in the case of the jungle beasts 
illustrate this. Animals too seem to have a sense of the 
uncanny, when something apparently uncaused happens, 
as when Romanes excited fear in a dog by attaching a fine 
thread to a bone, and by surreptitiously drawing it from 
the animal, giving to the bone the look of self-movement. 
The same dog was frightened by soap-bubbles. According 
to Romanes, dogs are frightened by portraits. It is to be 
added, however, that in certain of animal fears the influence 
of heredity is clearly recognisable, whereas in children's 
fears I have regarded it as doubtful. The fact that a child 
is not frightened at fire, which terrifies many animals, seems 
to illustrate this difference. 1 

Another instructive comparison is that of children's fears 
with those of savages. Both have a like feeling of inse- 
curity, and fall instinctively in presence of a big unknown 
into the attitude of dread. In the region of superstitious 

1 See Perez, L 'Education des U berceau, pp. 96-99. On animal 
fears, see further Romanes, Animal Intelligence, p. 455 f. ; Preyer, 
op. cit., p. 127 ff. and p. 135 ; Perez, First Three Years of Childhood, p. 
64 ff. 



fear more particularly, we see how in both a gloomy fancy 
forestalls knowledge, investing the new and unexplored with 
alarming traits. 

Lastly, children's fears have some resemblance to 
certain abnormal mental conditions. Idiots, who are so 
near normal childhood in their degree of intelligence, show 
a marked fear of strangers. More interesting, however, 
in the present connexion, is the exaggeration of the 
childish fear of new objects which shows itself in certain 
mental aberrations. There is a characteristic dread of 
newness, neophobia, just as there is a dread of water. 1 

While, however, these are the dominant characteristics 
of children's fears they are not the only ones. Experience 
begins to direct the instinctive fear-impulse from the very 
beginning. How much it does in the first months of life 
it is difficult to say. In the aversion of a baby to its 
medicine glass, or its cold bath, one sees, perhaps, more of 
the rude germ of passion or anger than of fear. Careful 
observations seem to me to be required on the point, at 
what definite date signs of fear arising from experience of 
pain begin to show themselves in the child. Some children, 
at least, have a surprising way of not minding even con- 
siderable amounts of physical pain : the misery of a fall, a 
blow, a cut, and so forth, being speedily forgotten. It 
seems doubtful, indeed, whether the venerable saw, ' The 
burnt child dreads the fire,' is invariably true. It appears, 
in many cases at least, to take a good amount of real 
agony to produce a genuine fear in a young child. 2 This 
tendency to belittle pain is not unknown, I suspect, to the 
tutor of small boys. It may well be that a definite and 

1 See Compayre, op. cit., pp. 99, 100. 

2 On this point there are some excellent observations made by 
Miss Shinn, who points out that physical pain when not too severe is 
apt to be lost sight of in the new feeling of personal consequence to 
which it gives rise (Notes on the Development of a Child, pt. ii., p. 
144 ff.). 


precise recalling of the misery of a scratch, or even of a 
moderate burn, may not conduce to the development of a 
true fear, and that here, too, fear when it arises in all its 
characteristic masterfulness is at bottom fear of the unknown. 
This seems illustrated by the well-known fact that a child 
will be more terrified during a first experience of pain, 
especially if there be a visible hurt and bleeding, than by 
any subsequent prospect of a renewal of the catastrophe. 
Is not the same thing true, indeed, of older fears ? Should 
we dread the wrench of a tooth-extraction if it were experi- 
enced very often, and we had a sufficiently photographic 
imagination to be able to estimate precisely the intensity 
and duration of the pain ? 

Much the same thing shows itself in the cases where 
fear can be clearly traced to experience and association. 
In some of these it is no doubt remembered experience 
of suffering which causes the fear. A child that has been 
seriously burned will unquestionably be frightened at a too 
close approach of a red-hot poker. But in many cases of 
this excitation of fear by association it is the primary ex- 
perience of fear itself which seems to be the real object of 
the apprehension. Thus a child who has been frightened 
by a dog will betray signs of fear at the sight of a kennel, 
of a picture of a dog, and so forth. The little boy referred 
to above who was afraid of the toy elephant that shook its 
head showed signs of fear a fortnight afterwards on coming 
across a picture of an elephant in a picture-book. In such 
ways does fear propagate fear in the timid little breast. 

One cannot part from the theme of children's fears 
without a reference to a closely connected subject, the 
problem of their happiness. To ask whether childhood is 
a happy time, still more to ask whether it is the happiest, is 
to raise perhaps a foolish and insoluble question. Later 
reminiscences would seem in this case to be particularly 
untrustworthy. Children themselves no doubt may have 
very definite views on the subject. A child will tell you 



with the unmistakable marks of profound conviction that 
he is so unhappy. But paradoxical as it may seem, chil- 
dren really know very little about the matter. At the best 
they can only tell you how they feel at particular moments. 
To seek for a precise and satisfactory solution of the prob- 
lem is thus futile. Only rough comparisons of childhood 
and later life are possible. 

In any such comparison the fears of early years claim, 
no doubt, careful consideration. There seem to be people 
who have no idea what the agony of these early terrors 
amounts to. And since it is the unknown that excites 
this fear, and the unknown in childhood is almost every- 
thing, the possibilities of suffering from this source are 
great enough. 

Alike the Good, the 111 offend thy Sight, 
And rouse the stormy sense of shrill affright. 

George Sand hardly exaggerates when she writes : " Fear 
is, I believe, the greatest moral suffering of children ". In 
the case of weakly, nervous and imaginative children, more 
especially, this susceptibility to terror may bring miserable 
days and yet more miserable nights. 

Nevertheless, it is easy here to pass from one extreme of 
brutal indifference to another of sentimental exaggeration. 
Childish suffering is terrible while it lasts, but happily it 
has a way of not lasting. The cruel distorting fit of terror 
passes and leaves the little face with its old sunny out-look. 
It is to be remembered, too, that while children are pitiably 
fearful in their own way, they are, as we have seen in the 
case of the little Walter Scott, delightfully fearless also, as 
judged by our standards. How oddly fear and fearlessness 
go together is illustrated in a story sent me. A little boy 
fell into a brook. On his being fished out by his mother, 
his sister, aged four, asked him : ' Did you see any croco- 
diles?' ' No,' answered the boy, 'I wasn't in long enough.' 


The absence of fear of the water itself was as characteristic 
as the presence of fear of the crocodile. 

It is refreshing to find that in certain cases at least 
where older people have done their worst to excite terror, 
a child has escaped its suffering. Professor Barnes tells us 
that a Californian child's belief in the supernatural takes 
on a happy tone, directing itself to images of heaven with 
trees, birds, and other pretty things, and giving but little 
heed to the horrors of hell. 1 In less sunny climes than 
California children may not, perhaps, be such little optim- 
ists, and it is probable that graphic descriptions of hell-fire 
have sent many a creepy thrill of horror along a child's 
tender nerves. Still it may be said that, owing to the 
fortunate circumstance of children having much less fear of 
fire than many animals, the misery in which eternal punish- 
ment is wont to be bodied forth does not work so power- 
fully as one might expect on a child's imagination. The 
author of The Uninitiated illustrates a real child-trait when 
she makes her small heroine conceive of hell as a place that 
smelt nastily (from its brimstone) 2 Then it is noticeable 
that children in general are but little affected by fear at 
the sight or the thought of death. The child C. had a 
passing dread of being buried, but his young hopeful heart 
refused to credit the fact of that far-off calamity. Other 
children, I find, dislike the idea of death as threatening to 
deprive them of their mother. Perhaps they can more 
readily suppose that somebody else will die than that they 
themselves will do so. This comparative immunity from the 
dread of death is no small deduction to be made from the 
burden of children's fear. 

Not only so, when fear is apt to be excited, Nature has 
provided the small timorous person with other instincts 
which tend to mitigate and even to neutralise it. It is a 
happy circumstance that the most prolific excitant of fear, 
the presentation of something new and uncanny, is also 

1 Pedagogical Seminary, ii., 3, p. 445. >J p. 43. 


provocative of another feeling, that of curiosity, with its 
impulse to look and examine. Even animals are some- 
times divided in the presence of something strange be- 
tween fear and curiosity, 1 and children's curiosity is much 
more lively than theirs. A very tiny child, on first mak- 
ing acquaintance with some form of physical pain, as a 
bump on the head, will deliberately repeat the experience 
by knocking his head against something as if experiment- 
ing and watching the effect. A clearer case of curiosity 
overpowering fear is that of a child who, after pulling the 
tail of a cat in a bush and getting scratched, proceeded 
to dive into the bush again. 2 Still more interesting here 
are the gradual transitions from actual fear before the 
new and strange to bold inspection. The child who was 
frightened by her Japanese doll insisted on seeing it every 
day. The behaviour of one of these small persons on the 
arrival at the house of a strange dog, of a dark foreigner, 
or some other startling novelty, is a pretty and amusing 
sight. The first overpowering timidity, the shrinking back 
to the mother's breast, followed by curious peeps, then by 
bolder outstretchings of head and arms, mark the stages by 
which curiosity and interest gain on fear and finally leave 
it far behind. Very soon we know the small timorous 
creatures will grow into bold adventurers. They will 
make playthings of the alarming animals, and of the 
alarming shadows too. 3 Later on still perhaps they will 
love nothing so much as to probe the awful mysteries of 

One palliative of these early terrors remains to be 
touched on, the instinct of sheltering or refuge-taking. 
The first manifestations of what is called the social nature 

1 Some examples are given by Preyer, op. cit., p. 135. 

2 Miss Shinn, op. cit., p. 150. 

3 Stevenson, the same who has described the terrors of moving 
shadows, illustrates how a child may make a sort of playfellow of 
his shadow (A Child's Garden of Verses, xviii.). 



of children are little more than the reverse side of their 
timidity. A baby will cease crying at night on hearing the 
familiar voice of mother or nurse because a vague sense of 
human companionship does away with the misery of the 
black solitude. A frightened child probably knows an 
ecstasy of bliss when folded in the protective embrace of 
a mother's arms. Even the most timid children never 
have the full experience of terror so long as there is within 
reach the secure base of all their reconnoitring excursions, 
the mother's skirts. Happy those little ones who have ever 
near them loving arms within whose magic circle the on- 
coming of the cruel fit of terror is instantly checked, giving 
place to a delicious calm. 

How unhappy those children must be who, being 
fearsome by nature, lack this refuge, who are left much 
alone to wrestle with their horrors as best they may, and 
are rudely repulsed when they bear their heart-quakings to 
others, I would not venture to say. Still less should I 
care to suggest what is suffered by those unfortunates who 
find in those about them not comfort, assurance, support in 
their fearsome moments, but the worst source of their 
terrors. To be brutal to these small sensitive organisms, to 
practise on their terrors, to take delight in exciting the 
wild stare and wilder shriek of terror, this is perhaps one of 
the strange things which make one believe in the old dogma 
that the devil can enter into men and women. For here 
we seem to have to do with a form of cruelty so exquisite, 
so contrary to the oldest of instincts, that it is dishonouring 
to the savage and to the lower animals to attempt to refer 
it to heredity. 

To dwell on such things, however, would be to go back 
to a pessimistic view of childhood. It is undeniable that 
children are exposed to indescribable misery when they 
are delivered into the hands of a consummately cruel 
guardian. Yet one may hope that this sort of person 
is exceptional, something of which we can give no ac- 



count save by saying that now and again in sport nature 
produces a monster, as if to show what she could do if she 
did not choose more wisely and benignly to work within 
the limitations of type 




Primitive Egoism. 

PERHAPS there has been more hasty theorising about the 
child's moral characteristics than about any other of his 
attributes. The very fact that diametrically opposed views 
have been put forward is suggestive of this haste. By 
certain theologians and others infancy has been painted in 
the blackest of moral colours. According to M. Compayre 
it is a bachelor, La Bruyere, and a bishop, Dupanloup, who 
have said the worst things of children ; and the parent or 
teacher who wants to see how bad this worst is may consult 
M. Compayre's account. 1 On the other hand, Rousseau and 
those who think with him have invested the child with an 
untarnished purity. According to Rousseau the child comes 
from the Creator's hand a perfect bit of workmanship, 
which blundering man at once begins to mar. Children's 
freedom from human vices has been a common theme of 
the poet : their innocence was likened by M. About to the 
spotless snow of the Jungfrau. Others, as Wordsworth, 
have gone farther and attributed to the infant positive 
excellences, glimpses of a higher morality than ours, 
Divine intuitions brought from a prenatal existence. 

Such opposite views of the moral status and worth of a 
child must be the result of prepossession, and the magnifying 
of the accidents of individual experience. A theologian who 

1 L 'Evolution intell. et mor. de I' Enfant, chap, xiv., ii. 


is concerned to maintain the doctrine of natural depravity, 
or a bachelor who happens to have known children chiefly 
in the character of little tormentors, may be expected to 
paint childhood with black pigments. On the other hand 
the poet, attracted by the charm of infancy, may, as we have 
seen, easily be led to idealise its moral aspects. 

The first thing that strikes one in all such attempts to 
fix the moral worth of the child is that they are judging of 
things by wrong standards. The infant, though it has a 
nature capable of becoming moral or immoral, is not as yet 
a moral being ; and there is a certain impertinence in trying 
to force it under our categories of good and bad, pure and 

If then we would know what the child's ' moral ' nature 
is like we must be careful to distinguish. By ' moral ' we 
must understand that part of his nature, feelings and 
impulses, which has for us a moral significance ; whether 
as furnishing raw material out of which education may 
develop virtuous dispositions, or contrariwise, as constitut- 
ing forces adverse to this development. It may be well to 
call the former tendencies favourable to virtue, pro-moral, 
those unfavourable, contra-moral. Our inquiry, then, must 
be : In what respects, and to what extent, does the child 
show himself by nature, apart from all that is meant by educa- 
tion, pro-moral or contra-moral, that is, well or ill fitted to 
become a member of a good or virtuous community and to 
exercise what we know as moral functions ? 

Our especial object here will be if possible to get at 
natural dispositions, to examine the child in his primitive 
nakedness, looking out for those instinctive tendencies 
which according to modern science are only a little less 
clearly marked in the young of our own species than in a 
puppy or a chick. 

Now there is clearly a difficulty here. How, it may 
be asked, can we expect to find in a child any traits having 
a moral significance which have not been developed by 


social influences and education ? In the case of pro-moral 
dispositions more particularly, as kindness, or truthfulness, 
we cannot expect to get rid of the effect of the combined 
personal influence and instruction of the mother, which is 
of the essence of all moral training. Even with regard 
to contra-moral traits, as rudeness, or lying, it is evident 
that example is frequently a co-operating influence. 

The difficulty is no doubt a real one, and cannot be 
wholly got rid of. We cannot completely eliminate the 
influence of the common life in which the good and bad 
disposition alike may be said to grow up. Yet we may 
distinguish. Thus we may look out for the earliest spon- 
taneous and what we may call original manifestations of 
such dispositions as affection and truthfulness, so as to 
eliminate the direct action of instruction and example, and 
thus to reduce the influence of the social medium on the child 
to a minimum. Similarly in the case of brutal and other 
unlovely propensities, we may by taking pains get rid of 
the influence of bad example. 

Let us see, then, how far the indictment of the child is 
a just one. Do children tend spontaneously to manifest 
the germs of vicious dispositions, and if so, to what extent ? 
Here, as I have suggested, we must be particularly careful 
not to read wrong interpretations into what we see. It will 
not do, for example, to say that children are born thieves 
because they show themselves at first serenely indifferent 
to the distinction of meum and tuum, and are inclined to 
help themselves to other children's toys, and so forth. To 
repeat, what we have to inquire is whether children by 
their instinctive inclinations are contra-moral, that is, pre- 
disposed to what, if persevered in with reflexion, we call 
immorality or vice. 

Here we cannot do better than touch on that group of 
feelings and dispositions which can be best marked off as 
anti-social since they tend to the injury of others, such as 
anger, envy, and cruelty. 


The most distant acquaintance with the first years of 
human life tells us that young children have much in common 
with the lower animals. Their characteristic passions and im- 
pulses are centred in self and the satisfaction of its wants. 
What is better marked, for example, than the boundless 
greed of the child, his keen desire to appropriate and enjoy 
whatever presents itself, and to resent others' participation 
in such enjoyment ? For some time after birth the child 
is little more than an incarnation of appetite which knows 
no restraint, and only yields to the undermining force of 

The child's entrance into social life through a growing 
consciousness of the existence of others is marked by much 
fierce opposition to their wishes. His greed, which at the 
outset was but the expression of a vigorous nutritive 
impulse, now takes on more of a contra-moral aspect. The 
removal of the feeding-bottle before full satisfaction has 
been attained is, as we know, the occasion for one of the 
most impressive utterances of the baby's ' will to live,' and 
of its resentment of all human checks to its native impulses. 
In this outburst we have the first rude germ of that defiance 
of control and of authority of which I shall have to say 
more by-and-by. 

In another way, too, the expansion of the infant's con- 
sciousness through the recognition of others widens the 
terrain of greedy impulse. For ugly envy commonly has 
its rise in the perception of another child's consumption of 
appetite's dainties. 

Here, it is evident, we are still at the level of the animal. 
A dog is passionately greedy like the child, will fiercely 
resent any interference with the satisfaction of its appetite, 
and will be envious of another and more fortunately placed 

Much the same concern for self and opposition to others' 
having what the child himself desires shows itself in the 
matter of toys and other possessions of interest. A child 


is apt not only to make free with another child's toys, but 
to show the strongest objection to any imitation of this 
freedom, often displaying a dog-in-the-manger spirit by 
refusing to lend what he himself does not want. Not only 
so, he will be apt to resent another child's having toys of 
his own. This envy of other children's possessions is often 
wide and profound. 

As the social interests come into play so far as to make 
caresses and other signs of affection sources of pleasure to 
the child, the field for envy and its ' green-eyed ' offspring, 
jealousy, is still more enlarged. As is well known, an in- 
fant will greatly resent the mother's taking another child 
into her arms. 

Here, again, we are at the level of the lower animals. 
They, too, as our dogs and cats can show us, can be envious 
not only in the matter of eatables, but in that of human 
caressings, and even of possessions witness the behaviour 
of two dogs when a stick is thrown into the water. 

Full illustrations of these traits of the first years of child- 
hood are not needed. We all know them. M. Perez and 
others have culled a sufficient collection of examples. 1 

Out of all this unrestrained pushing of appetite and 
desire whereby the child comes into rude collision with 
others' wants, wishes and purposes, there issue the well- 
known passionateness, the angry outbursts, and the fierce 
quarrellings of the child. These fits of angry passion or 
temper are among the most curious manifestations of child- 
hood, and deserve to be studied with much greater care 
than they have yet received. 

The outburst of rage as the imperious little will feels 
itself suddenly pulled up has in spite of its comicality 
something impressive. Hitting out right and left, throwing 
things down on the floor and breaking them, howling, wild 
agitated movements of the arms and whole body, these 

J See for example Perez, The First Three Years of Childhood, p. 66 
ff. ; and L* Education des le berceau, chap. vi. 


are the outward vents which the gust of childish fury is 
apt to take. Preyer observed one of these violent explosions 
in the seventeenth month. The outburst tends to concen- 
trate itself in an attack on the offender, be this even the be- 
loved mamma herself. Darwin's boy at the age of two years 
three months became a great adept at throwing books, sticks, 
etc., at any one who offended him. 1 But almost anything will 
do as an object of attack. A child of four on being crossed 
would bang his chair, and then proceed to vent his dis- 
pleasure on his unoffending toy lion, banging him, jumping 
on him, and, as anti-climax, threatening him with the loss 
of his dinner. Hitting is in some cases improved upon by 
biting. The boy C. was for some time vigorously mordant 
in his angry fits. Another little boy would, under similar 
circumstances, bite the carpet. 

Here we have expressive movements which are plainly 
brutal, which assimilate the aspect of an angry child to 
that of an infuriated animal. The whole outward attitude 
is one of fierce reckless assault. The insane, we are told, 
manifest a like wildness of attack in fits of anger, smashing 
windows, etc., and striking anybody who happens to be at 

Yet there are other characteristics of this childish anger. 
It has its wretched aspect There is keen suffering in these 
early experiences of thwarted will and purpose. A little 
boy, rather more than a year old, used when crossed to 
throw himself on the floor and bang the back of his head ; 
and his brother, when fourteen months old, would similarly 
throw himself on the floor, bang the back of his head, biting 
the carpet as before mentioned. This act of throwing one- 
self on the floor, which is common about this age and 
is apparently quite instinctive, is the expression of the utter 
dejection of misery. C.'s attitude when crossed, gathered 

1 Darwin notes that all his boys did this kind of thing, whereas 
his girls did not (Mind, ii., p. 288). My own observations agree with 
this. A small boy has more of savage attack than a small girl. 


into a heap on the floor, was eloquent of this infantile 
despair. Such suffering is the immediate outcome of 
thwarted purpose, and must be distinguished from the 
moral feeling of shame which often accompanies it. 

Such stormy outbursts vary no doubt from child to 
child. Thus C.'s sister in her angry moments did not bite 
or roll on the floor, but would dance about and stamp. 
Some children show little if anything of this savage furious- 
ness. Among those that do show it, it is often a temporary 
phenomenon only. 

This anger, it is to be noted, is due to check, and would 
show itself to some extent even if there were no inter- 
vention of authority. Thus a child will become angry, 
resentful, and despairingly miserable if another child gets 
effective hold of something which he wants to have. Yet it 
is undoubtedly true, as we shall see, that these little storms 
are most frequently called up by the imposition of authority, 
and are a manifestation of what we call a defiant attitude. 

This slight examination may suffice to show that with 
the child self, its appetites, its satisfactions, are the centre of 
its existence, the pivot on which its action turns. I do not 
forget the real and striking differences here, the specially 
brutal form of boys' anger as compared with that of girls, 
the partial atrophy of some of these impulses, e.g., jealousy, 
in the more gentle and affectionate type of child. Yet 
there seems to be little doubt that these are among the 
commonest and most pronounced characteristics of the first 

Evolution will, no doubt, help us to understand much of 
this. If the order of development of the individual follows 
and summarises that of the race, we should expect the 
child to show a germ at least of the passionateness, the 
quarrelsomeness of the brute and of the savage before he 
shows the moral qualities distinctive of civilised man. That 
he often shows so close a resemblance to the savage and to 
the brute suggests how little ages of civilised life with its 



suppression of these furious impulses have done to tone 
down the ancient and carefully transmitted instincts. The 
child at birth, and for a long while after, may then be said 
to be the representative of wild untamed nature, which it is 
for education to subdue and fashion into something higher 
and better. 

At the same time the child is more than this. In this 
first clash of his will with another's he knows more than 
the brute's sensual fury. He suffers consciously, he realises 
himself in his antagonism to a world outside him. It is 
probable, as I have pointed out before, that even a physical 
check bringing pain, as when the child runs his head 
against a wall, may develop this consciousness of self in 
its antagonism to a not-self. This consciousness reaches 
a higher phase when the opposing force is distinctly ap- 
prehended as another will. Self- feeling, a germ of the feeling 
of ' my worth,' enters into this early passionateness and 
differentiates it from a mere animal rage. The absolute 
prostration of infantile anger seems to be the expression 
of this keen consciousness of rebuff, of injury. 

While, then, these outbursts of savage instinct in 
children are no doubt ugly, and in their direction contra- 
moral, they must not hastily be pronounced wholly bad 
and wicked. To call them wicked in the full sense of that 
term is indeed to forget that they are the swift reactions of 
instinct which have in them nothing of reflexion or of 
deliberation. The angry child venting his spite in some 
wild act of violence is a long way from a man who know- 
ingly and with the consent of his will retaliates and hates. 
The very fleeting character of the outbreak, the rapid sub- 
sidence of passion and transition to another mood, show 
that there is here no real malice prepense. These instincts 
will, no doubt, if they are not tamed, develop later on into 
truly wicked dispositions ; yet it is by no means a small 
matter to recognise that they do not amount to full moral 


On the other hand, we have seen that we do not render 
complete justice to these early manifestations of angry 
passion if we class them with those of the brute. The child 
in these first years, though not yet human in the sense of 
having rational insight into his wrong-doing, is human in 
the sense of suffering through consciousness of an injured 
self. This reflective element is not yet moral ; the sense 
of injury may turn by-and-by into lasting hatred. Yet it 
holds within itself possibilities of something higher. But 
of this more when we come to envisage the child in his 
relation to authority. 

The same predominance of self, the same kinship with 
the unsocial brute which shows itself in these germinal 
animosities, is said to reappear in the insensibility or un- 
feelingness of children. The commonest charge against 
children from those who are not on intimate terms with 
them, and sometimes, alas, from those who are, is that they 
are heartless and cruel. 

That children often appear to the adult as unfeeling 
as a stone, is, I suppose, incontestable. The troubles 
which harass and oppress the mother leave her small 
companion quite unconcerned. He either goes on play- 
ing with undisturbed cheerfulness, or he betrays a mo- 
mentary curiosity about some circumstance connected 
with the affliction which is worse than the absorption in 
play through its tantalising want of any genuine feeling. 
A brother or a sister may be ill, but if the vigorous little 
player is affected at all, it is only through the loss of his 
companion, if this is not more than made up for by certain 
advantages of the solitary situation. If the mother is ill, 
the event is interesting merely as supplying him with 
new treats. A little boy of four, after spending half an 
hour in his mother's sick-room, coolly informed his nurse : 
* I have had a very nice time, mamma's ill ! ' The order of 
the two statements is significant of the child's mental 
attitude towards others' sufferings. If his faithful nurse 



has her face bandaged, his interest in her torments does not go 
beyond a remark on the ' funniness ' of her new appearance. 

When it comes to the bigger human troubles this want 
of fellow-feeling is still more noticeable. Nothing is more 
shocking to the adult observer of children than their 
coldness and stolidity in presence of death. While a 
whole house is stricken with grief at the loss of a beloved 
inmate the child is wont to preserve his serenity, being 
affected at most by a feeling of awe before a great mystery. 
Even the sight of the dead body does not always excite 
grief. Mrs. Burnett in her interesting reminiscences of 
childhood has an excellent account of the feelings of a 
sensitive and refined child when first brought face to face 
with death. In one case she was taken with fearsome 
longing to touch the dead body, so as to know what 
'as cold as death' meant, in another, that of a pretty girl of 
three with golden brown eyes and neat small brown curls, 
she was impressed by the loveliness of the whole scene, 
the nursery bedroom being hung with white and adorned 
with white flowers. In neither case was she sorry, and could 
not cry though she had imagined beforehand that she would. 1 
Even in this case, then, where so much feeling was called 
forth, commiseration for the dead companion seems to 
have been almost wholly wanting. 2 

No one, I think, will doubt that judged by our standards 
children are often profoundly and shockingly callous. But 
the question arises here, too, whether we are right in 
applying our grown-up standards. It is one thing to be 
indifferent with full knowledge of suffering, another to be 
indifferent in the sense in which a cat might be said to 
be so at the spectacle of your falling or burning your 
finger. We are apt to assume that children know our 
sufferings instinctively, or at least that they can always 
enter into them when they are openly expressed. But this 

1 The One I Knew Best, chap. x. 

2 Cf. Paola Lombroso, p. cit., p. 84 f. 


assumption is highly unreasonable. A large part of the 
manifestation of human suffering is unintelligible to a 
little child. He is oppressed neither by our anxieties nor 
by our griefs, just because these are to a large extent 
beyond his sympathetic comprehension. 

We must remember, too, that there are moods and 
attitudes of mind favourable and unfavourable to sym- 
pathy. None of us are uniformly and consistently com- 
passionate, and children are frequently the subject of 
moods which exclude the feeling. They are impelled by 
their superabundant nervous energy to wild romping 
activity, they are passionately absorbed in their play, 
they are intensely curious about the many new things 
they see and hear of. These dominant impulses issue in 
mental attitudes which are indifferent to the spectacle of 
others' troubles. 

Again, where an appeal to serious attention is given, a 
child is apt to spy something besides the sadness. The 
little girl already spoken of saw the prettiness of the death- 
room rather than its mournfulness. A teacher once told 
her class of the death of a class-mate. There was of course 
a strange stillness, which one little girl presently broke 
with a loud laugh. The child is said to have been by no 
means unemotional, and the laugh not a ' nervous ' one. 
The odd situation the sudden hush of a class had affected 
childish sensibilities more than the distressing announcement. 

One other remark by way of saving clause here. It is 
by no means true that children are always unaffected by 
the sad and sorrowful things in life. The first acquaintance 
with death, as we know from a number of published reminis- 
cences, has sometimes shaken a child's whole being with 
an infinite, nameless sense of woe. 1 

1 See, for example, the record of the impression produced by a 
parent's death left by Steele in the Tatler, and George Sand in 
her autobiography. No doubt, as Tolstoi's reminiscences tell us, 
a good deal of straining after emotion and vain affectation may 
mingle with such childish sorrow. 


Children, says the misopaedist, are not only unfeeling 
where we look for sympathy and kindness, they are posi- 
tively unkind, their unkindness amounting to cruelty. What 
we mean by the brute in the child is emphatically this 
cruelty. By cruelty is here understood cold-blooded in- 
fliction of pain. " Get age," wrote La Fontaine of child- 
hood, "est sans pitie." The idea that children, especially 
boys, are cruel in this sense is, I think, a common one. 

This cruelty will now and again show itself in relation 
to other children. One of the trying situations of early 
life is to find oneself supplanted by the arrival of a new 
baby. Children, I have reason to think, are, in such cir- 
cumstances, capable of coming shockingly near to a feeling 
of hatred. I have heard of one little girl who was taken 
with so violent an antipathy to a baby which she considered 
outrageously ugly as to make attempts to smash its head, 
much as she would no doubt have tried to destroy a doll 
which had become unsightly to her. The baby, it is com- 
forting to know, was not really hurt by this precocious 
explosion of infanticidal impulse perhaps the smashing 
was more than half a "pretence" and the little girl has 
since grown up to be a kind-hearted woman. 

Such cruel-looking handling of smaller infants is pro- 
bably rare. More common is the exhibition of the signs 
of cruelty in the child's dealings with animals. It is of 
this, indeed, that we mostly think when we speak of a 
child's cruelty. 

At first nothing seems clearer than the evidence of 
malicious intention in a child's treatment of animals. The 
little girl M. when just a year old would lift two kittens by 
the neck and try to stamp on them. The little girl described 
by Miss Shinn would when two years old run up to a dog 
and jerk his ear till he snapped at her, and, as related above, 
once thrust her hand into a bush to seize pussy, mind- 
ing not the scratches. 1 Do we not see in this mauling of 
1 Notes on the Development of a Child, pt. ii., p. 149 f. 


animals, even when it brings the child himself pain, evi- 
dences of a rooted determination to plague, and of a fierce 
delight in plaguing ? 

The question of the innermost nature of human cruelty 
is too difficult a one to be discussed here. I will only say 
that whatever the cruelty of adults may be children's so- 
called cruelty towards animals is very far from being a 
pure delight in the sight of suffering. The torments to 
which a child will subject a long-suffering cat are, I sus- 
pect, due not to a clear intention to inflict pain, but to the 
childish impulse to hold, possess, and completely dominate 
the pet animal. He feels he must have the pet, no matter 
at what cost to himself: of the cost to his victim he does 
not think. The stamping on the kittens was perhaps 
merely a childish way of holding them fast. Such actions 
are a manifestation of that odd mixture of sociability and 
love of power which makes up a child's attachment to the 
lower animals. 

The case of destructive cruelty, as when a small boy 
crushes a fly, is somewhat different. Let me give a well- 
observed instance. A little boy of two years and two 
months, " after nearly killing a fly on the window-pane, 
seemed surprised and disturbed, looking round for an ex- 
planation, then gave it himself: 'Mr. Fy dom (gone) to 
by-by '. But he would not touch it or another fly again 
a doubt evidently remained and he continued uneasy about 
it." Here we have, I think, the instinctive attitude of a 
child towards the outcome of his destructive impulse. 
This impulse, which, as we know, becomes more clearly 
destructive when experience has taught what result will 
follow, is not necessarily cruel in the sense of including an 
idea of the animal's suffering. Animal movement, especially 
that of tiny things, has something exciting and provoking 
about it. The child's own activity and the love of power 
which is bound up with it impel him to arrest the move- 
ments of small manageable things. This is the meaning, 


1 suspect, of the fascination of the fly on the window-pane, 
and of tiny creeping things, and especially, perhaps, of the 
worm with its tangle of wriggling movement. The cat's 
prolonged chase of the mouse, into which, as we have seen, 
something of a dramatic make-believe enters, probably 
owes its zest to a like delight in the realisation of power. 

Along with this love of power there goes often some- 
thing of a child's fierce untamable curiosity. A boy of 
four, finding that his mother was shocked at hearing him 
express a wish to see a pigeon which a dog had just killed, 
remarked : ' Is it rude to look at a dead pigeon ? I want 
to see where its blood is.' I am disposed to think that 
the crushing of flies and moths and the pulling of worms 
to pieces and so forth are prompted by this curiosity. The 
child wants to see where the blood is, what the bones are 
like, how the wings are fastened in, and so forth. Perez 
tells of a little boy, afterwards an artist, who used to 
crush flies between the leaves of a book for the sake of the 
odd designs resulting. 1 By such various lines of concen- 
trated activity does the child-mind overlook the suffering 
which it causes. 

A like combination of love of power and of curiosity 
seems to underlie other directions of childish destructive- 
ness, as the breaking of toys and the pulling of flowers to 
pieces. In certain cases, as in C.'s annihilation of a garden 
of peonies, the love of power or effect may overtop and 
outlive the curiosity, becoming a sort of iconoclastic fury. 2 

I think, then, that we may give the little child the benefit 
of the doubt, and not assign his rough handling of sentient 
things to a wish to inflict pain, or even to an indifference 

1 VArt et la Poesie chez V Enfant, p. 60. 

2 Ruskin tells us that when a child he pulled flowers to pieces ' in 
no morbid curiosity, but in admiring wonder' (Prceterita, 88). Goethe 
gives an amusing account of his wholesale throwing of crockery out 
of the window inspired by the delight of watching the droll way in 
which it was smashed on the pavement. 



to pain of which he is clearly aware. Wanton activity, the 
curiosity of the experimenter, and delight in showing one's 
power and producing an effect, seem sufficient to explain 
most of the alleged brutality of the first years. 

Probably the same considerations apply to those milder 
forms of annoyance which children are apt to practise on 
other people and animals alike. That a child early develops 
a decided taste for 'teasing' is, I think, certain. But 
whether carried out by word or by action this early teasing 
seems to be in the main the outcome of the love of power, 
the impulse to impose one's will on other creatures. We 
must remember that these wee beings feel themselves so 
subject to others' power that they are very naturally driven 
to use all opportunities of shaking off the shackles, and 
.exercising for themselves a little domination. Cruelty, that 
is the impulse to inflict pain, where it appears, grows up 
later, and though it has its roots in this love of power ought 
to be distinguished from it. 

We have now looked at one of the dark sides of the 
child and have found that though it is unpleasant it is not 
so hideous as it has been painted. Children are no doubt 
apt to be passionate, ferocious in their anger, and sadly 
wanting in consideration for others ; yet it is consolatory 
to reflect that their savageness is not quite that of brutes, 
and that their selfishness and cruelty are a long way re- 
moved from a deliberate and calculating egoism. 

Germs of Altruism. 

It now remains to point out that there is another and 
counterbalancing side. If a child has his outbursts of 
temper he has also his fits of tenderness. If he is now dead 
to others' sufferings he is at another time taken with a most 
amiable childish concern for their happiness. In order to 
be just to him we must recognise both sides. 

It must not be forgotten here that children are instinc- 
tively attachable and sociable in so far as they show in the 


first weeks that they get used to and dependent on the 
human presence and are miserable when this is taken from 
them. The stopping of an infant's crying at night on hear- 
ing the familiar voice of its mother or nurse shows this. 

In this instinct of companionship there is involved a 
vague inarticulate sympathy. Just as the attached dog 
may be said to have in a dim fashion a feeling of oneness 
with its master, so the child. The intenser realisation of 
this oneness comes in the case of the dog and of the child 
alike after separation. The wild caressing leaps of the 
quadruped are matched by the warm embracings of the 
little biped. Only that here, too, we see in the child traces 
of a deeper human consciousness. A girl of thirteen 
months was separated from her mother during six weeks. 
On the mother's return she was speechless, and for some 
time could not bear to leave her restored companion for a 
minute. The little girl M. when nearly seventeen months old 
received her father after only five days' absence with special 
marks of tenderness, rushing up to him, smoothing and 
stroking his face and giving him all the toys in the room. 

This sense of joining on one's existence to another's 
is not sympathy in its highest form, that is, a conscious 
realisation of another's feelings, but it is a kind of sympathy 
after all, and may grow into something better. This we 
may see in the return of the childish heart to its resting 
place after the estrangement occasioned by ' naughtiness ' 
The relenting after passion, the reconciliation after punish- 
ment, are these not the experiences which help to raise the 
dumb animal sympathy of the first months into a true 
human sense of fellowship ? But this part of the develop- 
ment of sympathy belongs to another chapter. 

Sympathy, it has been said, is a kind of imitation, and 
this is strikingly illustrated in its early forms. A dog will 
howl piteously in response to another dog's howl : similarly 
a child of nine and a half months has been known to cry 
violently when his mother or father pretended to cry. 


One curious manifestation of this early imitative sym- 
pathy is the impulse to do what the mother does and to 
be what she is. Much of early imitative play shows this 
tendency. It is more than a cold distant copying of 
another's doings : it is full of the warmth of attachment, 
and it is entered on as a way of getting nearer to the object 
of attachment. Out of this, too, there springs the germ of 
a higher sympathy. It will be remembered that Laura 
Bridgman bound the eyes of her doll with a bandage 
similar to the one she herself wore. Through this sharing 
in her own experience the doll became more a part of 
herself. Conversely, a child, on finding that her mother's 
head ached, began imitatively to make-believe that her own 
head was hurt. Sympathy rests on community of experience, 
and it is a curious fact that a child, before he can fully 
sympathise with another's trouble and make it his own by 
the sympathetic process itself, should thus try by a kind of 
childish acting to realise this community of experience. 

From this imitative acting of another's trouble, so as 
co share in it, there is but a step to a direct sympathetic 
apprehension of it. How early a genuine manifestation of 
concern about another's suffering begins to show itself it is 
almost impossible to say. Children probably differ greatly 
in this respect. I have, however, one case which is so 
curious that I cannot forbear to quote it. It reaches me, I 
may say, by a thoroughly trustworthy channel. 

A baby aged one year and two months was crawling 
on the floor. An elder sister, Katherine, aged six, who 
was working at a wool mat could not get on very well 
and began to cry. Baby looked up and grunted, ' on ! on ! * 
and kept drawing its fingers down its own cheeks. Here 
the aunt called Miss Katherine's attention to baby, a 
device which merely caused a fresh outburst of tears ; 
whereupon baby proceeded to hitch itself along to 
Katherine with many repetitions of the grunts and the 
mimetic finger-movements. Katherine, fairly overcome 


by this, took baby to her and smiled ; at which baby 
began to clap its hands and to crow, tracing this time 
the course of the tears down its sister's cheeks. 

This pretty nursery-picture certainly seems to illustrate 
a rudiment of genuine fellow-feeling. Similarly it is hard 
not to recognise the signs of a sincere concern when a child 
of two runs spontaneously and kisses the place that is hurt, 
even though it is not to be doubted that the graceful action 
has been learnt through imitation. 

Very sweet and sacred to the mother are the first clear 
indications of the child's concern for herself. These are 
sporadic, springing up rarely, and sometimes, as it looks 
to us, capriciously. A temporary removal due to illness is 
a common occasion for the appearance of a deeper tender- 
ness in the young heart. A little boy of three spon- 
taneously brought his story-book to his mother when she 
lay in bed ill ; and the same child used to follow her about 
after her recovery with all the devotion of a little knight. 

Valuable and entertaining, too, are the first attempts of 
the child at consolation. A little German girl aged two 
and a half who had just lost her brother seemed very 
indifferent for some days. She then began to reflect and to 
ask about her playmate. On seeing her mother's distress 
she proceeded in truly childish fashion to comfort her ; 
* Never mind, mamma, you will get a better boy. He 
was a ragamuffin ' (' Er war ein Lump '). The co-existence 
of an almost barbarous indifference for the dead brother 
with practical sympathy for the living mother is character- 
istic here. 1 

A deeper and more thoughtful sympathy comes with 
years and reflective power. Thought about the overhanging 
terror, death, is sometimes the awakener of this. * Are you 
old, mother ? ' asked a boy of five. * Why ? ' she answered. 
4 Because,' he continued, ' the older you are the nearer you 

X A pretty example of such childish consolation is given by P. 
Lombroso, op. cit., p. 94. 


are to dying.' This child had once before said he hoped 
his mother would not die before him, and this suggests that 
thought of his own forlorn condition was in his mind here : 
yet we may hope that there was something of disinterested 
concern too. 1 

This early consideration frequently takes the practical 
form of helpfulness. A child loves nothing better than to 
assist you in little household occupations ; and though love 
of activity and the pleasure of imitating no doubt count for 
much in these cases, we can, I think, safely set down some- 
thing to the wish to be of use. This inference seems 
justified by the fact that such practical helpfulness is not 
always imitative. A little boy of two years and one month 
happened to overhear his nurse say to herself : ' I wish that 
Anne would remember to fill the nursery boiler'. ''He 
listened, and presently trotted off; found the said Anne 
doing a distant grate, pulled her by the apron, saying: 
' Nanna, Nanna ! ' (come to nurse). She followed, sur- 
prised and puzzled, the child pulling all the way, till, having 
got her into the nursery, he pointed to the boiler, and 
added : ' Go dare, go dare,' so that the girl comprehended 
and did as he bade her." 

With this practical 'utilitarian' sympathy there goes 
a quite charming wish to give pleasure in other ways. A 
little girl when just a year old was given to offering her 
toys, flowers, and other pretty things to everybody. Gene- 
rosity is as truly an impulse of childhood as greediness, and 
it is odd to observe their alternate play. At an early age, 
too, a child tries to make himself agreeable by pretty and 
dainty courtesies. A little girl, aged three and a quarter, 
petitioned her mother this wise : ' Please, mamma, will you 
pin this with the greatest pleasure?' Regard for another's 
feelings was surely never more charmingly expressed than 
in the prayer that in rendering this little service the helper 
should not only be willing, but glad. 

1 Cf. P. Lombroso, op. cit., p. 87. 


Just as there are these sporadic growths of affectionate 
concern and wish to please in relation to the mother and 
others, so there is ample evidence of kindness to animals. 
The charge of cruelty in the case of little children is, indeed, 
seen to be a gross libel as soon as we consider their whole 
behaviour towards the animal world. 

I have touched above on the vague alarms which this 
animal world has for tiny children. It is only fair to 
them to say that these alarms are for the most part 
transitory, giving place to interest, attachment and fellow- 
feeling. In a sense a child may be said to belong to the 
animal community, as Mr. Rudyard Kipling's charming 
account of the Jungle prettily suggests. Has he not, 
indeed, at first more in common with the dog and cat, the 
pet rabbit or dormouse, than with that grown-up human 
community which is apt to be so preoccupied with things 
beyond his understanding, and in many cases, at least, to 
wear so unfriendly a mien ? We must remember, too, that 
children as a rule know nothing of the prejudices, of the 
disgusts, which make grown people put animals so far 
from them. The boy C. was nonplussed by his mother's 
horror of the caterpillar. A child has been known quite 
spontaneously to call a worm ' beautiful '. 

As soon as the first fear of the strangeness is mastered 
a child will take to an animal. A little boy of fifteen 
months quickly overcame his fright at the barking of his 
grandfather's dog, and began to share his biscuits with him, 
to give him flowers to smell, and to throw stones for his 
amusement. This mastery of fear by attachment takes a 
higher form when later on the child will stick to his dumb 
companion after suffering from his occasional fits of temper. 
Ruskin in his reminiscences gives a striking example of this 
triumph of attachment over fear. When five years old, he 
tells us, he was taken by the serving-man to see a favourite 
Newfoundland dog in the stable. The man rather foolishly 
humoured the child's wish to kiss Leo (the dog) and lowered 


him so that his face came near the animal's. Hereupon the 
dog, who was dining, resenting the interruption of his meal, 
bit out a piece of the boy's lip. His only fear after this was 
lest the dog should be sent away. 1 

Children will further at a quite early age betray the 
germ of a truly humane feeling towards animals. The same 
little boy that bravely got over his fear of the dog's barking 
would, when nineteen months old, begin to cry on seeing a 
horse fall in the street. More passionate outbursts of pity 
are seen at a later age. A boy five years and nine months 
had a kitten of which he was very fond. One day, after 
two or three days' absence from the house, it came back with 
one foot much mutilated and the leg swollen, evidently not 
far from dying. "When (writes the mother) he saw it he 
burst into uncontrollable tears and was more affected than 
I have ever seen him. The kitten was taken away and 
drowned, and ever since (a month) he has shown great 
reluctance in speaking of it, and never mentions it to any 
one but those who saw the cat at the time. He says it is 
too sad to tell any one of it." The boy C. when only four 
was moved to passionate grief at the sight of a dead dog 
taken from a pond. 

The indignation of children at the doings of the butcher, 
the hunter and others, shows how deeply pitiful considera- 
tion for animals is rooted in their hearts. This is one of 
the most striking manifestations of the better side of child- 
nature and deserves a chapter to itself. 

It is sometimes asked why children should take animals 
to their bosoms in this fashion and lavish so much fellow- 
feeling on them. It seems easy to understand how they 
come to choose animals, especially young ones, as play- 
mates, and now and again to be ruthlessly inconsiderate of 
their comfort in their boisterous gambols ; but why should 
they be so affected by their sufferings and champion their 
rights so sturdily? I think the answer is not hard to find. 
1 Prcetcrita^ pp. 105-6. 



The sympathy and love which the child gives to animals 
grow out of a sort of blind gregarious instinct, and this 
again seems to be rooted in a similarity of position and 
needs. As M. Compayre well says on this point : " He (the 
child) sympathises naturally with creatures which resemble 
him on so many sides, in which he finds wants analogous 
to his own, the same appetite, the same impulses to move- 
ment, the same desire for caresses. To resemble is already 
to love." 1 I think, however, that a deeper feeling comes in 
from the first and gathers strength as the child hears about 
men's treatment of animals, I mean a sense of a common 
danger and helplessness face to face with the human ' giant '. 
The more passionate attachment of the child to the animal 
is the outcome of the wide-spread instinct of helpless things 
to band together. A mother once remarked to her boy, 
between five and six years old : ' Why, R., I believe you are 
kinder to the animals than to me'. 'Perhaps I am,' he 
replied, ' you see they are not so well off as you are.' May 
there not be something of this sense of banding and mutual 
defence on the animals'* side too ? The idea does not look so 
absurd when we remember how responsive, how forbearing 
Tiow ready to defend, a dog will often show itself towards 
.a 'wee mite' of a child. This same instinct to stand up 
for the helpless inferior shows itself in children's attitude 
towards servants when scolded and especially when dis- 
missed. 2 

The same outpourings of affection are seen in the 
dealings of children with their toy babies and animals. 
Allowing for occasional outbreaks of temper and acts of 
violence, the child's intercourse with his doll and his toy 
* g ee S ee ' ls a wonderful display of loving solicitude ; a 
solicitude which is at once tender and corrective, and has 
the enduring constancy of a maternal instinct. No one 
can watch the care given to a doll, the wide-ranging efforts 

1 Op. tit., p. 1 08. 

2 Illustrations are given by Paola Lombroso, op. cit., p. 96 f. 


to provide for its comfort, to make it look pretty, arid 
to get it to behave nicely, and note the misery when it 
is missing, without acknowledging that in this plaything 
humanised by childish fancy, and brought by daily habit 
into the warmest intimacy of daily companionship, we have 
the focal meeting-point of the tender impulses of the child. 
Lastly, the reader may be reminded that childish kind- 
ness and pitifulness extend to what look to us still less 
deserving objects in the inanimate world. The manifesta- 
tions of pity for the falling leaves and for the stones con- 
demned to lie always in one place, referred to above, show 
how quick childish feeling is to detect what is sad in the 
look of things. Children have even been known to apply 
the commiserating vocable ' poor ' to a torn paper figure, 
and to a bent pin. It seems fair to suppose that here r 
too, the more tender heart of the child saw occasion for 

it is worth noting that childish sorrow at the sufferings 
of things is sometimes so keen, that even artistic descrip- 
tions which contain a ' cruel ' element are shunned. A 
little boy under four "is indignant (writes his mother) at 
any picture where an animal suffers. He has even turned 
against several of his favourite pictures German Bilder- 
bogen, because they are 'cruel,' as the bear led home with 
a corkscrew in his nose." The extreme manifestation of 
this shrinking from the representation of animal or human 
suffering is dislike for ' sad stories '. The unsophisticated 
tender heart of the child can find no pleasure in horrors 
which appear to be the supreme delight of many an adult 

Here, however, it is evident, we verge on the confines 
of sentimental pity. It is to be remarked that highly 
imaginative children shed most tears over these fictitious 
sufferings. Children with more matter-of-fact minds and 
a practical turn are not so affected. Thus a mother writes 
of her two girls : ' M. being the most imaginative is and 


always has been much affected by sad stories, especially 
if read to her with dramatic inflexions of voice. From two- 
years old upwards these have always affected her to tears, 
whilst P. who is really the most tender-hearted and helpful, 
but has little imagination, never cries at sad stories, and 
when four years old explained to me that she did not 
mind them because she knew they didn't really happen.' 

It appears to me to be incontestable that in this spon- 
taneous outgoing of fellow-feeling towards other creatures, 
human and animal, the child manifests something of a 
truly moral quality. C.'s stout and persistent champion- 
ship of the London horses against the oppression of the 
bearing-rein had in it something of righteous indignation. 
The way in which his mind was at this period pre-occupied 
with animal suffering suggests that his sympathies with 
animals were rousing the first fierce protest against the 
wicked injustice of the world. The boy De Quincey got 
this first sense of the existence of moral evil in another 
way through his sympathy with a sister who, rumour said, 
had been brutally treated by a servant. He could not, he- 
tells us, bear to look on the woman. It was not anger. 
" The feeling which fell upon me was a shuddering horror 
as upon a first glimpse of the truth that I was in a world, 
of evil and strife." x 

CJiildreris Lies. 

We may now turn to the other main charge against 
children, that of lying. According to many, children are 
in general accomplished little liars, to the manner born* 
and equally adept with the mendacious savage. Even 
writers on childhood, by no means prejudiced against them, 
lean to the view that untruth is universal among children,, 
and to some extent at least innate. 2 

1 Autobiographical Sketches, chap. i. 

2 See the quotations from Montaigne and Perez, given by Com- 
payre, op. cit., p. 309 f. 


Here, surely, there is need of discrimination. A lie 
'Connotes, or should connote, an assertion made with full 
consciousness of its untruth, and in order to mislead. It 
may well be doubted whether little children have so clear 
an apprehension of what we understand by truth and 
falsity as to be liars in this full sense. Much of what 
seems shocking to the adult unable to place himself at 
the level of childish intelligence and feeling will probably 
prove to be something far less serious. It is satisfactory 
to note a tendency to take a milder and more reasonable 
view of this infantile fibbing ; and in what follows I can 
but follow up the excellent recent studies of Dr. Stanley 
Hall, and M. Compayre. 1 

It is desirable to inspect a little more closely the 
various forms of this early mendacity. To begin with 
those little ruses and dissimulations which, according to 
M. Perez, are apt to appear almost from the cradle in the 
case of certain children, it is plainly difficult to bring them 
into the category of full-fledged lies. When, for example, 
a child wishing to keep a thing hides it, and on your 
asking for it holds out empty hands, it would be hard to 
name this action a lie, even though there is in it a germ 
of deception. We must remember that children have an 
early developed instinct to secrete things, and the little 
dissimulation in these actions may be a mere outcome 
of this hiding propensity, and the accompanying wish that 
you should not get the hidden thing. Refusals to tell 
secrets, or as C. called them ' private secrets ' (a fine dis- 
tinction), show the same thing. A child when badgered 
is most jealous in guarding what he has been told, or what 
his fancy has made a secret. The little ruses or 'acted lies' 
to which I am now referring seem at the worst to be 
attempts to put you off the scent in what is regarded as a 
private matter, and to have the minimum of intentional 

j Stanley Hall, " Children's Lies," Amer. Journal of Psychology, 
1890 ; Compayre, op. cit., p. 309 ff. 



deception. As Mrs. Fry has well shown, this childish 
passion for keeping things secret may account for later 
and more serious-looking falsehoods. 1 

More distinct marks of mendacity appear when the 
child comes to use language and proffers statements which 
if he reflected he might know to be false. It may readily be 
thought that no child who has the intelligence to make 
statements at all could make false ones without some little 
consciousness of the falsity. But here I suspect we judge 
harshly, applying adult tests to cases where they are inap- 
propriate. Anybody who has observed children's play and 
dramatic talk, and knows how readily and completely they 
can imagine the non-existent so as to lose sight of the 
existent, will be chary, when talking of them, of using the 
word lie. There may be solemn sticklers for truth who 
would be shocked to hear the child when at play saying,. 
'I am a coachman,' 'Dolly is crying/ and so forth. But 
the discerning see nothing to be alarmed at here. Similarly 
when a little girl of two and a half after running on- 
with a pretty long rigmarole of sounds devoid of all mean- 
ing said: "It's because you don't understand me, papa". 
Here the love of mystery and secrecy aided by the drama- 
tic impulse made the nonsense talk real talk. The wee 
thing doubtless had a feeling of superiority in talking in a 
language which was unintelligible to her all-wise papa. 

On much the same level of moral obliquity are those 
cases where a child will say the opposite of what he is told, 
turning authoritative utterances upside down. A quaint 
instance is quoted by Compayre from Guyau. Guyau's 
little boy (age not given) was overheard saying to himself: 
" Papa parle mal, il a dit sevette, bebe parle bien, il dit 
serviette". Such reversals are a kind of play too : the child 
not unnaturally gets tired now and then of being told that 
he is wrong, and for the moment imagines himself right 
and his elders wrong, immensely enjoying the idea. 
1 Uninitiated (' A Discovery in Morals '). 


A graver-looking case presents itself when an ' untruth ' 
is uttered in answer to a question. C. on being asked by 
his mother who told him something, answered, ' Dolly '. 
' False, and knowingly false,' somebody will say, especially 
when he learns that the depraved youngster instantly pro- 
ceeded to laugh. But let us look a little closer. The 
question had raised in C.'s small mind the idea that some- 
body had told him. This is a process of 'suggestion' 
which, as we shall see presently, sways a child's mind as it 
sways that of the hypnotised adult. And there close by 
the child was dolly, and the child's make-believe includes, 
as we all know, much important communication with dolly. 
What more natural than that the idea should at once seize 
his imagination? But the laugh? Well I am ready to 
admit that there was a touch of playful defiance here, of 
young impishness. The expression on the mother's face 
showed him that his bold absurd fancy had produced its 
half-startling, half-amusing effect ; and there is nothing 
your little actor likes more than this after-effect of startling 
you. But more, it gave him at the same instant a glimpse 
of the outside look of his fancy, of the unreality of the 
untruth ; and the laugh probably had in it the delight of 
the little rebel, of the naughty rogue who loves now and 
then to set law at defiance. 

A quick vivid fancy, a childish passion for acting a part, 
these backed by a strong impulse to astonish, and a 
turn for playful rebellion, seem to me to account for this 
and other similar varieties of early misstatement. Naughty 
they no doubt are in a measure ; but is it not just that play- 
ing at being naughty which has in it nothing really bad, 
and is removed toto caelo from downright honest lying ? I 
speak the more confidently as to C.'s case as I happen to 
know that he was in his serious moods particularly, one 
might almost say pedantically, truthful. 

A somewhat different case is that where the vivid fancy 
underlying the misstatement may be supposed to lead to a 


measure of self-deception. When, for example, a child 
wants to be carried and says, " My leg hurts me and my 
foot too just here, I can't walk, I can't, I can't," 1 it is 
possible at least that he soon realises the tiredness he 
begins by half feigning. The Worcester collection gives an 
example. " I was giving some cough syrup, and E (aged 
three years two months) ran to me saying : * I am sick too, 
and I want some medicine '. She then tried to cough. 
Every time she would see me taking the syrup bottle 
afterwards, she would begin to cough. The syrup was very 
sweet." This looks simply awful. But what if the child 
were of so imaginative a turn that the sight of the syrup 
given to the sick child produced a more or less complete 
illusion of being herself sick, an illusion strong enough to 
cause the irritation and the cough ? The idea may seem 
far-fetched, but deserves to be considered before we brand 
the child with the name liar. 

The vivid fanciful realisation which in this instance was 
sustained by the love of sweet things is in many cases 
inspired by other and later developed feelings. How much 
false statement and that not only among little children 
is of the nature of exaggeration and directed to producing 
a strong effect. When, for example, the little four-year-old 
draws himself up and shouts exultantly, "See, mamma, how 
tall I am, I am growing so fast, I shall soon be a giant," or 
boasts of his strength and tells you the impossible things he 
is going to do, the element of braggadocio is on the surface, 
and imposes on nobody. 

No doubt these propensities, though not amounting in 
the stage of development now dealt with to full lying, may 
if unrestrained develop into this. An unbridled fancy 
and strong love of effect will lead an older child to say 
what he knows, vaguely at least, at the moment to be 
false in order to startle and mystify others. Such exagge- 
ration of the impulses is distinctly abnormal, as may be 
1 See P. Lombroso, op. cit., p. 74. 


seen by its affinity to what we can observe in the case of 
the insane. The same is true of the exaggeration of the 
vain-glorious or 'showing off' impulses, as illustrated for 
example in the cases mentioned by Dr. Stanley Hall of 
children who on going to a new town or school would 
assume new characters which were kept up with difficulty 
by means of many false pretences. 1 

A fertile source of childish untruth, especially in the 
case of girls, is the wish to please. Here we have to do 
with very dissimilar things. An emotional child who in a 
sudden fit of tenderness for mother, aunt or teacher gushes 
out, ' Oh I do love you,' or ' What sweet lovely eyes youi 
have/ or other pretty flattery, may be sincere for the moment, 
the exaggeration being indeed the outcome of a sudden- 
ebullition of emotion. There is more of acting and artful- 
ness in the flatteries which take their rise in a calculating 
wish to say the nice agreeable thing. Some children are,. 
I believe, adepts at these amenities. Those in whom the 
impulse is strong and dominant are presumably those who- 
in later years make the good society actors. In all this 
childish simulation and exaggeration we have to do with 
the germs of what may become a great moral evil, insincerity, 
that is falsity in respect of what is best and ought to be 
sacred. Yet this childish flattery, though undoubtedly a. 
mild mendacity, is a most amiable mendacity through its 
charming motive always supposing that it is a pure wish 
to please, and is not complicated with an arriere pensce, the- 
hope of gaining some favour from the object of the devotion. 
Perhaps there is no variety of childish fault more difficult 
to deal with ; if only for the reason that in checking the 
impulse we are robbing ourselves of the sweetest offerings 
of childhood. 

The other side of this wish to please is the fear 
to give offence, and this, I suspect, is a fertile source of 
childish prevarication. If, for example, a child is asked 
1 Article " Children's Lies," p. 67. 



whether he does not like or admire something, his feeling 
that the questioner expects him to say ' Yes ' makes it very 
hard to say ' No'. Mrs. Burnett gives us a reminiscence of 
this early experience. When she was less than three, she 
writes, a lady visitor, a friend of her mother, having found 
out that the baby newly added to the family was called 
Edith, remarked to her : ' That's a pretty name. My baby 
is Eleanor. Isn't that a pretty name ? ' On being thus 
questioned she felt in a dreadful difficulty, for she did not 
like the sound of 'Eleanor,' and yet feared to be rude and 
say so. She got out of it by saying she did not like the 
name as well as ' Edith'. 

These temptations and struggles, which may impress 
themselves on memory for the whole of life, illustrate the 
influence of older persons' wishes and expectations on the 
childish mind. It is possible that we have here to do with 
something akin to " suggestion," that force which produces 
such amazing results on the hypnotised subject, and is 
known to be a potent influence for good or for evil on the 
young mind. A leading question of the form, * Isn't this 
pretty? ' ' Aren't you fond of me ? ' may easily overpower 
for a moment the child's own conviction super-imposing 
that of the stronger mind. Such passive utterance coming 
from a mind over-ridden by another's authority is not to be 
confounded with conscious falsehood. 

This suggestion often combines with other forces 
Here is a good example. A little American girl, sent into 
the oak shrubbery to get a leaf, saw a snake, which so 
frightened her that she ran home without the leaf. As 
cruel fate would have it she met her brothers and told 
them she had seen a ' 'sauger '. " They knew (writes the 
lady who recalls this reminiscence of her childhood) the 
difference between snakes and their habits, and, boy-like, 
wanted to tease me, and said "Twas no 'sauger it didn't 
have a red ring round its neck, now, did it ? ' My heated 
imagination saw just such a serpent as soon as their words 



were spoken, and I declared it had a ring about ' its neck '." 
In this way she was led on to say that it had scars and 
a little bell on its neck, and was soundly rated by her 
brothers as a ' liar '. l Here we have a case of " illusion of 
memory" induced by suggestion acting on a mind made 
preternaturally sensitive by the fear from which it had not 
yet recovered. If there was a germ of mendacity in the 
case it had its source in the shrinking from the brothers' 
ridicule, the wish not to seem utterly ignorant about these 
boyish matters, the snakes. Yet who would say that such 
swift unseizable movements of feeling in the dim back- 
ground of consciousness made the child's responses lies in 
the proper sense of the word ? 

It seems paradoxical, yet is, I believe, indisputable, 
that a large part of childish untruth comes upon the scene 
in connexion with moral authority and discipline. We 
shall see by-and-by that unregenerate child-nature is very 
apt to take up the attitude of self-defence towards those 
who administer law and inflict punishment. Very little 
children brought face to face with restraint and punish- 
ment will ' try on ' these ruses. Here are one or two 
illustrations from the notes on the little girl M. When 
seventeen and a half months old she threw down her gloves 
when wheeled in her mail-cart by her mother. The latter 
picked them up and told her not to throw them away again. 
She was at first good, then seemed to deliberate and finally 
called out : ' Mamma, Bubbo ' (dog). The mother turned 
to look, and the little imp threw her gloves away again, 
laughing ; there was of course no dog. The fib about 
the dog formed part of a piece of childish make-believe, of 
an infantile comedy. It was hardly more when about two 
months later, after she had thrown down and broken her 
tea-things, and her mother had come up to her, she said : 
* Mamma broke tea-things beat mamma,' and proceeded 
to beat her. In connexion with such little child-comedies 

1 Sara E. Wiltshire, The Christian Union, vol. xl., No. 26. 


there can be no talk of deception. They are the outcome 
of the childish instinct to upset the serious attitude of 
authority by a bit of fun. 

The little stratagem begins to look more serious when 
the child gets artful enough to put the mother off the scent 
by a false statement. For example, a mite of three having 
in a moment of temper called her mother ' monkey,' and 
being questioned as to what she had said, replied : " I said 
I was a monkey ". In some cases the child does not wait 
to be questioned. A little girl mentioned by Compayre, 
being put out by something the mother had done or said, 
cried : ' Nasty ! ' (Vilaine !) then after a significant silence, 
corrected herself in this wise, ''Dolly nasty' (Poupee 
vilaine). The skill with which this transference was 
effected without any violence to grammar argues a pre- 
cocious art. 1 

Our moral discipline may develop untruth in another 
way. When the punishment has been inflicted and the 
governor, relenting from the brutal harshness, asks : ' Are 
you sorry ? ' or ' Aren't you sorry ? ' the answer is exceed- 
ingly likely to be ' No,' even though this is in a sense untrue. 
More clearly is this lying of obstinacy seen where a child 
is shut up and kept without food. Asked : ' Are you 
hungry ? ' the hardy little sinner stifles his sensations and 
pluckily answers ' No,' even though the low and dismal 
character of the sound shows that the untruth is but a half- 
hearted affair. 

I have tried to show how a child's untruths may be 
more than half " playing," how when they are serious 
assertions they may involve a measure of self-deception, 
and how even when consciously false they may have 
their origin in excusable circumstances and feelings. In 
urging all this I do not wish to deny the statement that 
children will sometimes deliberately invent a lie from a 

1 Perez gives a similar story, only that the epithet 'vilaine' was 
here transferred to ' 1'eau'. L' Education dh le berceau, p. 53. 


base motive, as when a girl of three seeing her little brother 
caressed by her mother for some minutes and feeling herself 
neglected fabricated the story that ' Henri ' had been cruel 
to the parrot. 1 Yet I am disposed to look on such mean 
falsehoods as exceptional if not abnormal. 

There is much even yet to be done in clearing up the 
modus operandi of children's lies. How quick, for example, 
is a child to find out the simple good-natured people, as 
the servant-maid, or gardener, who will listen to his 
romancing and flatter him by appearing to accept it all as 
gospel. More significant is the fact that intentional decep- 
tion is apt to show itself towards certain people only. 
There is many a school-boy who would think it no dis- 
honour to say what is untrue to those he dislikes, especi- 
ally by way of getting them into hot water, though he would 
feel it mean and base to lie to his mother or his father, and 
bad form to lie to the head-master. Similar distinctions 
show themselves in earlier stages, and are another point of 
similarity between the child and the savage whose ideas of 
truthfulness seem to be truthfulness for my people only. 
This is a side of the subject which would repay fuller 

Another aspect of the subject which has been but little 
investigated is the influence of habit in the domain of lying, 
and the formation of persistent permanent lies. The im- 
pulse to stick to an untruth when once uttered is very 
human, and in the case of the child is enforced by the fear 
of discovery. This applies not only to falsehoods foisted 
on persons in authority, but to those by which clever boys 
and girls take pleasure in befooling the inferior wits of 
others. In this way there grow up in the nursery and in 
the playground traditional myths and legends which are 
solemnly believed by the simple-minded. Such invention 
is in part the outcome of the " pleasures of the imagination". 
Yet it is probable that these are in all cases reinforced not 
1 Perez, U Education des le berceau, p. 54. 



only by the wish to produce an effect, but by the love of 
power which in the child not endowed with physical prowess 
is apt to show itself in hood-winking and practical joking. 

Closely connected with the permanence of untruths is 
the contagiousness of lying. The propagation of falsehood 
is apt to be promoted by a certain tremulous admiration for 
the hardihood of the lie and by the impulses of the rebel 
which never quite slumber even in the case of fairly obe- 
dient children. I suspect, however, that it is in all cases 
largely due to the force of suggestion. The falsehood 
boldly announced is apt to captivate the mind and hold it 
under a kind of spell. 

This effect of suggestion in generating falsehood is very 
marked in those pathological or semi-pathological cases 
where children have been led to give false testimony. It 
is now known that it is quite possible to provoke an illusion 
of memory in certain children between the ages of six and 
fifteen by simply affirming something in their hearing, 
whether they are in the waking or in the sleeping state, 
so that they are ready to state that they actually saw 
happen what was asserted. 1 

So much as to the several manners and circumstances 
of childish lying. In order to understand still better 
what it amounts to, how much of conscious falsehood 
enters into it, we must glance at another and closely re- 
lated phenomenon, the pain which sometimes attends 
and follows it. 

There is no doubt that a certain number of children 
experience a qualm of conscience when uttering a falsehood. 
This is evidenced in the well-known devices by which the 
intelligence of the child thinks to mitigate the lie ; as when 

1 M. Motet was one of the first to call attention to the forces of 
childish imagination and the effects of suggestion in the false testi- 
monies of children. Les Faux Temoignages des Enfants devant la 
Justice, 1887. The subject has been further elueidated by Dr. 


on saying what he knows to be false he adds mentally, 
'I do not mean it/ 'in my mind,' or some similar palli- 
ative. 1 Such subterfuges show a measure of sensibility, 
for a hardened liar would despise the shifts, and are 
curious as illustrations of the childish conscience and its 
unlearnt casuistry. 

The remorse that sometimes follows lying, especially 
the first lie, which catches the conscience at its tenderest, 
has been remembered by many in later life. Here is a 
case. A lady friend remembers that when a child of 
four she had to wear a shade over her eyes. One day on 
walking out with her mother she was looking, child-wise, 
sidewards instead of in front, and nearly struck a lamp- 
post. Her mother then scolded her, but presently re- 
membering the eyes, said : " Poor child, you could not see 
well ". She knew that this was not the reason, but she 
acoepted it, and for long afterwards was tormented with a 
sense of having told a lie. Miss Wiltshire, who tells the 
story of the mythical snake, gives another recollection 
which illustrates the keen suffering of a child when he 
becomes fully conscious of falsehood. She was as a small 
child very fond of babies, and had been permitted by her 
mother to go when invited by her aunt to nurse her baby 
cousin. One day wanting much to go when not invited, 
she boldy invented, saying that her aunt was busy and 
had asked her to spend an hour with the baby. ' I went 
(she adds) not to the baby, but by a circuitous route to 
my father's barn, crept behind one of the great doors, 
which I drew as close to me as I could, vainly wishing 
that the barn and the hay-stacks would cover me ; then 
I cried and moaned I do not know how many hours, and 
when I went to bed I said my prayers between sobs, 
refusing to tell my mother why I wept.' 2 

Such examples of remorse are evidence of a child's 

1 See Stanley Hall, loc. cit., p. 68 f. 

2 Loc. cit. 


capability of knowingly stating what is false. This is 
strikingly shown in Miss Wiltshire's two reminiscences ; 
for she distinctly tells us that in the case of her confident 
assertion about the imaginary snake with ring and bell, 
she felt no remorse as she was not conscious of uttering a 
lie. 1 But these sufferings of conscience point to something 
else, a sense of awful wickedness, of having done violence 
to all that is right and holy. How, it may be asked, does 
it happen that children feel thus morally crushed after 
telling a lie ? 

Here is a question that can only be answered when 
we have more material. We know that among all childish 
offences lying is the one which is apt to be specially 
branded by theological sanctions. The physical torments 
with which the ' lying tongue ' is threatened, may well 
beget terror in a timid child's heart. I think it likely, too, 
that the awfulness of lying is thought of by children in its 
relation to the all-seeing God who, though he cannot be 
lied to, knows when we lie. The inaudible palliative 
words added to the lie may be an awkward child-device 
for putting the speaker straight with the all-hearing 

Further inquiry is, however, needed here. Do children 
contract a horror of a lie when no religious terrors are 
introduced ? Is there anything in the workings of a child's 
own mind which would lead him to feel after his first lie as 
if the stable world were tumbling about his ears ? Let 
parents supply us with facts here. 

Meanwhile I will venture to put forth a conjecture, and 
will gladly withdraw it as soon as it is disproved. 

So far as my inquiries have gone I do not find that 
children brought up at home and kept from the contagion 
of bad example do uniformly develop a lying propensity. 
Several mothers assure me that their children have never 
seriously propounded an untruth. I can say the same 

1 Cf. what Mrs. Fry says, Uninitiated (' A Discovery in Morals'). 


about two children who have been especially observed for 
the purpose. 1 

This being so, I distinctly challenge the assertion that 
lying is instinctive in the sense that a child, even when 
brought up among habitual truth-tellers, shows an unlearned 
aptitude to say what he knows to be false. A child's quick 
imitativeness will, of course, lead him to copy grown-up 
people's untruths at a very early age. 2 

I will go further and suggest that where a child is 
brought up normally, that is, in a habitually truth-speaking 
community, he tends, quite apart from moral instruction, to 
acquire a respect for truth as what is customary. Consider 
for a moment how busily a child's mind is occupied during 
the first years of linguistic performance in getting at the 
bottom of words, of fitting ideas to words when trying to 
understand others, and words to ideas when trying to 
express his own thoughts, and you will see that all this 
must serve to make truth, that is, the correspondence of 
statement with fact, to the child-mind something matter- 
of-course, something not to be questioned, a law wrought 
into the very usages of daily life which he never thinks of 
disobeying. We can see that children accustomed to truth- 
speaking show all the signs of a moral shock when they 
are confronted with assertions which, as they see, do not 
answer to fact The child C. was highly indignant on 
hearing from his mother that people said what he considered 
false things about horses and other matters of interest : and 
he was even more indignant at meeting with any such 
falsity in one of his books for which he had all a child's 
reverence. The idea of perpetrating a knowing untruth, so 

1 Stanley Hall, when he speaks of certain forms ot lying as 
prevalent among children, is, as he expressly explains, speaking of 
children at school, where the forces of contagion are in full swing. 

2 I seem to detect possible openings for the play of imitation in 
many of the indisputably conscious falsehoods reported by Perez, P. 
Lombroso, and others. 


26 5 

far as I can judge, is simply awful to a child who has been 
thoroughly habituated to the practice of truthful statement. 
May it, then, not well be that when a preternatural pressure 
of circumstances pushes the child over the boundary line 
of truth, he feels a shock, a horror, a giddy and aching 
sense of having violated law law not wholly imposed 
by the mother's command, but rooted in the very habits 
of social life ? I think the conjecture is well worth con- 

Our inquiry has led us to recognise, in the case of 
cruelty and of lying alike, that children are by no means 
morally perfect, but have tendencies which, if not counter- 
acted or held in check by others, will develop into true 
cruelty and true lying. On the other hand, our study has 
shown us that these impulses are not the only ones. A 
child has promptings of kindness, which alternate, often in 
a capricious-looking way, with those of inconsiderate teasing 
and tormenting ; and he has, I hold, side by side with the 
imaginative and other tendencies which make for un- 
truthful statement, the instinctive roots of a respect for 
truth. These tendencies have not the same relative strength 
and frequency of utterance in the case of all children, some 
showing, for example, more of the impulse which makes for 
truth, others more of the impulse which makes for untruth. 
Yet in all children probably both kinds of impulse are 
to be observed. 

I have confined myself to two of the moral traits of 
childhood. If there were time to go into an examination 
of others, as childish vanity, something similar would, I 
think, be found. Children's vanity, like that of the savage, 
has been the theme of more than one chapter, and it is un- 
doubtedly vast to the point of absurdity. Yet, side by 
side with these impulses to deck oneself, to talk boast- 
fully, there exists a delightful childish candour which, if 
not exactly what we call modesty, is possibly something 


We may then, perhaps, draw the conclusion that child- 
nature is on its moral side wanting in consistency and 
unity. It is a field of half-formed growths, some of which 
tend to choke the others. Certain of these are favourable, 
others unfavourable to morality. It is for education to see 
to it that these isolated propensities be organised into a 
system in which those towards the good become supreme 
and regulative principles. 



The Struggle with Law. 

IN the last chapter we tried to get at those tendencies of 
child-nature which though they have a certain moral 
significance may in a manner be called spontaneous and 
independent of the institution of moral training. We will 
now examine the child's attitude towards the moral govern- 
ment with which he finds himself confronted. 

Here again we meet with opposite views. Children, 
say some, are essentially disobedient and law-breaking. 
A child as such is a rebel, delighting in nothing so much 
as in evading the rule which he finds imposed on him by 

The view that children are instinctively obedient and 
law-abiding, has not, I think, been very boldly insisted on. 
A follower of Rousseau, at least, who sees only clumsy 
interference with natural development in our attempts to 
govern children, would say that child-nature must resist 
the artificial and cramping system which the disciplinarian 

It seems, however, to be allowed by some that a 
certain number of children are docile and disposed to 
accept authority with its commands. According to these, 
children are either obedient or disobedient. This is per- 
haps the view of many mothers and pedagogues. 

Here, too, it is probable that we try to make nature 


too simple. Even the latter view, in spite of its apparent 
wish to be discriminating, does not allow for the many- 
sidedness of the child, and for the many different ways in 
which the instincts of child-nature may vary. 

Now it is worth asking whether, if the child were 
naturally disposed to look on authority as something 
wholly hostile he would get morally trained at all. 
Physically mastered and morally cowed he might of course 
become ; but this is not the same thing as being morally 
induced into a habit of accepting law and obeying it 

In inquiring into this matter we must begin by drawing 
a distinction ^here is first the attitude of a child towards 
the governor, the parent or other guardian, and there is his 
attitude towards law as such. These are by no means the 
same thing, and a child of three or four begins to illustrate 
the distinction. He may seem to be lawless, opposed to 
the very idea of government, when in reality he is merely 
objecting to a particular ruler, and the kind of rule (or as 
the child would say, misrule) which he is carrying out. 

Let us look a little into the non-compliant, disobedient 
attitude of children. As we have seen, their very liveli- 
ness, the abundance of their vigorous impulses, brings 
them into conflict with others' wills. The ruler, more par- 
ticularly, is a great and continual source of crossings and 
checkings. The child has his natural wishes and propen- 
sities. He is full of fun, bent on his harmless tricks, and 
the. mother has to talk seriously to him about being naughty. 
How can we wonder at his disliking the constraint? He has 
a number of inconvenient, active impulses, such as putting 
things in disorder, playing with water, and so forth. As we 
all know, he has a duck-like fondness for dirty puddles. 
Civilisation, which wills that a child should be nicely dressed 
and clean, intervenes in the shape of the nurse and soon 
puts a stop to this mode ot diversion. The tyro in submis- 
sion, il sound in brain and limb, kicks against the restraint, 
yells, slaps the nurse, and so forth. 


26 9 

Such collisions are perfectly normal in the first years of 
life. We should not care to see a child give up his inclina- 
tions at another's bidding without some little show of resist- 
ance. These conflicts are frequent and sharp in proportion 
to the sanity and vigour of the child. The best children, 
best from a biological point of view, have, I think, most of 
the rebel in them. Not infrequently these resistances of 
young will to old will are accompanied by more emphatic 
protests in the shape of slapping, pushing, and even biting. 
The ridiculous inequality in bodily powers, however, saves, or 
ought to save, the contest from becoming a serious physical 
struggle. The resistance where superior force is used can 
only resolve itself into a helpless protest, a vain shrieking or 
other utterance of checked and baffled impulse. 

If instead of physical compulsion authority is asserted 
in the shape of a highly disagreeable command, a child, 
before obedience has grown into a habit, will be likely to 
disobey. If the nurse, instead of pulling the mite away 
from the puddle, bids him come away, he may assert him- 
self in an eloquent ' I won't,' or less bluntly, ' I can't come 
yet'. If he is very much in love with the puddle, and has 
a stout heart, he probably embarks on a tussle of words, in 
which * I won't,' or as the child will significantly put it * I 
mustn't,' is bandied with ' you must ! ' the nurse having at 
length to abandon the ' moral ' method and to resort after 
all to physical compulsion. 

Our sample-child has not, we will assume, yet got so 
far as to recognise and defer to a general rule about cleanli- 
ness. Hence it may be said that his opposition is directed 
against the nurse as propounding a particular command, 
and one which at the moment is excessively unpleasant. 
It is as yet not resistance to law as such, but rather to one 
specific interference of another will. 

At the same time we may detect in some of this early 
resistance to authority something of the true rebel-nature, 
that is to say the love of lawlessness, and what is worse, 


perhaps, the obstinate recklessness of the law-breaker. 
The very behaviour of a child when another will crosses 
and blocks the line of his activity is suggestive of this. 
The yelling and other disorderly proceedings, do not they 
speak of the temper of the rioter, of the rowdy ? And then, 
the fierce persistence in disobedience under rebuke, and the 
wild, wicked determination to face everything rather than 
obey, are not these marks of an almost Satanic fierceness of 
revolt ? The thoroughly naughty child sticks at - nothing. 
Thus a little offender of four when he was reminded by 
his sister two years older that he would be shut out from 
heaven retorted impiously, ' I don't care,' adding : ' Uncle 
won't go I'll stay with him '. l 

This fierce noisy utterance of the disobedient and law- 
resisting temper is eminently impressive. Yet it is not the 
only utterance. If we observe children who may be said 
to show on the whole an outward submission to authority 
we shall discover signs of secret dissatisfaction and antagon- 
dsm. The conflict with rule has not wholly ceased : it has 
;simply changed its manner of proceeding, physical assault 
and riotous shouts of defiance being now exchanged for 
dialectic attack. 

A curious chapter in the psychology of the child which 
still has to be written is the account of the various devices 
by which the astute little novice called upon to wear the 
yoke of authority seeks to smooth its chafing asperities. 
These devices may, perhaps, be summed up under the head 
of " trying it on ". 

One of the simplest and most obvious of these con- 
trivances is the extempore invention of an excuse for not 
instantly obeying a particular command. A child soon 
finds out that to say * I won't ' when he is bidden to do 
something is indiscreet as well as vulgar. He wants to 
have his own way without resorting to a gross breach of 

1 My correspondent, discreetly perhaps, does not explain why 
the uncle was selected as fellow-outcast. 


good manners, so he replies insinuatingly, ' I's very sorry, 
but I's too busy,' or in some such conciliatory words. This 
field of invention offers a fine opportunity for the imagina- 
tive child. A small boy of three years and nine months on 
receiving from his nurse the familiar order, " Come here ! " 
at once replied, " I can't, nurse, I's looking for a flea," 
and pretended to be much engrossed in the momentous 
business of hunting for this quarry in the blanket of his cot 1 
The little trickster is such a lover of fun that he is pretty 
certain to betray his ruse in a case like this, and our small 
flea-catcher, we are told, laughed mischievously as he 
proffered his excuse. Such sly fabrications may be just as 
naughty as the uninspired excuses of a stupidly sulky child, 
but it is hard to be quite as much put out by them. 

These excuses often show a fine range of inventive 
activity. How manifold, for example, are the reasons, 
more or less fictitious, which a boy when told to make less 
noise is able to urge in favour of non-compliance. Here, 
of course, all the great matters of the play-world, the need 
of getting his 'gee-gee' on, of giving his orders to his soldiers, 
and so forth, come in between the prohibition and com- 
pliance, and disobedience in such cases has its excuses. 
For to the child his play-world, even though in a manner 
modelled on the pattern of our common world, is apart and 
sacred ; and the conventional restraints as to noise and such 
like borrowed from the every-day world seem to him to be 
quite out of place in this free and private domain of his 

We all know the child's aptness in ' easing ' the pressure 
of commands and prohibitions. If, for example, he is told 
to keep perfectly quiet because mother or father wants to 
sleep, he will prettily plead for the reservation of whispering 
ever so softly. If he is forbidden to ask for things at the 

1 Cf. the excuse given by a little girl of three when her grand- 
mother called her, "I can't come, I am suckling baby" (the doll). 
P. Lombroso, op. cit., p. 126. 


table he will resort to sly indirect reminders of what he 
wants, as when a boy of five and a half years whispered 
audibly : ' I hope somebody will offer me some more soup,' 
or when a girl of three and a half years, with still greater 
childish tact, observed on seeing the elder folk eating cake : 
' I not asking '. This last may be compared with a story 
told by Rousseau of a little girl of six years who, having 
eaten of all the dishes but one, artfully indicated the fact by 
pointing in turn to each of the dishes, saying: 'I have eaten 
that,' but carefully passing by the untasted one. 1 When 
more difficult duties come to be enforced and the neophyte 
in the higher morality is bidden to be considerate for others, 
and even to sacrifice his own comfort for theirs, he is apt 
to manifest a good deal of skill in adjusting the counsel 
of perfection to young weakness. Here is an amusing 
example. A little boy, Edgar by name, aged five and 
three-quarter years, was going out to take tea with some 
little girls. His mother, as is usual on such occasions, 
primed him with special directions as to behaviour, saying : 
" Remember to give way to them like father does to me". 
To which Edgar, after thinking a brief instant, replied : 
" Oh, but not all at once. You have to persuade him." 

A like astuteness will show itself in meeting accusation. 
The various ways in which a child will seek to evade the 
point in such cases are truly marvellous and show the child- 
ish intelligence at its ablest. 

Sometimes the dreary talking to, with its well-known 
deep accusatory tones, its familiar pleadings, ' How can you 
be so naughty?' and the rest is daringly ignored. After 
keeping up an excellent appearance of listening the little 
culprit will proceed in the most artless way to talk about some- 
thing more agreeable. This is trying, but is not the worst. 
The deepest depth of maternal humiliation is reached when 

1 Emile, livre v., quoted by Perez, L'Art et la Poesie chez VEnfant 
p. 127. Rousseau uses this story in order to show that girls are 
more artful than boys. 



a carefully prepared and solemnly delivered homily is re- 
warded by a tu quoque in the shape of a correction of some- 
thing in the delivery which offends the child's sense of pro- 
priety. This befel one mother who, after talking seriously 
to her little boy about some fault, was met with this remark : 
" Mamma, when you talk you don't move your upper jaw". 

It is of course difficult to say how far a child's interrup- 
tions and what look like turnings of the conversation when 
receiving rebuke are the result of deliberate plotting. We 
know it is hard to hold the young thoughts long on any- 
subject, and the homily makes a heavy demand in this 
respect, and its theme is apt to seem dull to a child's lively 
brain. The thoughts will be sure to wander then, and the 
rude interruptions and digressions may after all be but the 
natural play of the young mind. I fear, however, that de- 
sign often has a hand here. The first digression to which 
the weak disciplinarian succumbed may have been the result 
of a spontaneous flow of childish ideas : but its success en- 
ables the observant child to try it on a second time with 
artful aim. 

In cases in which no attempt is made to ignore the 
accusation, the small wits are busy discovering palliatives 
and exculpations. Here we have the many ruses, often 
crude enough, by which the little culprit tries to shake off 
moral responsibility, to deny the authorship of the action 
found fault with. The blame is put on anybody or any- 
thing. When he breaks something, say a cup, and is 
scolded, he saves himself by saying it was because the cup 
was not made strong enough, or because the maid put it 
too near the edge of the table. There are clear indications 
of fatalistic thought in these childish disclaimers. Things 
were so conditioned that he could not help doing what he 
did. This fatalism betrays itself in the childish subterfuges 
already referred to, by which the ego tries to screen itself 
shabbily by throwing responsibility on to the bodily 
agents. This device is sometimes hit upon very early. 



A wee child of two when told not to cry gasped out: 
" Elsie cry not Elsie cry tears cry naughty tears ! " 
This, it must be allowed, is more plausible than C.'s lame 
attempt to put off responsibility for some naughty action 
on his hands. For our tears are in a sense apart from us, 
and in the first years are wholly beyond control. 

The fatalistic form of exculpation meets us later on 
under the familiar form, ' God made me like that '. A 
boy of three was blamed for leaving his crusts, and his 
conduct contrasted with that of his model papa. Where- 
upon he observed with a touch of metaphysical precocity : 
" Yes, but, papa, you see God had made you and me 
different ". 

These denials of authorship occur when a charge is 
brought home and no clear justification of the action is 
forthcoming. In many cases the shrewd intelligence of the 
child which is never so acute as in this art of moral self- 
defence discovers justificatory reasons. In such a case 
the attitude is a very different one. It is no longer the 
helpless lifting of hands of the irresponsible one, but 
the bold steady glance of one who is prepared to defend 
his action. 

/ Sometimes these justifications are pitiful examples of 
quibbling. A boy had been rough with his baby brother. 
His mother chid him, telling him he might hurt baby. 
He then asked his mother, * Isn't he my own brother? ' and 
on his mother admitting so incontestable a proposition, 
exclaimed triumphantly, " Well, you said I could do what I 
liked with my oivn things ". The idea of the precious baby 
being a boy's own to do what. he likes with is so remote 
from older people's conceptions that it seems impossible 
to credit the boy with misunderstanding. We ought, perhaps, 
to set him down as a depraved little sophist and destined 
but predictions happily lie outside our metier. 

In some cases these justifications have a dreadful look 
of being after-thoughts invented for the express purpose of 



self-protection and knowingly put forward as fibs. Yet 
there is need of a wise discrimination here. Take, for 
example, the following from the Worcester Collection. A 
boy of three was told by his mother to stay and mind his 
baby-sister while she went downstairs. On going up again 
some time after she met him on the stairs. " Being asked 
why he had left the baby he said there was a bumble-bee 
in the room and he was afraid he would get stung if he 
stayed there. His mother asked him if he wasn't afraid 
his little sister would get stung. He said, * Yes/ but added 
that if he stayed in the room the bee might sting them 
both, and then she would have two to take care of." Now 
with every wish to be charitable I cannot bring myself to 
think that the small boy had really gone through that 
subtle process of disinterested calculation before vacating 
the room in favour of the bumble-bee, if indeed there was 
a bumble-bee. To be caught in the act and questioned is, 
I suspect, a situation particularly productive of such specious 

One other illustration of this keen childish dialectic when 
face to face with the accuser deserves to be touched on. 
The sharp little wits have something of a lawyer's quick- 
ness in detecting a flaw in the indictment. Any exaggera- 
tion into which a feeling of indignation happens to betray 
the accuser is instantly pounced upon. If, for example, a 
child is scolded for pulling kitty's ears and making her cry 
it is enough for the little stickler for accuracy to be able to 
say : ' I wasn't pulling kitty's ears, I was only pulling one 
of her ears '. This ability to deny the charge in its initial 
form gives the child a great advantage, and robs the accu- 
sation in its amended form of much of its sting. Whence, 
by the way, one may infer that wisdom in managing 
children shows itself in nothing more than in a scrupulous 
exactness in the use of words. 

While there are these isolated attacks on various points 
of the daily discipline, we see now and again a bolder line 


of action in the shape of a general protest against its 
seventy. Children have been known to urge that the 
punishments inflicted on them are ineffectual ; and, al- 
though their opinion on such matters is hardly disinterested, 
it is sometimes pertinent enough. An American boy aged 
five years ten months began to cry because he was for- 
bidden to go into the yard to play, and was threatened by 
his mother with a whipping. Whereupon he observed : 
" Well now, mamma, that will only make me cry more ". 

These childish protests are, as we know, wont to be met 
by the commonplaces about the affection which prompts 
the correction. But the child finds it hard to swallow 
these subtleties. For him love is love, that is caressing, 
and doing everything for his present enjoyment ; and here 
is the mother who says she loves him, and often acts as 
if she did, transforming herself into an ogre to torment 
him and make him miserable. He may accept her assur- 
ance that she scolds and chastises him because she is a 
good mother ; only he is apt to wish that she were a shade 
less good. A boy of four had one morning to remain in 
bed till ten o'clock as a punishment for misbehaviour. 
He proceeded to address his mother in this wise : " If I had 
any little children I'd be a worse mother than you I'd 
be quite a bad mother ; I'd let the children get up directly 
I had done my breakfast at any rate". If, on the other 
hand, the mother puts forward her own comfort as the 
ground of the restraint she may be met by this kind of 
thing : " I wish you'd be a little more self-sacrificing and 
let me make a noise ". 

Enough has been said to illustrate the ways in which 
the natural child kicks against the imposition of restraints 
on his free activity. He begins by showing himself an open 
foe to authority. For a long time after, while making a 
certain show of submission, he harbours in his breast some- 
thing of the rebel's spirit. He does his best to evade the 
most galling parts of the daily discipline, and displays an 


admirable ingenuity in devising excuses for apparent acts 
of insubordination. Where candour is permitted he is apt 
to prove himself an exceedingly acute critic of the system 
which is imposed on him. 

All this, moreover, seems to show that a child objects 
not only to the particular administration under which he 
happens to live, but to all law as implying restraints on free 
activity. Thus, from the child's point of view, so far as we 
have yet examined it, punishment as such is a thing which 
ought not to be. 

So strong and deep-reaching is this antagonism to law 
and its restraints apt to be that the childish longing to be 
'big' is, I believe, grounded on the expectation of liberty. 
To be big seems to the child more than anything else to 
be rid of all this imposition of commands, to be able to do 
what one likes without interference from others. This 
longing may grow intense in the breast of a quite small 
child. " Do you know," asked a little fellow of four years, 
"what I shall do when I'm a big man? I'll go to a shop 
and buy a bun and pick out all the currants." This funny 
story is characteristic of the movements of young desire. 
The small prohibition not to pick out the currants is one 
that may chafe to soreness a child's sensibility. 

On the Side of Law. 

If, however, we look closer we shall find that this hostility 
is not the whole, perhaps not the most fundamental part of 
the child's attitude. It is evident, to begin with, that a 
good deal of this early criticism of parental government, so 
far from implying rejection of all rule, plainly implies its 
acceptance. Some of the earliest and bitterest protests 
against interference are directed against what looks to the 
child irregular or opposed to law. He is allowed, for ex- 
ample, for some time to use a pair of scissors as a plaything ) 
and is then suddenly deprived of it, his mother having now 
first discovered the unsuitability of the plaything. In such a 


case the passionate outburst and the long bitter protest attest 
the sense of injustice, the violation of custom and unwritten 
law. Again, the keen resentful opposition of the child to 
the look of anything like unfairness and partiality in parental 
government shows that he has a jealous feeling of regard for 
the universality and the inviolableness of law. Much, too, 
of the criticism dealt with above, reveals a fundamental 
acknowledgment of law at least for the purposes of the 
argument. Thus the very attempt to establish an excuse, a 
justification, may be said to be a tacit admission that if the 
action had been done as alleged it would have been naughty 
and deserving of punishment. In truth the small person's 
challengings of the modus operandi of his mother's rule, just 
because they are often in a true sense ethical, clearly start 
from the assumption of rules, and of the distinction of right 
and wrong. 

This of itself shows that there are in the child compliant 
as well as non-compliant tendencies towards law and 
towards authority so far as this is lawful. We may now 
pass to other parts of a child's behaviour which help to 
make more clear the existence of such law-abiding im- 

Here we may set out with those exhibitions of some- 
thing like remorse which often follow disobedience and 
punishment in the first tender years. These may, at first, 
be little more than physical reactions, due to the exhaustion 
of the passionate outbursts. But they soon begin to show 
traces of new feelings. A child in disgrace, before he has 
a clear moral sense of shame, suffers through a feeling of 
estrangement, of loneliness, of self-restriction. If the 
habitual relation between mother and child is a loving and 
happy one the situation becomes exceedingly painful. The 
pride and obstinacy notwithstanding, the culprit feels that 
he is cut off from more than one half of his life, that his 
beautiful world is laid in ruins. The same little boy who 
said : ' I'd be a worse mother/ remarked to his mother a 



few months later that if he could say what he liked to God 
it would be: 'Love me when I'm naughty'. I think one 
can hardly conceive of a more eloquent testimony to the 
suffering of the child in the lonesome, loveless state of 

Is there any analogue of our sense of remorse in this 
early suffering ? The question of an instinctive moral sense 
in children is a perplexing one, and I do not propose to 
discuss it now. I would only venture to suggest that in 
these poignant griefs of child-life there seem to be signs of 
a consciousness of violated instincts. This is, no doubt, in 
part the smarting of a loving heart on remembering its un- 
loving action. But there may be more than this. A child 
of four or five is, I conceive, quite capable of reflecting at 
such a time that in his fits of naughtiness he has broken 
with his normal orderly self, that he has set at defiance that 
which he customarily honours and obeys. 

What, it may be asked, are these instincts? In their 
earliest discernible form they seem to me to be respect for 
rule, for a regular manner of proceeding as opposed to an 
irregular. A child, as I understand the little sphinx, is at 
once the subject of ever-changing caprices whence the 
delight in playful defiance of all rule and order and the 
reverer of custom, precedent, rule. And, as I conceive, this 
reverence for precedent and rule is the deeper and stronger, 
holding full sway in his serious moments. 

If this view is correct the suffering of naughty children 
is not, as has been said by some, wholly the result of the 
externals of discipline, punishment, and the loss of the agree- 
able things which follow good behaviour, though this is 
commonly an element ; nor is it merely the sense of loneli- 
ness and lovelessness, though that is probably a large slice 
of it ; but it contains the germ of. something nearer a true 
remorse, mz. y a sense of normal feelings and dispositions 
set at nought and contradicted. 

And now we may ask what evidence there is for the 


existence of this respect for order and regularity other than 
that afforded by the childish protests against apparent in- 
consistencies in the administration of discipline. 

Mr. Walter Bagehot tells us that the great initial 
difficulty in the formation of communities was the fixing of 
custom. However this be in the case of primitive com- 
munities it seems to me indisputable that in the case of a 
child brought up in normal surroundings there is a clearly 
observable instinct to fall in with a common mode of 

This respect for custom is related to the imitative 
instincts of the child. He does what he sees others do, and 
so tends to fall in with their manner of life. We all know 
that these small people take their cue from their elders as 
to what is allowable. Hence one difficulty of moral training. 
A little boy when two years and one month old had happened 
to see his mother tear a piece of calico. The next day he 
was discovered to have taken the sheet from the bed and 
made a rent in it. When scolded, he replied in his childish 
German, ' Mamma mach put,' i.e., ' macht caput ' (breaks 
things). It is well when the misleading effect of ' example ' 
is so little serious as it was in this case. 

In addition to this effect of others' doings in making 
things allowable in the child's eyes, there is the binding 
influence of a repeated regular manner of proceeding. 
This is the might of ' custom ' in the full sense of the 
term, the force which underlies all a child's conceptions of 
' right '. In spite of the difficulties of moral training, of 
drilling children into orderly habits and I do not lose 
sight of these it may confidently be said that they have 
an inbred respect for what is customary, and wears the ap- 
pearance of a rule of life. Nor is this, I believe, altogether 
a reflexion, by imitation, of others' orderly ways, and of 
the system of rules which is imposed on him by others. 
I am quite ready to admit that the institution of social life, 
the regular procession of the daily doings of the house, aided 


by the system of parental discipline, has much to do with 
fixing the idea of orderliness and regularity in the child's 
mind. Yet I believe the facts point to something more, to 
an innate disposition to follow precedent and rule, which 
precedes education, and is one of the forces to which 
education can appeal. This disposition has its roots in 
habit, which is apparently a law of all life: but it is more 
than the blind impulse of habit, since it is reflective and 
rational, and implies a recognition of the universal. 

The first crude manifestation of this disposition to make 
rule, to rationalise life by subjecting it to a general method, 
is seen in those actions which seem little more than the 
working of habit, the insistence on the customary lines of 
procedure at meals and such like. A mother writes that 
her boy when five years old was quite a stickler for 
punctilious order in these matters. His cup and spoon 
had to be put in precisely the right place, the sequences of 
the day, as the lesson before the walk, the walk before bed, 
had to be rigorously observed. Any breach of the custom- 
ary was apt to be resented as a sort of impiety. This may 
be an extreme instance, but my observation leads me to 
say that such punctiliousness is not uncommon. What is 
more, I have seen it developing itself where the system of 
parental government was by no means characterised by 
severe insistence on such minutiae of order. And this would 
seem to show that it cannot wholly be set down to the 
influences of such government. It seems rather to be a 
spontaneous extension of the realm of rule or law. 

This impulse to extend rule appears more plainly in 
many of the little ceremonial observances of the child. 
Very charmingly is this respect for rule exhibited in rela- 
tion to his animals, dolls and other pets. Not only are 
they required to do things in a proper orderly manner, 
but people have to treat them with due deference. 

" Every night," writes a mother of her boy aged two years 
seven months, " after I have kissed and shaken hands with him, I 


have to kiss his 'boy,' that is his doll, who sleeps with him, and to 
shake its two hands also to shake the four hoofs of a tiny horse 
which lies at the foot of his cot. When all this has been gone 
through, he stands up and entreats, ' More tata, please, more tata,' 
i.e., ' kiss me again and say more good-nights '. These customs of 
his with regard to kissing are peculiar to himself he kisses his ' boy ' 
(doll), also pictures of horses, dogs, cocks and hens, and he puts 
his head against us to be kissed ; but he will only shake hands and 
will not kiss people himself: he reserves his kisses for what he 
seems to feel inferior things. We kiss our boy, he kisses his ; but 
he insists upon being shaken hands with for his part. If other 
children come to play he gives them toys, watches them with de- 
light, tries to give them rides on his ' go-go's,' but does not kiss 
them ; though he will stroke their hair he does not return their 
kisses. It seems to me that he regards it as an action to be 
reserved for an inferior thing." 

I have quoted at length this careful bit of maternal 
observation because it seems to indicate so clearly a 
spontaneous extension of a custom. The practice of the 
mother and father in kissing him was generalised into a 
rule of ceremony in the treatment of all inferiors. 

This subject of childish ceremonial is a curious one, and 
deserves a more careful study. It is hardly less interesting 
than the origin and survival of adult ceremonial, as eluci- 
dated by Mr. Herbert Spencer. The respect for orderly 
procedure on all serious occasions, and especially at church, 
is as exacting as that of any savage tribe. Punch illustrated 
this some years ago by a picture of a little girl asking her 
mamma if Mr. So-and-So was not a very wicked man, 
because he didn't " smell his hat " when he came into his 

This jealous regard for ceremony and the proprieties of 
behaviour is seen in the enforcement of rules of politeness 
by children who will extend them far beyond the scope 
intended by the parent. A delightful instance of this fell 
under my own observation, as I was walking on Hamp- 
stead Heath. It was a spring day, and the fat buds of 
the chestnuts were bursting into magnificent green plumes. 


Two well-dressed ' misses,' aged, I should say, about nine 
and eleven, were taking their correct morning walk. The 
elder called the attention of the younger to one of the trees, 
pointing to it. The younger exclaimed in a highly shocked 
tone : " Oh, Maud (or was it ' Mabel ' ?), you know you 
shouldn't point ! " The notion of perpetrating a rudeness 
on the chestnut tree was funny enough. But the incident 
is instructive as illustrating the childish tendency to stretch 
and generalise rules to the utmost. 

The domain of prayer well illustrates the same tendency. 
The child envisages God as a very, very grand person, and 
naturally, therefore, extends to him all the courtesies he 
knows of. Thus he must be addressed politely with the 
due forms ' Please,' ' If you please,' and so forth. The 
German child shrinks from using the familiar form ' Du ' 
in his prayers. As one maiden of seven well put it in reply 
to a question why she used ' Sie ' in her prayers : " Ich 
werde doch den lieben Gott nicht Du nennen : ich kenne 
ihn ja gar nicht ". Again, a child feels that he must not 
worry or bore God (children generally find out that some 
people look on them as bores), or treat him with any kind 
of disrespect. C. objected to his sister's remaining so long 
at her prayers, apparently on the ground that, as God knew 
what she had to say, her much talking would be likely to 
bore him. An American boy of four on one occasion 
refused to say his prayers, explaining, " Why, they're old. 
God has heard them so many times that they are old to 
him too. Why, he knows them as well as I do myself." 
On the other hand, God must not be kept waiting. " Oh, 
mamma," said a little boy of three years eight months (the 
same that was so insistent about the kissing and hand- 
shaking), "how long you have kept me awake for you; God 
has been wondering so whenever I was going to say my 
prayers." All the words must be nicely said to him. A 
little boy, aged four and three-quarter years, once stopped 
in the middle of a prayer and asked his mother: " Oh ! how 


do you spell that word ? " The question is curious as 
suggesting that the child may have envisaged his silent- 
communications to the far-off King as a letter. In any 
case, it showed painstaking and the wish not to offend by 
slovenliness of address. 

Not only do children thus of themselves extend the 
scope and empire of rule, they show a disposition to make 
rules for themselves. If a child that is told to do a 
thing on a single occasion only is found repeating the 
action on other occasions, this seems to show the germ of a 
law-making impulse. A little boy of two years one month 
was once told to give a lot of old toys to the children of 
the gardener. Some time after, on receiving some new 
toys, he put away his old ones as before for the less 
fortunate children. Every careful observer of children 
knows that they are apt to proceed this way, to erect 
particular actions and suggestions into precedents. This 
tendency gives something of the amusing priggishness to 
the ways of childhood. 

There is little doubt, I think, that this respect for 
proper orderly behaviour, for precedent and general rule, 
forms a vital element in the child's submission to parental 
law. In fixing our attention on occasional acts of disobedi- 
ence and lawlessness we are apt to overlook the ease, the 
absence of friction with which normal children, if only 
decently trained, fall in with the larger part of our obser- 
vances and ordinances. 

That the instinct for order does assist moral discipline 
may be seen in the fact that children are apt to pay enor- 
mous deference to our rules. Nothing is more suggestive 
here than the talk of children among themselves, the em- 
phasis they are wont to lay on the ' must' and ' must not '. 
The truth is that children have a tremendous belief in law: 
a rule is apt to present itself to their imagination as a 
thing supremely sacred and awful before which it pros- 
trates itself. 


This recognition of the absolute imperativeness of a 
rule properly laid down by the recognised authority is seen 
in children's jealous insistence on the observance of the rule 
in their own case and in that of others. As has been 
observed by Preyer a child of two years eight months will 
follow out the prohibitions of the mother when he falls into 
other hands, sternly protesting, for example, against the 
nurse giving him the forbidden knife at table. Very 
proper children rather like to instruct their aunts and other 
ignorant persons as to the right way of dealing with them, 
and will rejoice in the opportunity of setting them right 
even when it means a deprivation for themselves. The 
self-denying ordinance : ' Mamma doesn't let me have many 
sweets,' is by no means beyond the powers of such a child. 
One can see here, no doubt, traces of a childish sense of self- 
importance, a feeling of the much-waited-on little sovereign 
for what befits his supreme worth. Yet, allowing for such 
elements, there seems to me to be in this behaviour a resi- 
due of genuine respect for parental law. 

These carryings out of the parental behest when en- 
trusted to other hands are instructive as suggesting that the 
child feels the constraining force of the command when its 
author is no longer present to enforce it. Perhaps a 
clearer evidence of respect for the law as such, apart from 
its particular enforcement by the parent, is supplied by 
children's way of extending the rules laid down for their 
own behaviour to that of others. This point has already 
been illustrated in the tendency to universalise the 
observances of courtesy and the like. No trait is better 
marked in the normal child than the impulse to subject 
others to his own disciplinary system. In truth, children 
are for the most part particularly alert disciplinarians. 
With what amusing severity are they wont to lay down the 
law to their dolls, and their animal playmates, subjecting 
them to precisely the same prohibitions and punishments as 
those to which they themselves are subject ! Nor do they 


stop here. They enforce the duties just as courageously on 
their human elders. A mite of eighteen months went up 
to her elder sister, who was crying, and with perfect mimicry 
of the nurse's corrective manner, said : " Hush ! Hush ! 
papa ! " pointing at the same time to the door. The 
little girl M. when twenty-two months old was disappointed 
because a certain Mr. G. did not call. In the evening she 
said : " Mr. D. not did turn was very naughty, Mr. D. have 
to be whipped ". So natural and inevitable to the intelli- 
gence of a child does it seem that the system of restraints, 
rebukes ; punishments under which he lives should have 
universal validity. 

This judicial bent of the child is a curious one and often 
develops a priggish fondness for setting others morally 
straight. Small boys have to endure much in this way 
from the hands of slightly older sisters proficient in 
matters of law and delighting to enforce the moralities. But 
sometimes the sisters lapse into naughtiness, and then the 
small boys have their chance. They too can on such 
occasions be priggish if not downright hypocritical. A little 
boy had been quarrelling with his sister named Muriel just 
before going to bed. When he was undressed he knelt 
down to say his prayers, Muriel sitting near and listening. 
He prayed (audibly) in this wise : " Please, God, make 
Muriel a good girl," then looked up and said in an angry 
voice, "Do you hear that, Muriel?" and after this digression 
resumed his petition. I believe fathers when reading family 
prayers have been known to apply portions of Scripture in 
this personal manner to particular members of the family ; 
and it is even possible that extempore prayers have been 
invented, as by this little prig of a boy, for the purpose of 
administering a sort of back-handed corrective blow to an 
erring neighbour. 

This mania for correction shows itself too in relation 
to the authorities themselves. A collection of rebukes and 
expositions of moral precept supplied by children to their 


erring parents would be amusing and suggestive. As was 
illustrated above, a child is especially keen to spy faults 
in his governors when they are themselves administering 
authority. Here is another example : A boy of two 
the moral instruction of parents by the child begins betimes 
would not go to sleep when bidden to do so by his father 
and mother. At length the father, losing patience, ad- 
dressed him with a man's fierce emphasis. This mode of 
admonition so far from cowering the child simply offended 
his sense of propriety, for he rejoined : " You s'ouldn't 
s'ouldn't, Assum (i.e., ' Arthur,' the father's name), you 
s'ould speak nicely ". 

The lengths to which a child with the impulse of moral 
correction strong in him will sometimes go, are quite 
appalling. One evening a little girl of six had been re- 
peating the Lord's prayer. When she had finished, she 
looked up and said : ' I don't like that prayer, you ought 
not to ask for bread, and all that greediness, you ought 
only to ask for goodness ! ' There is probably in this an 
imitative reproduction of something which the child had 
been told by her mother, or had overheard. Yet allowing 
for this, one cannot but recognise a quite alarming degree 
of precocious moral priggishness. 

We may now turn to what my readers will probably 
regard as still clearer evidence of a law-fearing instinct in 
children, viz., their voluntary submission to its commands. 
We are apt to think of these little ones as doing right only 
under external compulsion. But although a child of four 
may be far from attaining to the state of ' autonomy of 
will ' or self-legislation spoken of by the philosopher, he 
may show a germ of such free adoption of law. It is pos- 
sible that we see the first faint traces of this in a small child's 
way of giving orders to, rebuking, and praising himself. 
The little girl M., when only twenty months old, would, 
when left by her mother alone in a room, say to herself : 
' Tay dar ' (stay there). About the same time, after being 


naughty and squealing ' like a railway-whistle/ she would 
after each squeal say in a deep voice, ' Be dood, Babba * 
(her name). At the age of twenty-two months she had 
been in the garden and misbehaving by treading on the 
box border, so that she had to be carried away by her 
mother. After confessing her fault she wanted to go into 
the garden again, and promised, c Babba will not be 
naughty adain '. When she was out she looked at the 
box, saying, " If oo (you) do dat I shall have to take oo 
in, Babba". Here, no doubt, we see quaint mimicries 
of the external control, but they seem to me to indicate 
a movement in the direction of self-control. 

Very instructive here is the way in which children will 
voluntarily come and submit themselves to our discipline. 
The little girl M. when less than two years old, would go 
to her mother and confess some piece of naughtiness and 
suggest the punishment. A little boy aged two years and 
four months was deprived of a pencil from Thursday to 
Sunday for scribbling on the wall-paper. His punishment 
was, however, tempered by permission to draw when taken 
downstairs. On Saturday he had finished a picture down- 
stairs which pleased him. When his nurse fetched him 
she wanted to look at the drawing, but the boy strongly 
objected, saying: "No Nana (name for nurse) look at it 
till Sunday ". And sure enough when Sunday came,, and 
the pencil was restored to him, he promptly showed nurse 
his picture. This is an excellent observation full of sugges- 
tion as to the way in which a child's mind works. Among 
other things it seems to show pretty plainly that the little 
fellow looked on the nursery and all its belongings, includ- 
ing the nurse, during those three days as a place of disgrace 
into which the privileges of the artist were not to enter. 
He was allowed the indulgence of drawing downstairs, 
but he had no right to exhibit his workmanship to the 
nurse, who was inseparably associated in his mind with 
the forbidden nursery drawing. Thus a process of genuine 


child-thought led to a self-instituted extension of the 

A month later this child " pulled down a picture in the 
nursery" the nursery walls seem to have had a fell attrac- 
tion for him " by standing on a sofa and tugging till the 
wire broke. He was alone at the time and very much 
frightened though not hurt. He was soothed and told to 
leave the picture alone in future, but was not in any way 
rebuked. He seemed, however, to think that some punish- 
ment was necessary, for he presently asked whether he was 
going to have a certain favourite frock on that afternoon. 
He was told ' No ' (the reason being that the day was wet 
or something similar) and he said immediately : ' 'Cause 
Neil pulled picture down?" Here I think we have un- 
mistakable evidence of an expectation of punishment as 
the fit and proper sequel in a case which, though it did 
not exactly resemble those already branded by it, was felt 
in a vague way to be disorderly and naughty. 

Such stones of expectation of punishment are capped 
by instances of correction actually inflicted by the child 
on himself. I believe it is not uncommon for a child when 
possessed by a sense of having been naughty to object to 
having nice things at table on , the ground that previously 
on a like occasion he was deprived of them. But the 
most curious instance of this moral rigour towards self 
which I have met with is the following : A girl of nine had 
been naughty, and was very sorry for her misbehaviour. 
Shortly after she came to her lesson limping, and remarked 
that she felt very uncomfortable. Being asked by her 
governess what was the matter with her she said : " It was 
very naughty of me to disobey you, so I put my right shoe 
on to my left foot and my left shoe on to my right foot ". 

The facts here briefly illustrated seem to me to show 
that there is in the child from the first a rudiment of true 
law-abidingness. Arid this is a force of the greatest con- 
sequence to the disciplinarian. It is something which takes 



side in the child's breast with the reasonable governor and 
the laws which he or she administers. It secures ready 
compliance with a large part ot the discipline enforced. 
When the impulse urging towards licence has been too 
strong, and disobedience ensues, this same instinct comes 
to the aid of order and good conduct by inflicting pains 
which are the beginning of what we call remorse. 

By-and-by other forces will assist. The affectionate 
child will reflect on the misery his disobedience causes his 
mother. A boy of four and three-quarter years must, one 
supposes, have woke up to this fact when he remarked to 
his mother : " Did you choose to be a mother ? I think it 
must be rather tiresome." The day when the child first 
becomes capable of thus putting himself into his mother's 
place and realising, if only for an instant, the trouble he 
has brought on her, is an all -important one in his moral 

The Wise Law-giver. 

As our illustrations have suggested, and as every 
thoughtful parent knows well enough, the problem of 
moral training in the first years is full of difficulty. Yet 
our study surely suggests that it is not so hopeless a 
problem as we are sometimes weakly disposed to think. 
Perhaps a word or two on this may not inappropriately 
close this essay. 

I will readily concede that the difficulty of inculcating 
in children a sweet and cheerful obedience arises partly 
from their nature. There are trying children, just as there 
are trying dogs that howl and make themselves disagreeable 
for no discoverable reason but their inherent ' cussedness '. 
There are, I doubt not, conscientious painstaking mothers 
who have been baffled by having to manage what appears 
to be the utterly unmanageable. 

Yet 1 think that we ought to be very slow to pronounce 
any child unmanageable. I know full well that in the case 



of these small growing things there are all kinds of hidden 
physical commotions which breed caprices, ruffle the temper, 
and make them the opposite of docile. The peevish child 
who will do nothing, will listen to no suggestion, is assuredly 
a difficult subject to deal with. But such moodiness and 
cross-grainedness springing from bodily disturbances will 
be allowed for by the discerning mother, who will be too 
wise to bring the severer measures of discipline to bear on 
a child when subject to their malign influence. Waiving 
these disturbing factors, however, I should say that a good 
part, certainly more than one half, of the difficulty of train- 
ing children is due to our clumsy bungling modes of going 
to work. 

Sensible persons know that there is a good and a bad 
way of approaching a child. The wrong ways of trying to 
constrain children are, alas, numerous. I am not writing 
an ' advice to parents,' and am not called on therefore to 
deal with the much-disputed question of the Tightness and 
wrongness of corporal punishment Slaps may be needful 
in the early stages, even though they do lead to little tussles. 
A mother assures me that these battles with her several 
children have all fallen between the ages of sixteen months 
and two years. It is, however, conceivable that such fights 
might be avoided altogether ; yet a man should be chary 
of dogmatising on this delicate matter. 

What is beyond doubt is that the slovenly discipline 
if indeed discipline it is to be called which consists in 
alternations of gushing fondness with almost savage severity, 
or fits of government and restraint interpolated between 
long periods of neglect and laisser faire, is precisely what 
develops the rebellious and law-resisting propensities. But 
discipline can be bad without being a stupid pretence. 
Everything in the shape of inconsistency, saying one thing 
at one time, another thing at another, or treating one child 
in one fashion, another in another, tends to undermine the 
pillars of authority. Young eyes are quick to note these 


little contradictions, and they sorely resent them. It is 
astonishing how careless disciplinarians can show them- 
selves before these astute little critics. It is the commonest 
thing to tell a child to behave like his elders, forgetting that 
this, if indeed a rule at all, can only be one of very limited 
application. Here is a suggestive example of the effect of 
this sort of teaching sent me by a mother. " At three and 
a half, when some visitors were present, she was told not 
to talk at dinner-time. ' Why me no talk ? Papa talks. 1 
1 Yes, but papa is grown up, and you are only a little girl ; 
you can't do just like grown-up people.' She was silent for 
some time, but when I told her ten minutes later to sit 
nicely with her hands in her lap like her cousins, she 
replied, with a very humorous smile, ' Me tan't (can't) sit 
like grown-up people, me is only a little girl V 

We can fail and make children disloyal instead of loyal 
subjects by unduly magnifying our office, by insisting too 
much on our authority. Children who are over-ruled, who 
have no taste of being left unmolested and free to do what 
they like, can hardly be expected to submit graciously. 
Another way of carrying parental control to excess is by 
exacting displays of virtue which are beyond the moral 
capabilities of the child. A lady sends me this reminiscence 
of her childhood. She had been promised sixpence when 
she could play her scales without fault, and succeeded in 
the exploit on her sixth birthday. The sixpence was given 
to her, but soon after her mother suggested that she should 
spend the money in fruit to give to her (the mother's) invalid 
friend. This was offending the sense of justice, for if the 
child is jealous of anything as his very own it is surely the 
reward he has earned ; and was, moreover, a foolish attempt 
to call forth generosity where generosity was wholly out of 
place. An even worse example is that recorded by Ruskin. 
When a child he was expected to come down to dessert and 
crack nuts for the grand older folk while peremptorily for- 
bidden to eat any. Such refined cruelties of government 


deserve to be defeated in their objects. Much of our ill 
success in governing children would probably turn out to be 
attributable to unwisdom in assigning tasks, and more par- 
ticularly in making exactions which wound that sensitive 
fibre of a child's heart, the sense of justice. 

Parents are, I fear, apt to forget that generosity and the 
other liberal virtues owe their worth to their spontaneity. 
They may be suggested and encouraged but cannot be 
exacted. On the other hand, a parent cannot be more 
foolish than to discourage a spontaneous outgoing of good 
impulse, as if nothing were good but what emanated from 
a spirit of obedience. In a pretty and touching little Ameri- 
can work, Reckonings from Little Hands, the writer describes 
the remorse of a father who, after his child's death, recalled 
the little fellow's first crude endeavour to help him by 
bringing fuel, an endeavour which, alas ! he had met with 
something like a rebuff. 

The right method of training, which develops and 
strengthens by bracing exercise the instinct of obedience, 
cannot easily be summarised ; for it is the outcome of the 
highest wisdom. I may, however, be permitted to indicate 
one or two of its main features. 

Informed at the outset by a fine moral feeling and a 
practical tact as to what ought to be expected, the wise 
mother is concerned before everything to make her laws 
appear as much a matter of course as the daily sequences 
of the home life, as unquestionable axioms of behaviour ; 
and this not by a foolish vehemence of inculcation but by a 
quiet skilful inweaving of them into the order of the child's 
world. To expect the right thing, as though the wrong 
thing were an impossibility, rather than to be always pointing 
out the wrong thing and threatening consequences ; to 
make all her words and all her own actions support this 
view of the inevitableness of law; to meet any indications of a 
disobedient spirit, first with misunderstanding, and later with 
amazement ; this is surely the first and fundamental matter. 


The effectiveness of this discipline depends on the 
simple psychological principle that difficult actions tend to 
realise themselves in the measure in which the ideas of them 
become clear and persistent. Get a child steadily to follow 
out in thought an act to which he is disinclined and you 
have more than half mastered the disinclination. The 
quiet daily insistence of the wise rule of the nursery pro- 
ceeds by setting up and maintaining the ideas of dutiful 
actions, and so excluding the thought of disobedient 

It has recently been pointed out that in this moral control 
of the child through suggestion of right actions we have 
something closely analogous to the action of suggestion 
upon the hypnotised subject. The mother, the right sort of 
mother, has on the child's mind something of the subduing 
influence of the Nancy doctor : she induces ideas of 
particular actions, gives them force and persistence so that 
the young mind is possessed by them and they work them- 
selves out into fulfilment as occasion arises. 

In order that this effect of ' obsession,' or a full occupa- 
tion of consciousness with the right idea, may result, certain 
precautions are necessary. As observant parents know, a 
child may be led by a prohibition to do the very thing he is 
bidden not to do. We have seen how readily a child's mind 
moves from an affirmation to a corresponding negation, and 
conversely. The ' contradictoriness ' of a child, his passion 
for saying the opposite of what you say, shows the same odd 
manner of working of the young mind. Wanting to do 
what he is told not to do is another effect of this " contrary 
suggestion," as it has been called, aided of course by the 
child's dislike of all constraint. 1 If we want -to avoid this 
effect of suggestion and to secure the direct effect, we must 
first of all acquire the difficult secret of personal influence, of 
the masterfulness which does not repel but attracts ; and 

1 On the nature of this contrary suggestion see Mark Baldwin, 
Mental Development in Hie Child and the Race, p. 145 f. 



secondly try to reduce our forbiddings with their contrary 
suggestions to a minimum. 

The action in moral training of this influence of a quasi- 
hypnotic suggestion becomes more clearly marked when 
difficulties occur ; when some outbreak of wilful resistance 
has to be recognised and met, or some new and re- 
latively arduous feat of obedience has to be initiated. 
Here I find that intelligent mothers have found their way 
to methods closely resembling those of the hypnotist. 
" When R. is naughty and in a passion (writes a lady friend 
of her child aged three and a half), I need only suggest 
to him that he is some one else, say a friend of his, and he 
will take it up at once, he will pretend to be the other 
child, and at last go and call himself, now a good boy, 
back again." This mode of suggestion, by helping the 
'higher self to detach itself from and control the lower might, 
one suspects, be much more widely employed in the moral 
training of children. Suggestion may work through the 
emotions. Merely to say, ' Mother would like you to do 
this,' is to set up an idea in the child's consciousness 
by help of the sustaining force of his affection. "If (writes 
a lady) there was anything Lyle particularly wished not to 
do, his mother had only to say, ' Dobbin (a sort of can- 
onised toy-horse already referred to) would like you to 
do this,' and it was done without a murmur." 

We have another analogue to hypnotic suggestion where 
a mother prepares her child some time beforehand for a 
difficult duty, telling him that she expects him to perform 
it. A mother writes that her boy, when about the age of 
two and a half years more particularly, was inclined to 
burst into loud but short fits of crying. " I have found 
(she says) these often checked by telling him beforehand 
what would be expected of him, and exacting a promise 
that he would do the thing cheerfully. I have seen his 
face flush up ready to cry when he remembered his promise 
and controlled himself." This -reminds one forcibly of 


the commands suggested by the hypnotiser to be carried 
into effect when the subject wakes. Much more, perhaps, 
might be done in this direction by choosing the right 
moments for setting up the persistent ideas in the child's 
consciousness. I know a lady who got into the way of 
giving moral exhortation to her somewhat headstrong girl 
at night before the child fell asleep, and found this very 
effectual. It is" possible that we may be able to apply this 
idea of preparatory and premonitory suggestion in new and 
surprising ways to difficult and refractory children. 1 

One other way in which the wise mother will win the 
child over to duty is by developing his consciousness of 
freedom and power. A mother, who was herself a well- 
known writer for children, has recorded in some notes on her 
children that when one of her little girls had declined to 
accede to her wish she used to say to her : ' Oh, yes, I think 
when you have remembered how pleasant it is to oblige 
others you will do it '. 'I will think about it, mamma,' 
the child would reply, laughing, and then go and hide her 
head behind a sofa-pillow which she called her ' thinking 
corner'. In half a minute she would come out and say: 
"Oh, yes, mamma, I have thought about it and I will do it". 
This strikes me as an admirable combination of regulative 
suggestion with exercise of the young will in moral decision. 
It gave the child the consciousness of using her own will, 
and yet maintained the needed measure of guidance and 

As the moral consciousness develops and new problems 
arise, new openings for such suggestive guidance will offer 
themselves. How valuable, for example, is the mother's 
encouragement of the weakly child, shrinking from a difficult 
self-repressive action, when she says with inspiring voice : 

x The bearings of (hypnotic) suggestion on moral education have 
been discussed by Guyau, Education and Heredity (Engl. transl.), chap, 
i. Compare also Preyer, op. cit., p. 267 f., and Compayre, op. cit., p. 



' You can do it if you try '. Thus pilot-like she conducts 
the little navigator out into the open main of duty where he 
will have to steer himself. 

I have tried to show that the moral training of children 
as not beyond human powers. It has its strong supports 
in child-nature, and these, when there are wisdom and 
method on the ruler's side, will secure success. I have not 
said that the trainer's task is easy. So far from thinking 
this, I hold that a mother who bravely faces the problem, 
neither abandoning the wayward will to its own devices, 
nor, hardly less weakly, handing over the task of disciplin- 
ing it to a paid substitute, and who by well-considered 
and steadfast effort succeeds in approaching the perfection 
I have hinted at, combining the wise ruler with the tender 
and companionable parent, is among the few members of 
our species who are entitled to its reverence. 



ONE of the most interesting, perhaps also one of the most 
instructive, phases of child-life is the beginnings of art- 
activity. This has been recognised by one of the best-known 
.workers in the field of child-psychology, M. Bernard Perez, 
who has treated the subject in an interesting monograph. 1 
This department of our subject will, like that of language, 
be found to have interesting points of contact with the 
phenomena of primitive race-culture. 

The art-impulse of children lends itself particularly well 
to observation. No doubt, as we shall see, there are diffi- 
culties for the observer here. It may sometimes be a fine 
point to determine whether a childish action properly 
falls under the head of genuine art-production, though 
I do not think that this is a serious difficulty. On the 
other hand, the art-impulse where it exists manifests itself 
directly and for the most part in so characteristic an> 
objective form that we are able to study its features with 
special facility. 

In its narrow sense as a specialised instinct prompting 
its possessor to follow a definite line of production, as 
drawing of the artistic sort, or simple musical composition, 
the art-impulse is a particularly variable phenomenon of 
childhood. Some children, who afterwards take seriously 
to a branch of art-culture, manifest an innate bent by a 
precocious devotion to this line of activity. Many others,. 

l VArt et la Poesie chez V Enfant, 1888. 


I have reason to believe have a passing fondness for a 
particular form of art-activity. On the other hand, there 
are some children who display almost a complete lack, not 
only of the productive impulse, but of the aesthetic sense of 
the artist. So uncertain, so sporadic are these appearances 
of a rudimentary art among children that one might be 
easily led to think that art-activity ought not to be reckoned 
among their common characteristics, 

To judge so however, would be to judge erroneously by 
applying grown-up standards It is commonly recognised 
that art and play are closely connected. It is probable 
that the first crude art of the race, or at least certain direc- 
tions of it, sprang out of play-like activities, and however 
this be the likenesses of the two are indisputable. I shall 
hope to bring these out in the present study. This being 
so, we are, I conceive, justified in speaking of art-impulses 
as a common characteristic of childhood. 

Although we shall find many interesting points of analogy 
between crude child-art and primitive race-ait, we must not, 
as pointed out above, expect a perfect parallelism In some 
directions, as drawing, concerted dancing, the superior ex- 
perience, strength and skill of the adult will reveal them- 
selves, placing child-art at a considerable disadvantage in the 
comparison. Contrariwise, the intervention of the educator's 
hand tends seriously to modify the course of development 
of the child's aesthetic aptitudes His tastes get acted upon 
from the first and biassed in the direction of adult tastes. 

This modifying influence of education shows itself more 
especially in one particular. There is reason to think that 
in the development of the race the growth of a feeling 
for what is beautiful was a concomitant of the growth of 
the art -impulse, the impulse to adorn the person, to collect 
feathers and other pretty things. Not so in the case of the 
child. Here we note a certain growth of the liking for pretty 
things before the spontaneous art-impulse has had time to 
manifest itself. Most children who have a cultivated mother 


or other guardian acquire a rudimentary appreciation of what 
their elders think beautiful before they do much in the way 
of art-production. We provide them with toys, pictures, 
we sing to them and perhaps we even take them to the 
theatre, and so do our best to inoculate them with our ideas 
as to what is pretty. Hence the difficulty probably the 
chief difficulty of finding out what the child-mind, left to 
itself, does prefer. At the same time the early date at which 
such aesthetic preferences begin to manifest themselves makes 
it desirable to study them before we go on to consider the 
active side of child-art. We will try as well as we can to 
extricate the first manifestations of genuine childish taste. 

First Responses to Natural Scanty. 

At the very beginning, before the educational influence 
lias had time to work, we can catch some of the characteris- 
tics of this childish quasi-aesthetic feeling. The directions 
of a child's observation, and of the movements of his 
grasping arms, tell us pretty clearly what sort of things 
attract and please him. 

In the home scene it is bright objects, such as the fire- 
flame, the lamp, the play of the sunlight <.n a bit of glass 
or a gilded frame ; out-of-doors, glistening water, a meadow 
whitened by daisies, the fresh snow mantle, later the moon 
.and the stars, which seem to impart to the dawning con- 
sciousness the first hint of the- world's beauty. Luminosity, 
brightness in its higher intensities, whether the bright rays 
reach the eye directly or are reflected from a lustrous sur- 
face, this makes the first gladness of the eye as it remains 
-a chief source of the gladness of life. 

The feeling for colour as such comes distinctly later. 
The first delight in coloured objects is hardly distinguishable 
from the primordial delight in brightness. This applies pretty 
manifestly to the brightly illumined, rose-red curtain which 
Preyer's boy greeted with signs of satisfaction at the age of 
iwenty-three days, and it applies to later manifestations. 


Thus Preyer found on experimenting with his boy towards 
the end of the second year as to his colour-discrimination- 
that a decided preference was shown for the bright or 
luminous colours, red and yellow. 1 Much the same thing 
was observed by Miss Shinn in her interesting account of 
the early development of her niece's colour-sense. 2 Thus in 
the twenty-eighth month she showed a special fondness for 
the daffodils, the bright tints of which allured another and 
older maiden, and, alas ! to the place whence all brightness 
was banished. About the same time the child conceived a 
fondness for a yellow gown of her aunt, strongly objecting 
to the substitution for it of a brown dress. Among the 
other coloured objects which captivated the eye of this little 
girl were a patch of white cherry blossom, and a red sun-set 
sky. Such observations might easily be multiplied. White- 
ness, it is to be noted, comes, as we might expect, with, 
bright partial colours, among the first favourites. 3 

At what age a child begins to appreciate the value of 
colour as colour, to like blue or red, for its own sake and 
apart from its brightness, it is hard to say. The experiments 
of Preyer, Binet, Baldwin, and others, as to the discrimina- 
tion of colour, are hardly conclusive as to special likings, 
though Baldwin's plan of getting the child to reach out for 
colours throws a certain light on this point. According to 
Baldwin blue is one of the first colours to be singled out ;. 
but he does not tell us how the colours he used (which did 
not, unfortunately, include yellow the child's favourite 
according to other observers) were related in point of 
luminosity. 4 

No doubt a child of three or four is apt to conceive a 

i Op. cit., p. 7 and p. n f. 

4 Notes on the Development of a Child, p. 91 ff. 

3 Cf. Perez, U 1 Art et la Poesie chez I' Enfant, p. 41 ff. 

4 See Baldwin's two articles on ' A New Method of Child-study ' in 
Science, April, 1893, and his volume, Mental Development in the Child 
and the Race. 


special liking for a particular colour which favourite he 
is wont to appropriate as 'my colour'. A collection of 
such perfectly spontaneous preferences is a desideratum in 
the study of the nrst manifestations of a feeling for colour. 
Care must be taken in observing these selections to eliminate 
the effects of association and the unintentional influence of 
-example and authority as when a child takes to a particular 
colour because it is ' mamma's colour,' that is, the one she 
appears to affect in her dress and otherwise. 

The values of the several colours probably disclose 
themselves in close connexion with that of colour-contrast. 
Many of the likings of a child of three in the matter of 
flowers, birds, dresses, and so on, are clearly traceable to a 
growing pleasure in colour-contrast. Here again we must 
distinguish between a true chromatic and a merely luminous 
effect The dark blue sky showing itself in a break in the 
white clouds, one of the coloured spectacles which delighted 
Miss Shmn's niece, may have owed much of its attractiveness 
to the contrast of light and dark. It would be interesting to 
experiment with children of three with a view to determine 
whether and how far chromatic contrast please f when it 
stands alone, and is not supported by that of chiaroscuro. 

I have reason to believe that children, like the less 
cultivated adults, prefer juxtapositions of colours which lie 
far from one another in the colour-circle, as blue and red or 
blue and yellow. It is sometimes said that the practice 
and the history of painting show blue and red to be a more 
pleasing combination than that of the complementary colours, 
blue and yellow. It would be well to test children's feeling 
on this matter. It would be necessary in this inquiry to 
see that the child did not select for combination a particular 
colour as blue or yellow for its own sake, and independently 
of its relation to its companion a point not very easy to 
determine. Care would have to be taken to eliminate 
further the influence of authority as operating, not only by 
instructing the child what combinations are best, but by 



setting models of combination, in the habitual arrangements 
of dress and so forth. This too would probably prove to 
be a condition not easy to satisfy. 1 

I have dwelt at some length on the first germs of colour- 
appreciation, because this is the one feature of the child's 
aesthetic sense which has so far lent itself to definite ex- 
perimental investigation. It is very different when we turn 
to the first appreciation of form. That little children have 
their likings in the matter of form, is, I think, indisputable, 
but they are not those of the cultivated adult. A quite 
small child will admire the arch of a rainbow, and the round- 
ness of a kitten's form, though in these instances the delight 
in form is far from pure. More clearly marked is the 
appreciation of pretty graceful movements, as a kitten's 
boundings. Perhaps the first waking up to the graces of 
form takes place in connexion with this delight in the 
forms of motion, a delight which at first is a mixed feeling, 
involving the interest in all motion as suggestive of life, to 
which reference has already been made. Do not all of us, 
indeed, tend to translate our impressions of still forms back 
into these first impressions of the forms of motion ? 

One noticeable feature in the child's first response to the 
attractions of form is the preference given to ' tiny ' things. 
The liking for small natural forms, birds, insects, shells, and 
so forth, and the prominence of such epithets as ' wee/ 
* tiny ' or ' teeny,' ' dear little,' in the child's vocabulary alike 
illustrate this early direction of taste. This feeling again 
is a mixed one ; for the child's interest in very small fragile- 
looking things has in it an element of caressing tenderness 
which again contains a touch of fellow-feeling. This is 
but one illustration of the general rule of aesthetic develop- 
ment in the case of the individual and of the race alike 

a The influence of such authority is especially evident in the 
selection of harmonious shades of colour for dress, etc. Cf. Miss 
Shinn, op. cit., p. 9* 


that a pure contemplative delight in the aspect of things, 
only gradually detaches itself from a mixed feeling. 

If now we turn to the higher aspects of form, regularity 
of outline, symmetry, proportion, we encounter a difficulty^ 
Many children acquire while quite young and before any 
formal education commences a certain feeling for regularity 
and symmetry. But is this the result of a mere observation 
of natural or other forms ? Here the circumstances of the 
child become important. He lives among those who insist 
on these features in the daily activities of the home. In 
laying the cloth of the dinner-table, for example, a child 
sees the regular division of space enforced as a law. Every 
time he is dressed, or sees his mother dress, he has an- 
object-lesson in symmetrical arrangement. And so these 
features take on a kind of ethical tightness before they are 
judged as elements of aesthetic value. As to a sense of 
proportion between the dimensions or parts of a form, the 
reflexion that this involves a degree of intellectuality above 
the reach of many an adult might suggest that it is not 
to be expected from a small child ; and this conjecture 
will be borne out when we come to examine children's- 
first essays in drawing. 

These elementary pleasures of light, colour, and certain- 
simple aspects of form, may be said to be the basis of a 
crude perception of beauty in natural objects and in the 
products of human workmanship. A quite small child is 
capable of acquiring a real admiration for a beautiful lady, 
in the appreciation of which brightness, colour, grace of 
movement, the splendour of dress, all have their part,, 
while the charm for the eye is often reinforced by a sweet 
and winsome quality of voice. Such an admiration is not 
perfectly aesthetic : awe, an inkling of the social dignity of 
dress, 1 perhaps a longing to be embraced by the charmer, 
may all enter into it ; yet a delight in the look of a thing for 

1 On the nature of the early feeling for dress see Perez, L'Art ct 
la Poesie chez t Enfant. 



its own sake is the core of the feeling. In other childish 
admirations, as the girl's enthusiastic worship of the newly 
arrived baby, we see a true aesthetic sentiment mingled with 
and struggling, so to speak, to extricate itself from such 
' interested ' feelings as sense of personal enrichment by the 
new possession and of family pride. In the likings for 
animals, again, which often take what seem to us capricious 
and quaint directions, we may see rudiments of aesthetic 
perceptions half hidden under a lively sense of absolute 
lordship tempered with affection. 

Perhaps the nearest approach to a pure aesthetic enjoy- 
ment in these first experiences is the love of flowers. The 
wee round wonders with their mystery of velvety colour 
are well fitted to take captive the young eye. I believe 
most children who live among flowers and have access to 
them acquire something of this sentiment, a sentiment of 
admiration for beautiful things with which a sort of dumb 
childish sympathy commonly blends. No doubt there are 
marked differences among children here. There are some 
who care only, or mainly, for their scent, and the strong 
sensibilities of the olfactory organ appear to have a good 
deal to do with early preferences and prejudices in the 
matter of flowers. 1 Others again care for them mainly as a 
means of personal adornment, though I am disposed to think 
that this partially interested fondness is less common with 
children than with many adults. It is sometimes said that 
the love of flowers is, in the main, a characteristic of girls. 
I think however that if one takes children early enough, 
before a consciousness of sex and of its proprieties has been 
allowed to develop under education, the difference will be 
but slight. Little boys of four or thereabouts often show a 
very lively sentiment of admiration for these gems of the 
plant world. 

In much of this first crude utterance of the aesthetic 
sense of the child we have points of contact with the first 

1 See Perez, L'Art et la Poesie chez V Enfant, p. 90 f. 


manifestations of taste in the race. Delight in bright 
glistening things, in gay tints, in strong contrasts of colour, 
as well as in certain forms of movement, as that of feathers 
the favourite personal adornment this is known to be 
characteristic of the savage and gives to his taste in the 
eyes of civilised man the look of childishness. On the other 
hand it is doubtful whether the savage attains to the senti- 
ment of the child for the beauty of flowers. Our civilised 
surroundings, meadows and gardens, as well as the constant 
action of the educative forces of example, soon carry the 
child beyond the savage in this particular. 

How far can children be said to have the germ of a 
feeling for nature, or, to use the more comprehensive modern 
term, cosmic emotion ? It is a matter of common observation 
that they have not the power to embrace a multitude of 
things in a single act of contemplation. Hence they have 
no feeling for landscape as a harmonious complex of 
picturesquely varied parts. When they are taken to see a 
* view ' their eye instead of trying to embrace the whole, as 
a fond parent desires, provokingly pounces on some single 
feature of interest, and often one of but little aesthetic value. 
People make a great mistake in taking children to ' points 
of view ' under the supposition that they will share in 
grown people's impressions. Perez relates that some 
children taken to the Pic du Midi found their chief pleasure 
in scrambling up the peak and saying that they were on 
donkeys. 1 Mere magnitude or vastness of spectacle does 
not appeal to the child, for a sense of the sublime grows out 
of a complex imaginative process which is beyond his 
young powers. So far as immensity affects him at all, 
as in the case of the sea, it seems to excite a measure of 
dread in face of the unknown ; and this feeling, though 
having a certain kinship with the emotion of sublimity, is 
distinct from this last. It has nothing of the joyous con- 
sciousness of expansion which enters into the later feeling. 
1 Op. cit., p. 103. 


It is only to certain limited objects and features of nature 
that the child is aesthetically responsive. He knows the 
loveliness of the gilded spring meadow, the fascination of 
the sunlit stream, the awful mystery of the wood, and 
something too perhaps of the calming beauty of the broad 
blue sky. That is to say, he has a number of small rootlets 
which when they grow together will develop into a feeling 
for nature, 

Here, too, the analogy between the child and the 
uncultured nature-man is evident. The savage has no 
aesthetic sentiment for nature as a whole, though he may 
feel the charm of some of her single features, a stream, 
a mountain, the star-spangled sky, and may even be 
affected by some of the awful aspects of her changing 
physiognomy. Are we not told, indeed, that a true 
aesthetic appreciation of the picturesque variety of nature's 
scenes of the weird charm of wild places, and of the 
sublime fascinations of the awful and repellent mountain, 
are quite late attainments in the history of our race ? l 

Early Attitude towards Art. 

We may now look at the child's attitude towards those 
objects and processes of human art which from the first form 
part of his environment and make an educative appeal to 
his senses ; and here we may begin with those simple musical 
effects which follow up certain impressions derived from 
the natural world. 

It has been pointed out that sounds form a chief source 
of the little child-heart's first trepidations. Yet this prolific 
cause of disquietude, when once the first alarming effect 
of strangeness has passed, becomes a main source of interest 
and delight. Some of nature's sounds, as those of running 
water, and of the wind, early catch the ear, and excite 

1 An excellent sketch of the growth of our feeling for the romantic 
and sublime beauty of mountains is given by Mr. Leslie Stephen in 
one of the most delightful of his works, The Playground of Europe. 


wonder and curiosity. Miss Shinn illustrates fully in the 
case of her niece how the interest in sounds developed 
itself in the first years. 1 This pleasure in listening to 
sounds and in tracing them to their origin forms a chief 
pastime of babyhood. 

./Esthetic pleasure in sound begins to be differentiated 
out of this general interest as soon as there arises a com- 
parison of qualities and a development of preferences. 
Thus the sound of metal (when struck) is preferred to that 
of wood or stone. A nascent feeling for musical quality 
thus emerges which probably has its part in many of the 
first likings for persons ; certain pitches, as those of the 
female voice, and possibly timbres being preferred to others. 

Quite as soon, at least, as this feeling for quality of 
sound or tone, there manifests itself a crude liking for 
rhythmic sequence. It is commonly recognised that our 
pleasure in regularly recurring sounds is instinctive, being 
the result of our whole nervous organisation. We can 
better adapt successive acts of listening when sounds 
follow at regular intervals, and the movements which 
sounds evoke can be much better carried out in a regular 
sequence. The infant shows us this in his well-known 
liking for well-marked rhythms in tunes which he ac- 
companies with suitable movements of the arms, head, etc. 

The first likings for musical composition are based on 
this instinctive feeling for rhythm. It is the simple tunes, 
with well-marked easily recognisable time-divisions, which 
first take the child's fancy, and he knows the quieting and 
the exciting qualities of different rhythms and times. 
Where rhythm is less marked, or grows highly complex, 
the motor responses being confused, the pleasurable 
interest declines. It is the same with the rhythmic 
qualities of verses. The jingling rhythms which their souls 
love are of simple structure, with short feet well marked 
off, as in the favourite, ' Jack and Gill '. 
1 Op cit., p. 115 ff. 


Coming now to art as representative we find that a 
child's aesthetic appreciation waits on the growth of intelli- 
gence, on the understanding of artistic representation as con- 
trasted with a direct presentation of reality. 

The development of an understanding of visual repre- 
sentation or the imaging of things has already been touched 
upon. As Perez points out, the first lesson in this branch 
of knowledge is supplied by the reflexions of the mirror, 
which, as we have seen, the infant begins to take for 
realities, though he soon comes to understand that they are 
not tangible realities. The looking-glass is the best means 
of elucidating the representative function of the image 
or * Bild ' just because it presents this image in close 
proximity to the reality, and so invites direct compari- 
son with this. 

In the case of pictures where this direct comparison is 
excluded we might expect a less rapid recognition of the 
representative function. Yet children show very early that 
picture-semblances are understood in the sense that they call 
forth reactions similar to those called forth by realities. A 
little boy was observed to talk to pictures at the end of the 
eighth month. This perhaps hardly amounted to recogni- 
tion. Pollock says that the significance of pictures " was in 
a general way understood " by his little girl at the age of 
thirteen months. 1 Miss Shinn tells us that her niece, at 
the age of forty-two weeks, showed the same excitement at 
the sight of a life-size painting of a cat as at that of real 
cats. 2 Ten months is also given me by a lady as the date 
at which her little boy recognised pictures of animals by 
naming them ' bow-wow,' etc., without being prompted. 

This early recognition of pictures is certainly remarkable 
even when we remember that animals have the germ of it. 
The stories of recognition by birds of paintings of birds, 
and by dogs of portraits of persons, have to do with fairly 

*Mind, iii., p. 393. 

2 Notes on the Development of a Child, i., p. 71 f_ 


large and finished paintings. 1 A child, however, will ' re- 
cognise ' a small and roughly executed drawing. He seems 
in this respect to surpass the powers of savages, some of 
whom, at least, are said to be slow in recognising pictorial 
semblances. This power, which includes a delicate observa- 
tion of form and an acute sense of likeness, is seen most 
strikingly in the recognition of individual portraits. Miss 
Shinn's niece in her fourteenth month picked out her father's 
face in a group of nine, the face being scarcely more than 
a quarter of an inch in diameter. 2 I noticed the same fine- 
ness of recognition in my own children. 

One point in this early observation of pictures is curious 
enough to call for especial remark. A friend of mine, a 
psychologist, writes to me that his little girl, aged three 
and a half, " does not mind whether she looks at a picture 
the right way up or the wrong ; she points out what you 
ask for, eyes, feet, hands, tail, etc., about equally well 
whichever way up the picture is, and never asks to have 
it put right that she may see it better ". The same thing 
was noticed in the other children of the family, and the 
mother tells me that her mother observed it in her children. 
I have found a further illustration of this indifference to the 
position of a picture in the two children of another friend 
of mine. Professor Petrie tells me that he once watched 
an Arab boy looking at a picture-book. One, a drawing of 
horses and chariot, happened to have a different position 
from the rest, so that the book being held as before, the 
horses seemed to be going upwards ; but the boy was not 
in the least incommoded, and without attempting to turn 
the book round easily made it out. These facts are curious 
as illustrating the skill of the young eye in deciphering. 
They may possibly have a further significance as showing 
how what we call position the arrangement of a form in 

1 See Romanes, Animal Intelligence, pp. 311 and 453 ff. The only 
exception is a photograph which is said to have been ' large,' p. 453. 


relation to a vertical line is a comparatively artificial view 
of which a child as yet takes little if any account. He 
may be able to concentrate his attention so well on form 
proper that he is indifferent to the point how the form is 
placed. Yet this matter is one which well deserves further 
investigation. 1 

A further question arises as to whether this 'recognition' 
of pictures by children towards the end of the first year 
necessarily implies a grasp of the idea of a picture, that is, 
of a representation or copy of something. The first re- 
actions of a child, smiling, etc., on seeing mirror-images 
and pictures, do not seem to show this, but merely that 
he is affected much as he would be by the presence of 
the real object, or, at most, that he recognises the picture 
as a kind of thing. The same is, I think, true of the so- 
called recognition of pictures by animals. 

That children do not, at first, seize the pictorial or 
representative function is seen in the familiar fact that they 
will touch pictures as they touch shadows and otherwise 
treat them as if they were tangible realities. Thus Pollock's 
little girl attempted to smell at the trees in a picture and 
pretended ' to feed some pictorial dogs. 

When the first clear apprehension of the pictorial function 
is reached, it is difficult to say. Miss Shinn thought that 
her niece "understood the purport of a picture quite well" at 
the age of forty-five weeks. She draws this conclusion from 
the fact that at this date the child in answer to the question 
'Where are the flowers?' leaned over and touched the painted 
flowers on her aunt's gown, and then looked out to the garden 
with a cry of desire. 2 But this inference seems to me very 
risky. All that the child's behaviour proves is that she 
'classed' real and painted flowers together, while she recog- 

1 Professor Petrie reminds me that a like absence of the percep- 
tion of position shows itself in the way in which letters are drawn 
in early Greek and Phoenician writings. 

*0p. tit., i., p. 72, 


nised the superiority of the former as the tangible and 
probably the odorous ones. The strongest evidence of 
recognition of pictorial function- by children is, I think, 
their ability to recognise the portrait of an individual. But 
even this is not quite satisfactory. It is conceivable, at least, 
that a child may look on a photograph of his father as a 
kind of ' double '. The boy C., as I have remarked above, 
seemed to think of being photographed as a doubling. 
The story of the dog, a Dandy Dinmont terrier, that 
trembled and barked at a portrait of his dead mistress 1 
seems to me to bear this out. It would surely be rather 
absurd to say that the demonstrations of this animal, what- 
ever they may have meant, prove that he took the portrait 
to be a memento-likeness of his dead mistress. 

We are apt to forget how difficult and abstract a concep- 
tion is that of pictorial representation, how hard it is to 
look at a thing as pure semblance having no value in itself, 
but only as standing for something else. A like slowness 
on the part of the child to grasp a sign, as such, shows itself 
here as in the case of verbal symbols. Children will, quite 
late, especially when feeling is aroused and imagination 
specially active, show a disposition to transform the sem- 
blance into the thing. Miss Shinn herself points out that 
her niece, who seems to have been decidedly quick, was as 
late as the twenty-fifth month touched with pity by a picture 
of a lamb caught in a thicket, and tried to lift the painted 
branch that lay across the lamb. In her thirty-fifth month, 
again, when looking at a picture of a chamois defending her 
little one from an eagle, "she asked anxiously if the mamma 
would drive the eagle away, and presently quite simply 
and unconsciously placed her little hand edgewise on the 
picture so as to make a fence between the eagle and the 
chamois". 2 Such ready confusion of pictures with realities 
shows itself in the fourth year and later. A boy nearly 

1 Romanes, op. cit., p. 453. 
z Op. a'/., ii., p. 104. 


five was observed to strike at the figures in a picture 
and to exclaim: "I can't break them". The Worcester 
Collection of observations illustrates the first confused idea 
of a picture. "One day F., a boy of four, called on a friend, 
Mrs. C., who had just received a picture, representing a 
scene in winter, in which people were going to church, some 
on foot and others in sleighs. F. was told whither they 
were going. The next day he came and noticed the picture, 
and looking at Mrs. C. and then at the picture said: 
' Why, Mrs. C., them people haven't got there yet, have 
they ? ' " 

All this points, I think, to a slow and gradual emergence 
of the idea of representation or likeness. If a child is capable 
in moments of intense imagination of confusing his battered 
doll with a living reality, he may be expected to act similarly 
with respect to the fuller likeness of a picture. Vividness of 
imagination tends in the child as in the savage, and in- 
deed in all of us, to invest a semblance with something of 
reality. We are able to control the illusory tendency and 
to keep it within the limits of an aesthetic semi-illusion ; not 
so the child. Is it too fanciful to suppose that the belief of 
the savage in the occasional visits of the real spirit-god 
to his idol has for its psychological motive the impulse 
which prompts the child ever and again to identify his 
toys and even his pictures with the realities which they 
represent ? 

As might be expected this impulse to confuse represen- 
tation and represented reality shows itself very distinctly 
in the first reception of dramatic spectacle. If you dress 
up as Father Christmas, your child, even though he is told 
that you are his father, will hardly be able to resist the 
illusion that your disguise so powerfully induces. Cuvier 
relates that a boy of ten on watching a stage scene in 
which troops were drawn up for action, broke out in loud 
protestations to the actor who was taking the part of the 
general, telling him that the artillery was wrongly placed, 


and so forth. 1 This reminds one of the story of the sailors 
who on a visit to a theatre happened to see a representation 
of a mutiny on board ship, and were so excited that they 
rushed on the stage and took sides with the authorities in 
quelling the movement. 

I believe that this same tendency to take art-representa- 
tions for realities reappears in children's mental attitude 
towards stories. A story by its narrative form seems to 
tell of real events, and children, as we all know, are wont 
to believe tenaciously that their stories are true. I think I 
have observed a disposition in imaginative children to go 
beyond this, and to give present actuality to the scenes and 
events described. And this is little to be wondered at 
when one remembers that even grown people, familiar with 
the devices of art-imitation, tend now and again to fall into 
this confusion. Only a few days ago, as I was reading an 
account by a friend of mine of a perilous passage in an 
Alpine ascent, accomplished years ago, I suddenly caught 
myself in the attitude of proposing to shout out to stop 
him from venturing farther. A vivid imaginative realisa- 
tion of the situation had made it for the moment a present 

Careful observations of the first attitudes of the child- 
mind towards representative art are greatly neeJed. We 
should probably find considerable diversity of behaviour. 
The presence of a true art-feeling would be indicated by 
a special quickness in the apprehension of art-semblance as 

In these first reactions of the young mind to the stimu- 
lus of art-presentation we may study other aspects of the 
aesthetic aptitude. Very quaint and interesting is the 
exacting realism of these first appreciations. A child is 
apt to insist on a perfect detailed reproduction of the 
familiar reality. And here one may often trace the fine 
observation of these early years. Listen, for example, to 
1 Quoted by Perez, op. cit., p. 216. 


the talk of the little critic before a drawing of a horse or a 
railway train, and you will be surprised to find how closely 
and minutely he has studied the forms of things. It is the 
same with other modes of art-representation. Perez gives 
an amusing instance of a boy, aged four, who when taken 
to a play was shocked at the anomaly of a chamber-maid 
touching glasses with her master on a fete day. "In our 
home," exclaimed the stickler for regularities, to the great 
amusement of the neighbours, " we don't let the nurse drink 
like that." 1 It is the same with story. Children are liable 
to be morally hurt if anything is described greatly at 
variance with the daily custom. ^Esthetic Tightness is as 
yet confused with moral Tightness or social propriety, 
which, as we have seen, has its instinctive support in the 
child's mind in respect for custom. 

Careful observation will disclose in these first frankly 
expressed impressions the special directions of childish 
taste. The preferences of a boy of four in the matter of 
picture-books tell us where his special interests lie, what 
things he finds pretty, and how much of a genuine aesthetic 
faculty he is likely to develop later on. Here, again, there 
is ample room for more careful studies directed to the 
detection of the first manifestations of a pure delight in 
things as beautiful, as charming at once the senses and 
the imagination. 

The first appearances of that complex interest in life 
and personality which fills so large a place in our aesthetic 
pleasures can be best noted in the behaviour of the child's 
mind towards dramatic spectacle and story. The awful 
ecstatic delight with which a child is apt to greet any 
moving semblance carrying with it the look of life and 
action is something which some of us, like Goethe, can 
recall among our oldest memories. The old-fashioned 
moving ' Schattenbilder,' for which the gaudy but rigid 
pictures of the magic lantern are but a poor substitute, the 

1 Op. cit., pp. 215, 216. 


puppet-show, with what a delicious wonder have these 
filled the childish heart. And as to the entrancing, 
enthralling delight of the story well Thackeray and others 
have tried to describe this for us. 

Of very special interest in these early manifestations of 
a feeling for art is the appearance of a crude form of the 
two emotions to which all representations of life and character 
make appeal the feeling for the comic, and for the tragic 
side of things. What we may call the adult's fallacy, the 
tendency to judge children by grown-up standards, fre- 
quently shows itself in an expectation that their laughter 
will follow the directions of ours. I remember having 
made the mistake of putting those delightful books, Tom 
Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn, into the hands of a small 
boy with a considerable sense of fun, and having been 
humiliated at discovering that there was no response. 
Children's fun is of a very elemental character. They are 
mostly tickled, I suspect, by the spectacle of some upsetting 
of the proprieties, some confusion of the established 
distinctions of rank. Dress, as we have seen, has an 
enormous symbolic value for the child's mind, and any 
confusion here is apt to be specially laughter-provoking. 
One child between three and four was convulsed at the 
sight of his baby bib fastened round the neck of his bearded 
sire. There is, too, a considerable element of rowdiness 
in children's sense of the comical, as may be seen by the 
enduring popularity of the spectacle of Punch's successful 
misdemeanours and bravings of the legal authority. 

Since children are apt to take spectacles with an exacting 
seriousness, it becomes interesting to note how the two 
moods, realistic stickling for correctness, and rollicking 
hilarity at the sight of the disorderly, behave in relation 
one to another. More facts are needed on this point. It 
is probable that we have here to do in part with a permanent 
difference of temperament. There are serious matter-of- 
fact little minds which are shocked by a kind of spectacle or 


narrative that would give boundless delight to a more elastic 
fun-loving spirit. But discarding these permanent differences 
of disposition, I think that in general the sense of fun, the 
delight in the topsy-turviness of things, is apt to develop 
later than the serious realistic attitude already referred to. 
Here, too, it is probable that the evolution of the individual 
follows that of the race : the solemnities of custom and 
ritual weigh so heavily at first on the savage-mind that 
there is no chance for sprightly laughter to show himself. 
However this be, most young children appear to be unable 
to appreciate true comedy where the incongruous co-exists 
with and takes on one half of its charm from serious 
surroundings. Their laughter is best called forth by a 
broadly farcical show in which all serious rules are set at 

Of no less interest in this attitude of the child-mind 
towards the representations by art of human character and 
action are the first rude manifestations of the feeling for the 
tragic side of life. A child of four or six is far from realising 
the divine necessity which controls our mortal lives. Yet 
he will display a certain crude feeling for thrilling situation, 
exciting adventure, and something, too, of a sympathetic 
interest in the woes of mortals, quadrupeds as well as bipeds. 
The action, the situation, may easily grow too painful for 
an imaginative child disposed to take all representative 
spectacle as reality : yet the absorbing interest of the action 
where the sadness is bearable attests the early development 
of that universal feeling for the sorrowful fatefulness of 
things which runs through all imaginative writings from the 
' penny dreadful ' upwards. 

Beginnings of A rt-production. 

We have been trying to catch the first faint manifesta- 
tions of aesthetic feeling in children's contemplative attitude 
towards natural objects and the presentations of art. We 
may now pass to what is a still more interesting department of 


childish aesthetics, their first rude attempts at art-production. 
We are wont to say that children are artists in embryo, 
that in their play and their whole activity they manifest the 
germs of the art-impulse. In order to see whether this idea 
is correct we must start with a clear idea of what we mean 
by art-activity. 

I would define art-activity as including all childish 
doings which are consciously directed to an external result 
recognised as beautiful, as directly pleasing to sense and 
imagination. Thus a gesture, or an intonation of voice, 
which is motived by a feeling for what is ' pretty ' or ' nice ' 
is a mode of art-activity as much as the production of a 
more permanent aesthetic object, as a drawing. 

Now if we look at children's activity we shall find that 
though much of it implies a certain germ of aesthetic feeling 
it is not pure art-activity. In the love of personal adorn- 
ment, for example, we see, as in the case of savages, the 
aesthetic motive subordinated to another and personal or 
interested feeling, vanity or love of admiration. On the other 
hand, in children's play, which undoubtedly has a kinship 
with art, we find the aesthetic motive, the desire to produce 
something beautiful, very much in the background. We 
have then to examine these primitive forms of activity so 
as to try to disengage the genuine art-element. 

One of the most interesting of these early quasi-artistic 
lines of activity is that of personal adornment. The impulse 
to study one's appearance seems to reach far down in animal 
life. The animal's care of its person is supported by two 
instincts, the impulse to frighten or overawe others, and 
especially those who are, or are likely to be, enemies, 
illustrated in the raising of feathers and hair so as to in- 
crease size ; and the impulse to attract, which probably 
underlies the habit of trimming feathers and fur among 
birds and quadrupeds. These same impulses are said to 
lie at the root of the elaborate art of personal adornment 
developed by savages. The anthropologist divides such 


ornament into alluring and alarming, * Reizschmuck ' and 
'Schreckschmuck'. 1 

In the case of children's attention to personal appear- 
ance there is no question of tracing out the workings of a 
pure instinct. The care of the person is before all other 
things inculcated and enforced by others, and forms, indeed, 
a main branch of the nursery training. To a mother, as 
is perfectly natural, a child is apt to present himself as the 
brightest of the household ornaments, which has to be kept 
neat and spotless with even greater care than the polished 
table and other pretty things. This early drilling is likely 
to be unpleasant. Many children resent at first not only 
soap and water and the merciless comb, but even arrayings 
in new finery. Adornment is forced on the child before 
the instinct has had time to develop itself, and the manner 
of the adornment does not always accommodate itself to the 
natural inclinations of the childish eye. Hence the familiar 
fact that with children the care of personal appearance when 
it is developed takes on the air of a respect for law. It is 
more than half a moral feeling, a readiness to be shocked at 
a breach of a custom enforced from the first by example and 

Again, the instinct of adornment in the child is often 
opposed by other impulses. I have already touched on a 
small child's feeling of uneasiness at seeing his mother in 
new apparel. A like apprehensiveness shows itself in 
relation to his own dress. Many little children show a 
marked dislike to new raiment. As I have remarked 
above, a change of dress probably disturbs and confuses 
their sense of personality. 

In spite, however, of these and other complicating 
circumstances I believe that the instinct to adorn the person 
is observable in children. They like a bit of finery in the 
shape of a string of beads or of daisies for the neck, a 
feather for the hat, a scrap of brilliantly coloured ribbon or 
Grosse, DieAnfange der Kunst, pp. 106, 107. 


cloth as a bow for the dress, and so forth. Imitation, 
doubtless, plays a part here, but it is, I think, possible to 
allow for this, and still to detect points of contact with the 
savage's love of finery. Perhaps, indeed, we may discern 
the play of both the impulses underlying personal orna- 
ment which were referred to above, viz., the alluring and 
alarming. Allowing for the differences of intelligence, of 
sexual development and so forth, we may say that children 
betray a rudiment of the instinct to win admiration by 
decorating the person, and also of the instinct to overawe. 
A small boy's delight in adding to his height and formid- 
able appearance by donning his father's tall hat is pretty 
certainly an illustration of this last. 

This is not the place to inquire whether the love of 
finery in children a very variable trait, as M. Perez and 
others have shown is wholly the outcome of vanity. I 
would, however, just remark that a child lost in the vision 
of himself reflected in a mirror decked out in new apparel 
may be very far from feeling vanity as we understand the 
word. The pure child-wonder at what is new and 
mysterious may at such a moment overpower other 
feelings, and make the whole mental condition one of 
dream-like trance. 

Since children are left so little free to deck themselves, 
it is of course hard to study the development of aesthetic 
taste in this domain of art-like activity. Yet the quaint 
attempts of the child to improve his appearance throw an 
interesting light on his aesthetic preferences. He is at 
heart as much a lover of glitter, of gaudy colour, as his 
savage prototype. With this general crudity of taste, 
individual differences soon begin to show themselves, a 
child developing a marked bent, now to modest neatness 
and refinement, now to gaudy display, and this, it may be, 
in direct opposition to the whole trend of home influence. 1 

1 The whole subject of the attitude of the child-mind towards 
dress and ornament is well dealt with by Perez, op. cit., chap. i. 


Another and closely connected domain of activity 
which is akin to art is the manifestation of grace and 
charm in action. Much of the beauty of movement, of 
gesture, of intonation, in a young child may be uncon- 
scious, and as much a result of happy physical conditions 
as the pretty gambols of a kitten. Yet one may commonly 
detect in graceful children the rudiment of an aesthetic 
feeling for what is nice, and also of the instinct to please. 
There is, indeed, in these first actions and manners, into 
which stupid conventionality has not yet imported all kinds 
of awkward restraints, as when the little girl M. would kiss 
her hand spontaneously to other babies as she passed them 
in the street, something of the simple grace and dignity of 
the more amiable savages. Now a feeling for what is grace- 
ful in movement, carriage, speech and so forth is no clear 
proof of a specialised artistic impulse : yet it attests the 
existence of a rudimentary appreciation of what is beautiful, 
as also of an impulse to produce this. 

In the forms of childish activity just referred to we 
have to do with mixed impulses in which the true art- 
element is very imperfectly represented. There is a liking 
for pretty effect, and an effort to realise it, only the effect 
is not prized wholly for its own sake, but partly as a means 
of winning the smile of approval. The true art-impulse 
is characterised by the love of shaping beautiful things for 
their own sake, by an absorbing devotion to the process 
of creation, into which there enters no thought of any 
advantage to self, and almost as little of benefiting others. 
Now there is one field of children's activity which is marked 
by just this absorption of thought and aim, and that is play. 

To say that play is art-like has almost become a com- 
monplace. Any one can see that when children are at play 
they are carried away by pleasurable activity, are thinking 
of no useful result but only of the pleasure of the action 
itself. They build their sand castles, they pretend to keep 
shcp, to entertain visitors, and so forth, for the sake of the 



enjoyment which they find in these actions. This clearly 
involves one point of kinship with the artist, for the poet 
sings and the painter paints because they love to do so. 
It is evident, moreover, from what was said above on the 
imaginative side of play that it has this further circum- 
stance in common with art-production, that it is the body- 
ing forth of a mental image into the semblance of outward 
life. Not only so, play exhibits the distinction between 
imitation and invention the realistic and the idealistic 
tendency in art and in its forms comes surprisingly near 
representing the chief branches of art-activity. It thus fully 
deserves to be studied as a domain in which we may look 
for early traces of children's artistic tendencies. 

If by play we understand all that spontaneous activity 
which is wholly sustained by its own pleasurableness, we 
shall find the germ of it in those aimless movements and 
sounds which are the natural expression of a child's joyous 
life. Such outpourings of happiness have a quasi-aesthetic 
character in so far as they follow the rhythmic law of all 
.action. Where the play becomes social activity, that is, 
the concerted action of a number, we get something closely 
analogous to those primitive harmonious co-ordinations of 
movements and sounds in which the first crude music, poetry 
and dramatic action of the race are supposed to have had 
their common origin. 

Such naive play-activity acquires a greater aesthetic im- 
portance when it becomes significant or representative of 
something : and this direction appears very early in child- 
history. The impulse to imitate the action of another seems 
to be developed before the completion of the first half-year. 1 
In its first crude form, as reproducing a gesture or sound 
uttered at the moment by another, it enters into the whole 

1 Preyer places the first imitative movement in the fourth month 
(op. cit., cap. 12). Baldwin, however, dates the first unmistakable 
appearance in the case of his little girl in the ninth month (Mental 
Development, p. 131). 


of social or concerted play. A number of children find the 
harmonious performance of a series of dance or other move- 
ments, such as those of the kindergarten games, natural and 
easy, because the impulse to imitate, to follow another's lead, 
at once prompts them and keeps them from going far astray. 

It is a higher and more intellectual kind of imitation when 
a child recalls the idea of something he has seen done and 
reproduces the action. This is often carried out under the 
suggestive force of objects which happen to present them- 
selves at the time, as when a child sees an empty cup and 
pretends to drink, or a book and simulates the action of 
reading out of it, or a pair of scissors and proceeds to 
execute snipping movements. In other cases the imitation 
is more spontaneous, as when a child recalls and repeats 
some funny saying that he has heard. 

This imitative action grows little by little more complex, 
and in this way a prolonged make-believe action may be 
carried out. Here, it is evident, we get something closely 
analogous to histrionic performance. A child pantomimic- 
ally representing some funny action comes, indeed, very 
near to the mimetic art of the comedian. 

Meanwhile, another form of imitation is developing, viz., 
the production of semblances in things. Early illustrations 
of this impulse are the making of a river out of the gravy in 
the plate, the pinching of pellets of bread till they take on 
something of resemblance to known forms. One child, three 
years old, once occupied himself at table by turning his 
plate into a clock, in which his knife (or spoon) and fork 
were made to act as hands, and cherry stones put round 
the plate to represent the hours. Such table-pastimes are 
known to all observers of children, and have been prettily 
touched on by R. L. Stevenson. 1 

These formative touches are, at first, rough enough, the 
transformation being effected, as we have seen, much 
more by the alchemy of the child's imagination than by 

1 Virginibus Puerisque, ' Child's Play '. 


the cunning of his hands. Yet, crude as it is, and showing 
at first almost as much of chance as of design, it is a mani- 
festation of the same plastic impulse, the same striving to 
produce images or semblances of things, which possesses 
the sculptor and the painter. In each case we see a mind 
dominated by an idea and labouring to give it outward 
embodiment. The more elaborate constructive play which 
follows, the building with sand and with bricks, with which 
we may take the first spontaneous drawings, are the direct 
descendant of this rude formative activity. The kindergarten 
occupations, most of all the clay-modelling, make direct 
appeal to this half-artistic plastic impulse in the child. 

In this imitative play we may note the artistic tendency 
to set forth what is characteristic in the things represented. 
Thus in the acting of the nursery the nurse, the coachman 
and so forth are given by one or two broad touches, such 
as the presence of the medicine-bottle or its semblance, or 
of the whip, together, perhaps, with some characteristic 
manner of speaking. In this way child-play, like primitive 
art, shows a certain unconscious selectiveness. It presents 
what is constant and typical, imperfectly enough no doubt. 
The same selection of broadly distinctive traits is seen where 
some individual seems to be represented. There is a precisely 
similar tendency to a somewhat bald typicalness of outline 
in the first rude attempts of children to form semblances. 
This will be fully illustrated presently when we examine 
their manner of drawing. 

As observation widens and grows finer, the first bald 
abstract representation becomes fuller and more life-like. 
A larger number of distinctive traits is taken up into the 
representation. Thus the coachman's talk becomes richer, 
fuller of reminiscences of the stable, etc., and so colour is 
given to the dramatic picture. A precisely similar process 
of development is noticeable in the plastic activities. The 
first raw attempt to represent house or castle is improved 
upon, and the image grows fuller of characteristic detail and 


more life-like. Here, again, we may note the parallelism 
between the evolution of play-activity and of primitive 

This movement away from bare symbolic indication to 
concrete pictorial representation involves a tendency to 
individualise, to make the play or the shapen semblance 
life-like in the sense of representing an individual reality. 
Such individual concreteness may be obtained by a 
mechanical reproduction of some particular action and scene 
of real life, and children in their play not infrequently 
attempt a faithful recital or portraiture of this kind. Such 
close unyielding imitation shows itself, too, now and again 
in the attempt to act out a story. Yet with bright fanciful 
children the impulse to give full life and colour to the 
performance rarely stops here. Fresh individual life is best 
obtained by the aid of invention, by the intervention of 
which some new scene or situation, some new grouping of 
personalities is realised. Nothing is aesthetically of more 
interest in children's play than the first cautious intrusion 
into the domain of imitative representation of this impulse 
of invention, this desire for the new and fresh as distinct 
from the old and customary. Perhaps, too, there is no side 
of children's play in which individual differences are more 
clearly marked or more significant than this. The child of 
bold inventive fancy is shocking to his companion whose 
whole idea of proper play is a servile imitation of the scenes 
and actions of real life. Yet the former will probably be found 
to have more of the stuff of which the artist is compacted. 

All such invention, moreover, since it aims at securing 
some more vivacious and stirring play-experience, naturally 
comes under the influence of the childish instinct of exaggera- 
tion. I mean by this the untaught art of vivifying and 
strengthening a description or representation by adding 
touch to touch. In the representations of play, this love of 
colour, of strong effect, shows itself now in a piling up of 
the beautiful, gorgeous, or wonderful, as when trying to act 


some favourite scene from fairy-story, or some grand social 
function, now in a bringing together of droll or pathetic 
incidents so as to strengthen the comic or the tragic feeling 
of the play-action. In all this which has its counterpart 
in the first crude attempts of the art of the race to break 
the tight bonds of a servile imitation we have, I believe, 
the germ of what in our more highly developed art we call 
the idealising impulse. 

I have, perhaps, said enough to show that children's 
play is in many respects analogous to art of the simpler 
kind, also that it includes within itself lines of activity which 
represent the chief directions of art-development. 1 

Yet though art-like this play is not fully art. In play a 
child is too self-centred, if I may so say. The scenes he 
acts out, the semblances he shapes with his hands, are not 
produced as having objective value, but rather as providing 
himself with a new environment. The peculiarity of all 
imaginative play, its puzzle for older people, is its contented 
privacy. The idea of a child playing as an actor is said to 
'play' in order to delight others is a contradiction in terms. 
As I have remarked above, the pleasure of a child in what we 
call 'dramatic ' make-believe is wholly independent of any 
appreciating eye. " I remember/' writes R. L. Stevenson, 
" as though it were yesterday, the expansion of spirit, the 
dignity and self-reliance, that came with a pair of mus- 
tachios in burnt cork even when there ivas none to see" 2 The 
same thing is true of concerted play. A number of children 
playing at being Indians, or what not, do not ' perform ' for 
one another. The words ' perform,' ' act ' and so forth all 
seem to be out of place here. What really occurs in this 
case is a conjoint vision of a new world, a conjoint imagina- 
tive realisation of a new life. 

This difference between play and art is sometimes 

1 The telling of stories to other children does not, I conceive, fall 
under my definition of play. It is child-art properly so called. 

2 Virginibus Puerisque, Child's Play '. 



pushed to the point of saying that art has its root in the 
social impulse, the wish to please. 1 This I think is simpli- 
fying too much. Art is no doubt a social phenomenon, as 
Guyau and others have shown. It has been well said that 
" an individual art in the strictest sense even if it were 
conceivable is nowhere discoverable ". 2 That is to say the 
artist is constituted as such by a participation in the common 
consciousness, the life of his community, and his creative 
impulse is controlled and directed by a sense of common or 
objective values. Yet to say that art is born of the instinct 
to please or attract is to miss much of its significance. The 
ever-renewed contention of artists, 'art for art's sake,' points 
to the fact that they, at least, recognise in their art-activity 
something spontaneous, something of the nature of self- 
expression, self-realisation, and akin to the child's play, 
May we not say, then, that the impulse of the artist has its 
roots in the happy semi-conscious activity of the child at 
play, the all-engrossing effort to ' utter,' that is, give outer 
form and life to an inner idea, and that the play-impulse 
becomes the art-impulse (supposing it is strong enough to 
survive the play-years) when it is illumined by a growing 
participation in the social consciousness, and a sense of the 
common worth of things, when, in other words, it becomes 
conscious of itself as a power of shaping semblances which 
shall have value for other eyes or ears, and shall bring 
recognition and renown ? Or, to put it somewhat differently, 
may we not say that art has its twin-rootlets in the two 
directions of childish activity which we have considered, 
viz., the desire to please so far as this expresses itself in 
dress, graceful action, and so forth, and the entrancing iso- 
lating impulse of play ? However we express the relation, 
I feel sure that we must account for the origin of art by 
some reference to play. A study of the art of savages, more 

1 According to Mr. H. Rutgers Marshall art-activity takes its 
rise in the instinct to attract others (Pain, Pleasure, and ^Esthetics). 

2 Grosse, Anfange der Kunst, p. 48. 


especially perhaps of the representations of fighting and 
hunting in their pantomime-dances, seems to show that art 
is continuous with play-activity. 

To insist on this organic connexion between play and 
art is not to say that every lively player is fitted to become 
an art-aspirant. The artistic ambition implies too rare a 
complex of conditions for us to be able to predict its 
appearance in this way. It may, however, be thrown out 
as a suggestion to the investigator of the first manifestations 
of artistic genius that he might do well to cast his eye on 
the field of imaginative play. It will possibly be found that 
although not a romping riotous player, nor indeed much 
disposed to join other children in their pastimes, the original 
child has his own distinctive style of play, which marks him 
out as having more than other children of that impulse to 
dream of far-off things, and to bring them near in the 
illusion of outer semblance, which enters more or less 
distinctly into all art. 

I have left myself no space to speak of the child's first 
attempts at art as we understand it. Some of this art- 
activity, more particularly the earliest weaving of stories, 
is characteristic enough to deserve a special study. I have 
made a small collection of early stories, and some of them 
are interesting enough to quote. Here is a quaint example 
of the first halting manner of a child of two and a half 
years as invention tries to get away from the sway of 
models : " Three little bears went out a walk and they 
found a stick, and they poked the fire with it, and they 
poked the fire and then went a walk ". Soon, however, the 
young fancy is apt to wax bolder, and then we get some 
fine invention. A boy of five years and a quarter living at 
the sea-side improvised as follows. He related "that one 
day he went out on the sea in a lifeboat when suddenly he 
saw a big whale, and so he jumped down to catch it, but 
it was so big that he climbed on it and rode on it in the 
water, and all the little fishes laughed so ". 


With this comic story may be compared a more serious 
not to say tragic one from the lips of a girl one month 
younger, and characterised by an almost equal fondness 
for the wonderful. " A man wanted to go to heaven before 
he died. He said, * I don't want to die, and I must see 
heaven!' Jesus Christ said he must be patient like other 
people. He then got so angry, and screamed out as loud 
as he could, and kicked up his heels as high as he could, 
and they (the heels) went into the sky, and the sky fell 
down and broke earth all to pieces. He wanted Jesus 
Christ to mend the earth again, but he wouldn't, so this was 
a good punishment for him." This last, which is the work 
of one now grown into womanhood and no longer a story- 
teller, is interesting in many ways. The wish to go to 
heaven without dying is, as I know, a motive derived from 
child-life. The manifestations of displeasure could, one 
supposes, only have been written by one who was herself 
experienced in the ways of childish 'tantrums'. The 
nai've conception of sky and earth, and lastly the moral 
issue of the story, are no less instructive. 

These samples may serve to show that in the stories of by 
no means highly-gifted children we come face to face with 
interesting traits of the young mind, and can study some of 
the characteristic tendencies of early and primitive art. 1 Of 
the later efforts to imitate older art, as verse writing, the 
same cannot, I think, be said. Children's verses so far as 
I have come across them are poor and stilted, showing all 
the signs of the cramping effect of models and rules to which 
the child-mind cannot easily accommodate itself, and want- 
ing all true childish inspiration. No doubt, even in these 
choking circumstances, childish feeling may now and again 
peep out. The first prose compositions, letters before all if 
they may be counted art, give more scope for the expression 

1 The child's feeling for climax shown in these is further illus- 
trated in a charming story taken down by Miss Shinn, but unfortu- 
nately too long to quote here. See Overland Monthly, vol. xxiii., p. 19. 


of a child's feeling and the characteristic movements of his 
thought, and might well repay study. 1 

There is one other department of this child-art which 
clearly does deserve to be studied with some care drawing. 
And this for the very good reason that it is not wholly a 
product of our influence and education, but shows itself in 
its essential characteristics as a spontaneous self-taught 
activity of childhood which takes its rise, indeed, in the 
play-impulse. This will be the subject of the next essay. 

1 Perez deals with children's literary compositions in the work 
already quoted (chap. ix.). Cf. Paola Lombroso, op. cit., cap. viii. 
and ix. 


First Attempts to Draw. 

A CHILD'S first attempts at drawing are pre-artistic and a 
kind of play, an outcome of the instinctive love of finding 
and producing semblances of things illustrated in the last 
essay. Sitting at the table and covering a sheet of paper 
with line-scribble he is wholly self-centred, ' amusing himself," 
as we say, and caring nothing about the production of " ob- 
jective values ". 

Yet even in the early stages of infantile drawing the 
social element of art is suggested in the impulse of the 
small draughtsman to make his lines indicative of some- 
thing to others' eyes, as when he bids his mother look at 
the ' man,' ' gee-gee,' or what else he fancies that he has 
delineated. 1 And this, though crude enough and apt to 
shock the aesthetic sense of the matured artist by its un- 
sightliness, is closely related to art, forming, indeed, in a 
manner a preliminary stage of pictorial design. 

We shall therefore study children's drawings as a kind 
of rude embryonic art. In doing this our special aim will 
be to describe and explain childish characteristics. This, 
again, will compel us to go to some extent into the early 
forms of observation and imagination. It will be found, I 

1 This indicative or communicative function of drawing has, we 
know, played a great part in the early stages of human history. 
Modern savages employ drawings in sand as a means of imparting 
information to others, e.g., of the presence of fish in a lake (Von den 
Steinen, Unter den NaturviJlkern Zentral-Brasiliens, Kap. x., s. 243 f.). 


think, that the first crude drawings are valuable as throw- 
ing light on the workings of children's minds. Perhaps, 
indeed, it may turn out that these spontaneous efforts of 
the childish hand to figure objects are for the psychologist 
a medium of expression of the whole of child-nature, 
hardly less instructive than that of early speech. 

In carrying out our investigation of children's drawings 
we shall need to make a somewhat full reference to the 
related phenomena, the drawings of modern savages and 
those of early art. While important points of difference 
will disclose themselves the resemblances are important 
enough to make a comparison not only profitable but 
almost indispensable. 

I have thought it best to narrow the range of the inquiry 
by keeping to delineations of the human figure and of 
animals, especially the horse. These are the favourite 
topics of the child's pencil, and examples of them are easily 

As far as possible I have sought spontaneous drawings 
of quite young children, viz., from between two and three 
to about six. 1 In a strict sense of course no child's drawing 
is absolutely spontaneous and independent of external 
stimulus and guidance. The first attempts to manage the 
pencil are commonly aided by the mother, who, moreover, 
is wont to present a model drawing, and, what is even more 
important at this early stage, to supply model-movements 
of the arm and hand. In most cases, too, there is some 
slight amount of critical inspection, as when she asks, * Where 
is papa's nose?' 'Where is doggie's tail?' Yet perfect 
spontaneity, even if obtainable, is not necessary here. The 
drawings of men and quadrupeds of a child of five and 
later disclose plainly enough the childish fashion, even 
though there has been some slight amount of elementary 
instruction. Hence I have not hesitated to make use of 

1 Only a few drawings of older children above seven have been 



drawings sent me by kindergarten teachers. I may add 
that I have used by preference the drawings executed by 
children in elementary schools, as these appear to illustrate 
the childish manner with less of parental interference than 
is wont to be present in a cultured home. 

A child's drawing begins with a free aimless swinging 
of the pencil to and fro, which movements produce a chaos 
of slightly curved lines. These movements are purely 
spontaneous, or, if imitative, are so only in the sense that 
they follow at a considerable distance the movements of 
the mother's pencil. 1 They may be made expressive or 
significant in two ways. In the first place, a child may by 
varying the swinging movements accidentally produce 
an effect which suggests an idea through a remote resem- 
blance. A little boy when two years and two months, 
was one day playing in this wise with the pencil, and 
happening to make a sort of curling line, shouted with 
excited glee, ' Puff, puff ! ' i.e., smoke. He then drew 
more curls with a rudimentary intention to show what he 
meant. In like manner when a child happens to bend his 
line into something like a closed circle or ellipse he will 
catch the faint resemblance to the rounded human head 
and exclaim, ' Mama ! ' or ' Dada ! ' 

But intentional drawing or designing does not always 
arise in this way. A child may set himself to draw, and 
make believe that he is drawing something when he is 
scribbling. This is largely an imitative play-action 
following the direction of the movements of another's hand. 
Preyer speaks of a little girl who in her second year was 
asked when scribbling with a pencil what she was doing 
and answered 'writing houses'. She was apparently 
making believe that her jumble of lines represented houses. 2 

1 E. Cooke gives illustrations of these in his thoughtful and inter- 
esting articles on "Art-teaching and Child-nature," published in the 
Journal of Education, Dec., 1885, and Jan., 1886. 

2 Preyer, op. cit., p. 47. 


Almost any scribble may in this earliest stage take on a 
meaning through the play of a vigorous childish imagination. 
The same play of imagination is noticeable in the child's 
first endeavours to draw an object 
from memory when he is asked to 
do so. Thus a little girl in her 
fourth year referred to by Mr. E. 
Cooke when asked to draw a cat 
produced a longish irregularly 
curved line crossed by a number 
of shorter lines, which strange pro- 
Fig, i (a) and (6). duction she proceeded quite com- 
placently to dignify by the name 

'cat,' naming the whiskers, legs, and tail (Fig. I (#); compare 
the slightly fuller design in Fig. I (b) ). 1 

Here it is evident we have a phase of childish drawing 
which is closely analogous to the symbolism of language. 
The representation is arbitrarily chosen as a symbol and not 
as a likeness. This element of a non-imitative or symbolic 
mode of representation will be found to run through the 
whole of childish drawing. 

Even this chaotic scribble shows almost from the 
beginning germs of formative elements, not merely in the 
fundamental line-elements, but also in the loops, and in the 
more abrupt changes of direction or angles. A tendency 
to draw a loop-like rudimentary contour soon emerges, and 
thus we get the transition to a possible outlining of objects. 
Miss Shinn gives a good example of an ovoid loop drawn 
by her niece in her hundred and ninth week. 2 With 
practice the child acquires by the second or third year the 
usual stock in trade of the juvenile draughtsman, and can 
draw a sort of straight line, curved lines, a roughish kind 
of circle or oval, as well as dots, and even fit lines together 

1 Taken from E. Cooke's articles already quoted, drawings 19 and 

2 Op. cit., pt. ii., p. 97; " fifty-sixth week " is, she informs me, 
an error for hundred and ninth week. 



at angles. 1 When this stage is reached we begin to see 
attempts at real though rude likenesses of men, horses and 
so forth. These early essays are among the most curious 
products of the child-mind. They follow standards and 
methods of their own ; they are apt to get hardened into a 
fixed conventional manner which may reappear even in 
mature years. They exhibit with a certain range of 
individual difference a curious uniformity, and they have 
their parallels in what we know of the first crude designs 
of the untutored savage. 

First Drawings of the Human Figure. 

It has been wittily observed by an Italian writer on 
children's art that they reverse the order of natural creation 
in beginning instead of ending with man. 2 It may be 
added that they start with the most dignified part of this 
crown of creation, vis., the human head. A child's first 
attempt to represent a man proceeds, so far as I have 
observed, by drawing the front view of his head. This he 
effects by means of a clumsy sort of circle with a dot or two 
thrown in by way of indicating features in general. A couple 
of lines may be inserted as a kind of support, which do duty 
for both trunk and legs. The circular or ovoid form is, I 
think, by far the most common. The square head in my 
collection appears only very occasionally and in children 
at school, who presumably have had some training in 
drawing horizontal and vertical lines. The accompanying 

1 I am much indebted to Mr. Cooke for the sight of a series of 
early scribbles of his little girl. Cf. Baldwin, Mental Development, 
chap, v., where some good examples of early line-tracing are given. 
According to Baldwin angles or zig-zag come early, and are probably 
due to the cramped, jerky mode of movement at this early stage. 
Preyer seems to me wrong in saying that children cannot manage 
a circular line before the end of the third year (op. cit., p. 47). Most 
children who draw at all manage a loop or closed curved line before 
this date. 

2 Corrado Ricci, L'Arte del Bambini (1887), p. 6. 



example (Fig. 2) is the work of a Jamaica girl of five, 
kindly sent me by her teacher. 

This first attempt to outline the 
human form is, no doubt, character- 
ised by a high degree of arbitrary 
symbolism. The use of a rude form 
of circle to set forth the human head 
reminds one of the employment by 
living savage tribes of the same form 
as the symbol of a house or hut, a 
wreath, and so forth. 1 Yet there is 
a measure of resemblance even in 
this abstract symbolism : the circle 

Fig. 2. 

does roughly resemble the contour of the head : as, indeed, 
the square or rectangle may be said less obviously to do 
when hair and whiskers and the horizontal line of the hat 
break the curved line. 

But it is not the mere contour which represents the face : 

it is a circle picked out with features. These, 

** *~ . however vaguely indicated, are an integral 

O O part of the facial scheme. This is illustrated 

: in the fact that among the drawings by 

j&j savages and others collected by General Pitt- 

i* 1 " \ Rivers, one, executed by an adult negro of 

L \ Uganda, actually omits the contour, the 

human head being represented merely by an 

arrangement of dark patches and circles for 

T eyes, ears, etc. (Fig. 3). 2 

(fl | u Coming now to the mode of representing 

Fi the features, we find at an early stage of 

this schematic delineation an attempt to 

differentiate and individualise features, not only by giving 

1 Von den Steinen, op. cit., p. 247. 

2 These drawings, of the highest interest to the student of child-art 
as well as to the anthropologist, are to be seen in the General's 
Museum at Farnham (Dorset) (yth room). 


definite position but by a rough imitation of form. Thus 
we get the vertical line as indicating the direction of the 
nose, the horizontal line that of the mouth, and either 
a rounded dot or a circular line as representative of the 
curved outline of the eye whether that of the iris, of the 
visible part of the eyeball, or of the orbital cavity. A 
precisely similar scheme appears in the drawings of 
savages. 1 

At first the child is grandly indifferent to complete- 
ness in the enumeration of features. Even 'the two 
eyes, a nose and a mouth 1 are often imperfectly represented. 
Thus when dots are used we may have one or more 
specks ranging, according to M. Perez, up to five. 2 
The use of a single dot for facial feature in general 
has its parallel in the art of savage tribes. 3 It is, 
however, I think, most common to introduce three dots 
in a triangular arrangement, presumably for eyes and 
mouth, a device again which reappears in the art of 
uncivilised races. 4 Even when the young draughtsman 
has reached the stage of distinguishing the features he 
may be quite careless about number and completeness. 
Thus a feature may be omitted altogether. This funnily 
enough happens most frequently in the case of that one 
which seems to us ' grown-ups ' most self-assertive and 
most resentful of indignity, viz., the nose. These moon- 
faces with two eyes and a mouth are very common 
among the first drawings of children. The mouth, on 
the other hand, is much less frequently omitted. The 
same thing seems to hold good of the drawings of 

1 Schoolcraft has a good example of this facial scheme in the 
drawing of a man shooting (The Indian Tribes of the United States, i., 
pi. 48). 

2 UArt et la Poesie chez V Enfant, p. 186. 

3 For an illustration see Andree, Eth. Parallelen und Vergleiche, 
pi. 3, fig. 19. 

4 See for an example, Schoolcraft, iv., pi. 18. 




savages. 1 The eyes are rarely omitted. The single dot 
may perhaps be said to stand for 'eye'. Some draw- 
ings of savages have 
the two eyes and no 
other feature, as in 
the accompanying ex- 
ample from Andree, 
plate 3 (Fig. 4 (*) ). 
On the other hand, a 
child will, as we have 
seen, sometimes con- 
tent himself with one 
eye. This holds good 
not only where the 

Fig. 4 (a). 

dot is used but after 
something like an eye-circle is introduced, as in the 
accompanying drawing by a Jamaica girl of seven (Fig. 

4 (*) ) 

In these first attempts to sketch out a face we miss a 
sense of relative position and of proportion. It is astonish- 
ing what a child on first attempting to draw a human or 
animal form can do in the way of dislocation or putting things 
into the wrong place. The little girl mentioned by E. 
Cooke on trying, about the same age, to draw a. cat from 
a model actually put the circle representing the eye 
outside that of the head. With this may be compared 
the drawings of Von den Steinen and other Europeans 
made by his Brazil Indian companions, in which what 
was distinctly said by the draughtsman to be the mous- 

1 According to Stanley Hall the nose comes after the mouth. 
This may be an approximate generalisation, but there are evidently 
exceptions to it. On the practice of savage draughtsmen see the 
Australian cave drawings in Andree, op. cit., plate vi., Figs. 58, 59. 
C/. the drawings of Brazilian tribes, plate iii., Fig. 15. In some cases 
there seems a preference for the nose, certain of the Brazilian 
drawings representing facial features merely by a vertical stroke. 



tache was in more than one instance set above the eyes 
(Fig. 4 (c) ). When dots are in- 
serted in the linear scheme they 
are apt at first to be thrown in 
anyhow. The two eyes, I find, 
when these only are given, may be 
put one above the other as well as 
one by the side of the other, and 
both arrangements occur in the 
drawings of the same child. And 
much later when greater attention 

to position is observable there is a Fi &- 4 (c). Moustache = 

horizontal line above 
general tendency to put the group curve of cap. 

of features too high up, i.e., to make the forehead or brain 
region too small in proportion to the chin region (cf. above, 
Fig. 2, p. 336). 1 

The want of proportion is still more plainly seen in 
the treatment of the several features. 
The eye, as already remarked, is apt 
to be absurdly large. In the drawing 
of Mr. Cooke's little girl mentioned 
above it is actually larger than the 
head outside which it lies. This 
enlargement continues to appear 
frequently in later drawings, more 
particularly when one eye only is 
introduced, as in the accompanying 
drawing by a boy in his seventh year (Fig. 5 (a) ; 
cf. above, Fig. 4 (b) ). The mouth is apt to be 
even more disproportionate, the child appearing to 
delight in making this appalling feature supreme, 
as in the following examples, both by boys of five 

1 M. Passy calls attention to this in his interesting note on 
children's drawings, Revue Philosophique, 1891, p. 614 ff. I find 

Fig. 5 (*> 

however that though the error 

a common one it is not 



(Fig. 5 (b} and (V)). 

! g- 5 

The ear, when it is added, is apt 
to be enormous, and gener- 
ally the introduction of new 
details as ears, hair, hands, is 
wont to be emphasised by 
an exaggeration of their 

Very interesting is the 
gradual artistic evolution of 
the features. Here, as in 
organic evolution, there is a 
process of specialisation, the 

primordial indefinite form taking on more of characteristic 
complexity. In the case of the eye, for example, we 
may often trace a gradual development, the dot being 
displaced by a small circle or ovoid, this last supplemented 
by a second circle outside the first, 1 or by one or by 
two arches, the former placed above, the latter above 
and below the circle. The form remains throughout 


an abstract outline or scheme, there being no attempt to 
draw even the lines e.g., those of the lid-margins 
correctly, or to indicate differences of light and dark, save 
in the case where a central black dot is used. In this 
schematic treatment so striking and interesting a feature as 
the eye-lash only very rarely finds a place. A similar 
schematic treatment of the eye in the use of a dot, a dot 
in a circle, and two circles, is observable in the drawings of 
savages and of Egyptian and other archaic art. 2 

The evolution of the mouth is particularly interesting. 
It is wont to begin with a horizontal line (or what seems 
intended for such) which is frequently drawn right across 

1 In one case I find the curious device of two dots or small circles, 
one above the other within a larger circle, and this form repeated in 
the eye of animals. 

2 An example of circle within circle occurs in a drawing by a male 
Zulu in General Pitt-Rivers' collection. 



the facial circle. But a transition soon takes place to a 
more distinctive representation. This is naturally enough 
carried out by the introduction of the characteristic and 
interesting detail, the teeth. This may be done, according 
to M. Perez, by keeping to the linear representation, the 
teeth being indicated by dots placed upon the horizontal 
line. In all the cases observed by me the teeth are intro- 
duced in a more realistic fashion in connexion with a con- 
tour to suggest the parted lips. The contour especially 
the circular or ovoid occasionally appears by itself without 
teeth, but the teeth seem to be soon added. The 
commonest forms of tooth-cavity I have met with are a 

Fig. 6 (a). 

6 (*) Fig. 6 (c). 

narrow rectangular and a curved spindle-shaped slit with 
teeth appearing as vertical lines (see the two drawings by 
b >ys of six and five, Fig. 6 (a) and ()). These two forms 
are improved upon and more likeness is introduced by 
making the dental lines shorter, as in Fig. 5 (c) (p. 340). 
With this may be compared a drawing by a boy of five 
(Fig. 6 (<:)), where however we see a movement from 
realism in the direction of a freer decorative treatment. 

A somewhat similar process of evolution is noticeable in 
the case of the nose, though here the movement is soon 
brought to a standstill. Thus the vertical line gives place 



to an angle, which may point to the side, as in the drawing 
of a country-boy between three and four (Fig. 7 (a) ), but 
more frequently, I think, points upwards, as in the drawing 
of a boy of six (Fig. 7 (b) ). This in its turn leads to an 
isosceles triangle with an acute angle at the apex, as in the 
drawing of a boy of six (Fig. 7 (c) ). In a few cases a long 
spindle-shaped or rectangular form similar to that of the 

Fig. 7 (6> 

Fig. 7 (c). 

Fig. 7 (a). 

Fig. 7 (d). 

Fig. 7 (e). 

mouth is employed, as in a drawing of a nervous child of six 
(Fig. 7 (</)). Refinements are introduced now and again by 
an attempt at the nostrils, as in the accompanying curious 
drawing by a seven-years-old Jamaica girl (Fig. 7 (e) ). 1 

1 It is possible that in this drawing the two short lines added to 
the mouth are an original attempt to give the teeth. 



The introduction of other features, more especially 
ears and hair, must, according to my observations, be 
looked on as occasional only, and as a mark of an 
advance to a more naturalistic treatment. Differences 
of treatment occur here too. Thus the ears, which 
are apt to be absurdly large, are now inserted inside 
the head circle, now outside it. The hair appears 
now as a dark cap of horizontal strokes, now as a 
kind of stunted fringe, now as a bundle or wisp 
on one side, which may 
either fall or stand on 
end (see above, Fig. 7 
(dQ, and the accompany- 
ing drawing by a girl of 
nearly four, Fig. 8 (#)). 
These methods of repre- 
sentation are occasion- 
ally varied by a more 
elaborate line-device, as 
a curly loopedlinesimilar 
to that employed for 
smoke, as in the annexed 
drawing by a girl of seven (Fig. 8 (b) ). 

As implied in this account of the facial features, a good 
deal of convention-like agreement cf method is enlivened 
by a measure of diversity of treatment. Perhaps one of 
the most striking instances of daring originality 
is seen in the attempt by a girl of four who 
was subjected to a great deal of instruction to 
give separate form to the chin (Fig. 9). This 
may be compared with the attempt of the 
Uganda negro to indicate symbolically the 
cheeks (see above, p. 336, Fig. 3). 

As I have remarked, to the child bent on representing 
' man ' the head or face is at first the principal thing, some 
early drawings contenting themselves with this. But in 

Fig. 8 (a). 

Fig. 8 (6). 

p . 



Fig. 10. 

general the head receives some support. The simplest 
device here is the abstract mode of representation by two 
supporting lines, which do duty for legs and body. These 
are for the most part parallel (see above, p. 336, Fig. 2), 
though occasionally they are united at the top, making a 
kind of target figure. This same arrange- 
ment, fixing the head on two upright lines, 
meets us also in the rude designs of savages, 
as may be seen in the accompanying rock 
inscription from Schoolcraft (Fig. lo). 1 
The comparative indifference of the child to the body 
or trunk is seen in the obstinate persistence of this simple 
scheme of head and legs, to which two arms attached to 
the sides of the head are often added. A child will 
complete the drawing of the head by inserting hair or a 

cap, and will even add feet 
and hands, before he 
troubles to bring in the 
trunk (see above, p. 336, 
Fig. 2, and p. 342, Fig. 7 
(d], also the accompanying 
drawing by a boy of six, 
Fig. ii (*)). With this 
neglect of the trunk by 
children may be compared 
the omission of it as if it 

Fig. ii (&). 

Fig. ii (a). 

Rivers' drawings, executed 

were a forbidden thing 

in one of General Pitt- 

by a Zulu woman (Fig. 

From this common way of spiking the head on two 
forked or upright legs there is one important deviation. 
The contour of the head may be left incomplete, and the 
upper occipital part of the curve be run on into the leg- 
lines, as in the accompanying example by a Jamaica girl 

Op. tit., pt. iv., plate 18. 



of seven (Fig. 12). Dr. Lukens gives another example in a 
drawing of a girl of five years seven months. 1 

The drawing of the trunk may 
commence in one of two ways. 
With English children it appears 
often to emerge as an expansion 
or prolongation of the head-contour, 
as in the accompanying drawings 
of the front and side view (Fig. 
13 (a) and ()). 2 Or, in the second 
place, the leg-scheme may be modi- 
fied, either by drawing a horizontal 
line across them and so making a 
rectangle, as in the accompany- 
ing drawing by a boy of six, or by shading in the 
upper part of the space, as in the other figure by a girl 
of five (Fig. 13 (c) and (</)). A curious and interesting 

Fig. 12. 

Fig. 13 

Fig. 13 (a). 

Fig. 13 (d). 

variant of this second mode of introducing the trunk is to 
be found in drawings of Von den Steinen's Brazilians, where 

1 " Children's Drawings," Fig. 7, Fed. Seminary, 1896. 

2 A drawing given by Andree, op. cit., plate ii., n, seems to me 
to illustrate a somewhat similar device. 



the leg-lines are either kept parallel for a while and then 

made to diverge, or are pinched 
in below what may be called 
the pelvis, though not com- 
pletely joined (Fig. 13 (e) and 


When the trunk is distinctly 
marked off, it is apt to remain 
small in proportion to the 
head, as in the following two 
drawings by boys of about five (Fig. 14 (a) and (^)). 
As to its shape, it is most commonly circular or ovoid 
like the head. But the square or rectangular form is also 
found, and in the case of certain children it is expressly 

Fig. 13 (e) and (/). 

Fig. 14 (6). 

Fig. 14 (c). 
Fig. 14 (a). 

stated that this came later. A triangular cape-like form 
also appears now and again, as in the accompanying draw- 
ing by a boy of six (Fig. 14 (^r)). 1 The treatment of the 
form of trunk often varies in the drawings of the same child. 
At this stage there is no attempt to show the joining on 
of the head to the trunk by means of the neck. The oval 
of the head is either made to touch that of the trunk, or 
more commonly to cut off the upper end of the latter. The 

1 The opposite arrangement of a triangle on its apex occurs 
among savage drawings. 



neck, when first added, is apt to take the exaggerated look 
of caricature. It may be 
represented by a single 
line, by a couple of par- 
allel lines, or by a small 
oval or circle, as in the 
accompanying drawings 
by a girl of six and a 
boy of five respectively 
(Fig. 15 (a) and (b)\ 
cf. above, p. 342, Fig. 7 
()). Fig ' I5 W' Fig. 15 (b). 

It is noticeable that there is sometimes a double body, 
two oval contours being laid one upon the other. In certain 
cases this looks 
very like an ex- 
pansion of the 
neck, as in the 
drawing by the 
same boy that drew 
the round neck 
above (Fig. 16 (#)). 
In other cases the 
plainly does not 
aim at different!- Fig. 16 (6). 

ating the neck, since this part is separately dealt with (Fig. 
1 6 ()). Here it may possibly mean a crude attempt to 
indicate the division of the trunk at the waist, as brought 
out especially by female attire, as may be seen in the 
accompanying drawing where the dots for buttons on each 
cval seem to show that the body is signified (Fig. 16 (<:); cf. 
above, p. 342, Fig. 7 (r)). 1 This, along with the triangular 

Fig. 1 6 (c). 

1 On the other hand I find the button dots sometimes omitted in 
the lower oval. 


cape-shape of the trunk, is one of the few illustrations of 
the effect of dress on the first childish treatment of the 
figure. As a rule, this primitive art is a study of nature 
in so far as the artificial adjuncts of dress are ignored, 
and the rounded forms of the body are, though crudely 
enough no doubt, hinted at 

Coming now to the arms we find that their introduction 
is very uncertain. To the child, as also to the savage, 
the arms are what the Germans call a Nebensache side- 
matter (i.e., figuratively as well as literally), and are omitted 
in rather more than one case out of two. After all, the 
divine portion, the head, can be supported very well 
without their help. 

The arms, as well as the legs, being the thin lanky mem- 
bers, are commonly represented by lines. 
The same thing is noticeable in the draw- 
ings of savages. 1 The arms appear in the 
front view of the figure as stretched out 
horizontally, or, at least, reaching out 
from the sides ; and their appearance 
always gives a certain liveliness to the 
figure, an air of joyous self- proclamation, 
as if they said in their gesture-language, 
' Here I am ' (see above, p. 339, Fig, 5 
(a\ and the accompanying drawing of a 
T 7- boy of six, Fig. 17). 

In respect of shape and structure a process of evolution 
may be observed. In certain cases the abstract linear 
representation gives place to contour, the arm being drawn 
of a certain thickness. But I find that the linear repre- 
sentation of the arm often persists after the legs have 
received contour, this being probably another illustration of 
the comparative neglect of the arm ; as in the accompany- 

1 For examples, see Andree, op. cit., plate 3. Cf. the drawings of 
Von den Steinen's Brazilians. 



ing drawing by a boy of five (Fig. 18 (a)). The primal rigid 
straightness yields later on to the freedom of an organ. Thus 
an attempt is made to represent by means of a curve the look 
of the bent arm, as in the accompanying drawings by boys 

Fig. 1 8 (a). 

Fig. 18 (c).-A 

Fig. 18 (b). 

of five (Fig. 1 8 (ft) and (<:)). In other cases the angle of the 
elbow is indicated. This last comes comparatively late in 
children's drawings, which here, too, lag behind the crudest 
outline sketches of savages. 

The mode of insertion or attachment of the arms is 
noteworthy. Where they are added to the trunkless figure 
they appear as emerging either from the sides of the head, 
as in the accompanying drawing 
by a boy of two and a half years, 
or from the point of junction of 
the head and legs (Fig. 19 ; cf. 
above, p. 342, Fig. 7 (d) and 
(*)). In the case of savage 
drawings wanting the trunk 
the arm is also inserted at this 
point of junction (see above, pp. 344, 346, Figs. 10 and 

13 (/))' 

1 On the treatment of the arm in the drawings of savages, see in 
addition to the authorities already mentioned The Annual Report of 
the Bureau of Ethnology, 1882-3, p. 42 ff. 



After the trunk has been added, the mode of insertion 
varies still more. In a not inconsiderable number of cases 
the arms spring from the bottom of the head-circle, and 
sometimes even from the median region, as before the 
trunk appeared (cf. above, p. 346, Fig. 14 ()). In the last 
case the most grotesque arrangements occur, as if the arms 
might sprout at any point of the surface. 1 In the majority 
of cases, however, and certainly among the better drawings, 
the arms spring from the side of the trunk towards the 
median level (cf. above, p. 341, Fig. 6 (a)). 

The length of the arm is frequently exaggerated. This 
adds to the self-expansive and self-proclamatory look of 
the mannikin, as may be seen in the accompanying 

Fig. 20 (a). Fig. 20 (&). 

drawings by boys of five and of six respectively (Fig. 
20 (a) and ()). 

This arrangement of the arms stretched straight out, or 
less commonly pointing obliquely upwards or downwards, 
continues until the child grows bold enough to represent 
actions. When this stage is reached their form and length 
may be materially modified, as also their position. - 

1 The tendency which appears in more than one child's drawings 
to put the right arm below the left is worth noting, though I am not 
prepared to offer an explanation of the phenomenon. 

* On the treatment of the arm, see Perez, op. cit., p. 190 : cf f 
Ricci, op. cit., pp. 6-8. I have met with no case of the arms being 
attached to the legs such as Stanley Hall speaks of, Contents of 
Children's Minds, p. 267. 



The arm in these childish drawings early develops the 
interesting adjunct of a hand. Like other features this is 
apt at first to be amusingly forced into prominence by its 
size, and not infrequently by heaviness of stroke as well. 

The treatment of the hand illustrates the process of 
artistic evolution, the movement from a bold symbolism in 
the direction of a more life-like mode of representation. 
Thus one of the earliest and rudest devices I have met with, 
though in a few cases only, is that of drawing strokes 
across the line of the arm by way of digital symbols. Here 
we have merely a 
clumsy attempt to 
convey the abstract 
idea of branching or 
bifurcation. These 
cross-strokes are 
commonly continued 
upwards so that the 
whole visible part of 

Fig. 21 (a). Humpty 
Dumpty on the wall. 

the arm becomes 

tree-like. It is an 

important step from this to the drawing of twig-like lines 

which bifurcate with the line of the arm (Fig. 21 (a) and (#)). 

It is a still more significant advance in the process of 
evolution when the digital bifurcations are placed rightly, 
being concentrated in a bunch-like arrangement at the 
extremity of the arm-line. Here, again, various modes of 
treatment disclose themselves, marking stages in the 
development of the artist. 

The simplest device would seem to be to draw one 
short line on either side of the termination of the arm-line 
so as to produce a rude kind of bird's foot form. This may 
be done clumsily by drawing a stroke across at right angles 
to the line of the arm, or better by two independent strokes 
making acute angles with this line. These two modes of 
delineation manifestly represent a restriction of -the two 


varieties of diffuse or dispersed treatment of the fingers 
already illustrated. Both forms occur among children's 
drawings. They may be found among the drawings of 
savages as well. 1 

In this terminal finger-arrangement the number of 
finger-lines varies greatly, being, in the cases observed by 
me, frequently four and five, and sometimes even as great as 
ten. It varies, too, greatly in the drawings of the same 
child, and in some cases even in the two hands of the same 
figure, showing that number is not attended to, as may be 
seen in the two annexed drawings, both by boys of five 
(Fig. 22 (a) and ()). The idea seems to be to set forth a 

multiplicity of branch- 
ing fingers, and multi- 
plicity here seems to 
<Y mean three or more. 

J I The same way of 

fflj representing the hand 

'Fig 22 (6) b y a cla w-form, in 

Fi - 22 (*) which the number of 

fingers is three or more, reappears in the drawings of 
savages (cf. above, p. 339, Fig. 4 (<:)). 2 

An important advance on these crude devices is seen 
where an attempt is made to indicate the hand and the 
relation of the fingers to this. One of the earliest of these 
attempts takes the form of the well-known toasting-fork or 
rake hand. Here a line at right angles to that of the 
arm symbolically represents the hand, and the fingers 
are set forth by the prongs or teeth (see above, p. 341, 
Fig. 6 (a) t and p. 349, Fig. 18 (#)). Number is here 
as little attended to as in the radial arrangements. It 

1 See Andree's collection, op. cit., ii., u. 

2 Examples may be found in Catlin, Schoolcraft, Andree, Von 
den Steinen, and others, also in the drawings in the Pitt- Rivers 
Museum, Farnham. Von den Steinen gives a case of seven finger- 



is worth noting that this schema seems to be widely 
diffused among children of different nationalities, and 
occurs in the drawings of untaught adults. I have 
not, however, noticed any example of it among savage 

Another way of bringing in the hand along with the 
fingers is by drawing a dark central patch or knob. This 
not infrequently occurs without the fingers as the symbol 
for hand. It becomes a complete symbol by arranging 
finger-lines after the pattern of a burr about this (see above, 
p. 347, Fig. 1 5 (a)). 

A further process of artistic evolution occurs when the 
fingers take on 
contour. This 
gives a look of 
branching leaves 

Fig. 23 (/;). 

may be varied in 
different ways, 
among others by 
taking on a floral 
aspect of petal- 
like fingers about 
a centre, as in the 

two annexed drawings by boys of six (Fig. 23 (a) and 
(b] ; cf. above, p. 350, Fig. 20 (a)). 

One curious arrangement by which a thickened arm 
is made to expand into something like a fan-shaped 
hand appears with considerable frequency. It is 
zoologically interesting as being a kind of rough re- 
presentation of the fundamental typical form from which 
hand, fin, and wing may be supposed to have been 
evolved. Here the arm sinks into insignificance, 
the whole limb taking on the aspect of a prolonged 
hand, save where the artist resorts to the device of 




making the double organ go across the body (Fig. 24 (a) 

and ()). 

The legs come 
in for very much 
the same variety 
of treatment as 
the arms. The 
abstract straight 
line here, as al- 
ready pointed 

Fig. 24 (a). 

Fig. 24 (6). 

out, soon gives 
place to the pair of lines representing thickness. They are 
for the most part parallel and drawn at some distance one 
from the other, though in certain cases there is a slight 
tendency to give to the figure the look of the ' forked biped ' 
'(cf. above, p. 342, Fig. 7 (V)). In a large proportion of cases 
there is a marked inclination of the legs, as indeed of the 
whole figure, which seems to be falling backwards (see 
above, pp. 340, 352, Figs. 5 (c) and 22 ()). In many 
instances, in front and profile view alike, one of the legs 
is drawn under the body, leaving no room for the second, 
which is consequently pushed behind, and takes on the 
look of a tail (see above, p. 352, Fig. 22 ()). 

Both legs are regularly shown alike in front and in 
profile view. Yet even in this simple case 
attention to number may sometimes lapse. 
Among the drawings collected by me is 
one by a boy of five representing the 
monster, a three-legged 'biped' (Fig. 25). 1 
The shape of the leg varies greatly. 
With some children it is made short and 
fat. It develops a certain amount of 
curvature long before it develops a knee- 
bend. This is just what we should expect. 
The standing figure needs straight or 
1 Unless this is a jocose suggestion of a tail. 

Fig. 25. 



approximately straight legs as its support. When the 
knee-bend is introduced it is very apt to be exaggerated 
(cf. above, Fig. 24 ()). This becomes still more noticeable 
at a later stage, where actions, as running, are attempted. 

The treatment of the foot shows a process of evolution 
similar to that seen in the treatment of the hand. At first 
a bald abstract indication or suggestion is noticeable, as 
where a short line is drawn across the extremity of the leg. 
In place of this a contour-form, more especially a circle 
or knob, may be used as a designation. Very interesting 
here is the differentiation of treatment according as the 
booted or naked foot is represented. Children brought up 
in a civilised community like England, though they some- 
times give the naked foot (see p. 342, Fig. 7 (d), where the 
claw pattern is adopted), are naturally more disposed to 
envisage the foot under its boot-form. Among the drawings 
of the Jamaica children, presumably more familiar with the 
form of the naked foot, I find both the toasting-fork and 
the burr arrangement, as also a rude claw, or birch-like de- 
vice used for the foot (see above, pp. 336, 338, 345, Figs. 
2, 4 (), and 12). The toasting-fork arrangement appears 
in General Pitt-Rivers' collection of savage drawings. Also 
a bird's foot treatment often accom- 
panies a similar treatment of the hand 
in the pictographs of savage tribes, and 
in the drawings of Von den Steinen's 
Brazilians (see above, pp. 338, 339, Fig. 
4 (a) and (c)). 

An attempt to represent the booted 
foot seems to be recognisable in the 
early use of a triangular form, as in the 
accompanying drawing by a small 
artist of five (Fig. 26 (tf)). 1 Very curious 
is the way in which the child seeks to 

Fig. 26 (a). 

1 This is hardly conclusive, as I find the triangular form used for 
the foot of a quadruped, presumably a horse. 



indicate the capital feature ot the boot, the division of 

toe and heel. This is very 
frequently done by continuing 
the line of the leg so as to 
make a single or a double loop- 
pattern, as in the following 
(Fig. 26 (), (c); cf. above, p. 342, 
Fig. 7 ()). A tendency to a 
more restrained and naturalistic 
treatment is sometimes seen 
(see above, p. 354, Fig. 24 (a) 
and ()). It may be added that 
the notch between toe and heel 
is almost always exaggerated. 

This may be seen by a glance at Figs. 17 and 22 (a), pp. 

348, 352. The same thing is noticeable in a drawing by 

a young Zulu in General Pitt-Rivers' collection. 

Fig. 26 (h). 

Fig. 26 

Front and Side View of Human Figure. 

So far, I have dealt only with the treatment of the front 
view of the human face and figure. New and highly curi- 
ous characteristics come into view when the child attempts 
to give the profile aspect. This comes considerably later 
than the early lunar representation of the full face. 

Children still more than adults are interested in the full 
face with its two flashing and fascinating eyes. * If,' writes 
a lady teacher of considerable experience in the Kinder- 
garten, 'one makes drawings in profile for quite little chil- 
dren, they will not be satisfied unless they see two eyes ; and 
sometimes they turn a picture round to see the other side/ 
This reminds one of a story told by Catlin of the Indian 
chief, who was so angry at a representation of himself in 
profile that the unfortunate artist went in fear of his life. 

At the same time children do not rest content with this 
front view. There is, I believe, ample reason to say that, 


quite apart from teaching, they find their own way to a new 
mode of representing the face and figure which, though it 
would be an error to call it a profile drawing, has some of 
the characteristics of what we understand by this expres- 

The first clear indication of an attempt to give the 
profile aspect of the face is the introduction of the angular 
line of the side view of the nose into the contour. The 
little observer is soon impressed by the characteristic, 
well-marked outline of the nose in profile ; and as he 
cannot make much of the front view of the organ, 
he naturally begins at an early stage, certainly by the 
fifth year, to vary the scheme of the lunar circle, broken 
at most by the ears, by a projection answering to a profile 

This change is sometimes made without any other, so 
that we get what has been called the mixed 
scheme, in which the eyes and mouth retain 
their front-view aspect. This I find very 
common among children of fi e. It may be 
found even in the trunkless figure along 
with a linear mouth (see above, pp. 340-344, 
Figs. 5 (c) and following, also n (#)). The 
nasal line is, needless to say, treated with 
great freedom. There is commonly a good P' " *" 

deal of exaggeration of size. In certain 
cases the nose is added in the form of a spindle to the 
completed circle (Fig. 27 ; cf. above, p. 340, Fig. 5 (<:)). 

It may well seem a puzzle to us how a normal child of 
five or six can complacently set down this irrational and 
inconsistent scheme of a human head. We must see what 
can be said by way of explanation later on. It is to be 
noticed, further, that in certain cases the self-contradiction 
goes to the point of doubling the nose. That is to say, 
although the interesting new feature, the profile nose, is 
introduced, earlier habit asserts itself so that the vertical 



nasal line appears between the two eyes (see above, p. 349, 
Fig. 1 8 (*)). 

The further process of differentiation of the profile from 
the primitive full-face scheme is effected in part by adding 
other features than the nose to the contour. Thus a notch 
for the mouth appears in some cases below the nasal pro- 
jection (Fig. 28 (a)), though the grinning front view is apt 

to hold its own perti- 
naciously. A beard, 
especially the short 
' imperial,' as it used 
to be called, shooting 
out like the nose 
from the side, also 
helps to mark profile. 1 
Less frequently an 
ear, and in a very 
few cases, hair, are 
added on the hinder 
side of the head, and 
assist the impression 
of profile. Adjuncts, especially the pipe, and sometimes 
the peak of the cap, contribute to the effect, as in the 
accompanying drawing by a boy of six (Fig. 28 (b} ; cf. 
above, Figs. 6 (a), 18 (<:), and 24 (//), pp. 341, 349, 354).* 

At the same time the front features themselves undergo 
modification. The big grinning mouth is dropped and one 
of the eyes omitted. The exact way in which this occurs 
appears to vary with different children. In certain cases 
it is clear that the front view of the mouth cavity disappears, 
giving place to a rough attempt to render a side view, 
before the second eye is expunged ; and in one case I have 

1 I take the long line in Fig. 27 to represent the manly beard. 

2 In rare cases the pipe sticks out from the side of what is clearly 
the primitive full face. Schoolcraft gives an example of this, too, in 
Indian drawing, op. cit., pt. ii., pi. 41. 

Fig. 28 (a). 

Fig. 28 (b\ 



detected a survival of the two eyes in what otherwise would be 
a consistent profile drawing of head and figure (Fig. 29 (a) ; 
cf. above, p. 349, Fig. 18 (b} ). This late survival of the two 
eyes agrees with the results of observation on the drawings of 
the uncultured adult. One of General Pitt-Rivers' African 
boys inserted the two eyes in a profile drawing. Von den 
Steinen's Brazilians drew by preference the full face, so 
that we cannot well judge as to how they would have 
treated the profile. Yet it is curious to note that in 
what is clearly a drawing of a side view of a fish one of 
these Brazilians introduces both eyes (Fig. 29 (b*} ). The 
insertion of two eyes is said by some never to occur in the 

Fig. 29 (b). 

Fig. 29 (a). 

drawings of savages on stone, hide, etc. 1 But I have come 
across what seems to me a clear example of it, and this in 
a fairly good sketch of a profile view of the human figure 
on an Indian vase (Fig. 29 (V)). 2 Yet this late retention of 
the two eyes in profile, though the general rule in children's 
drawings, is liable to exceptions. Thus I have found a 
child retaining the big front view of the mouth along with 
a single eye. 

It may be added that children at a particular stage 

1 Ricci's remarks seem to me to come to this, op, cit., p. 25. 
- From The Annual Report of the Bureau of Ethnology, 1880-1, p. 
406, Fig. 626. 


show a preference for some one arrangement ; for example, 
the profile nose and mouth, and the two front-view eyes, 
which tends to become the habitual form used, though a 
certain amount of variation is observable. The differences 
noticeable among different children's drawings suggest 
that all of them do not go through the same stages. Thus 
some may pass by the two-eyed profile stage altogether, or 
very soon rise above it, whereas others may linger in it. l 
One notices, too, curious divergences with respect to 
the mixture of incompatible features. 
Differences in the degree of intelligence 
show themselves here also. Thus in one 
case a child, throughout whose drawings 
a certain feeble-mindedness seems to betray 
itself, actually went so far as to introduce 
the double nose without having the excuse 
of the two eyes (Fig. 30). In such odd 
ways do the tricks of habit assert them- 

Fig- 30. The difficulty which the child feels in 

these profile representations is seen in the odd positions 
given to the eyes. These are apt to be 
pushed very high up, to be placed one 
above the other, and, what is more signifi- 
cant, to be put far apart and close to the 
line of contour (see above, Fig. 29 ()). In 
the following drawing by a boy of five one 
of the eyes may be said to be on this line 
(Fig 31 (a)'). In General Pitt-Rivers' col- 
lection we find a still more striking instance 
of this in a drawing by a boy of eleven, 
the second eye appearing to be intentionally 
p ut outside t } ie contour, as if to suggest that 

1 Ricci says that seventy per cent, insert two eyes in their first 
profile drawings (op. cit., p. 17). But this seems a rather loose state- 

Fig. 31 (a). 



we must look round to the other side of the facial disc in 

order to see it (Fig. 3 1 (by). Curious variations 

of treatment appear, as in inserting two eyes 

between the same pair of curves as in Fig. 

20 (b) } p. 350, and in enclosing two pairs of 

dots or small circles in two larger circles 

as in Figs. 14 (b), and 22 (a), pp. 346, 352 

(both by the same boy). 1 

It may be added that even when only one 
eye is drawn, a reminiscence of the anterior 
view is seen in its form. It is the round or 
spindle-shaped contour of the eye as seen in 

Fig. 31 

front. That is to say the eye of the profile like that of the full 
facelooks directly at the spectator, so that in a manner the one- 
eyed profile is a front view (see for an example, Fig. 5 (#), p. 
339). The designs of savages, and the archaic art of civilised 
races, including a people so high up as the Egyptians, share 
this tendency of children's drawings of the profile, though we 
find scarcely a trace of the tendency to insert both eyes. 

A like confusion or want of differentiation shows itself 
in the management of other features in the profile view. 
As observed, a good large ear at the back sometimes helps 
to indicate the side view (see above, p. 341, Fig. 6 (a)). 
But the wish to bring in all the features, seen in the obstinate 
retention of the two eyes, shows itself also in respect of the 
ears. Thus one occasionally finds the two ears as in the front 
view (see above, p. 346, Fig. 14 (), where the aspect is clearly 
more front view than profile), and sometimes, according to 
M. Passy as if the profile nose interfered with this arrange- 
ment both placed together on one side. The treatment of 
the moustache when this is introduced follows that of the 
mouth. So imposing a feature must be given in all the 
glory of the front view (see above, p. 350, Fig. 20 (b)). 

Other curious features of this early crude attempt to 

1 I assume that these are intended for two eyes ; but the scheme 
is not easy to interpret. 



deal with the profile show themselves in the handling of 
the trunk and the limbs. I have met with 
only one or two instances of a profile head 
appearing before the addition of the trunk 
as in Fig. 28 (a) (p. 358). In the large 
majority of cases the trunk appears and 
retains the circular or oval form of the 
primitive front view. When, as very fre- 
quently happens, the interesting vertical row 
of buttons is added it is apt to be inserted 
in the middle, giving a still more definitely 
frontal aspect. The juxtaposition of this 
with the head turned to the left need cause 
If II no difficulty to the little draughtsman, after 

what he has comfortably swallowed in the 
shape of incompatibilities in the face itself 
(see above, p. 347, Fig. 15 ()). In rare cases, however, one 
may light on a distinctly lateral treatment of the buttons. 
In one instance I have found it in a drawing which would be 
a consistent profile but for the insertion of the second eye, 
and the frontal treatment of the legs and feet (Fig. 32). 

In the arrangement of the arms there is more room' 
for confusion. The management of these in the profile 
view naturally gives difficulty to the little artist, and iir 
some cases we find him shirking the point by retaining the 

front view or spread-eagle 
arrangement. This occurs 
as a rule where the profile 
modification is limited to the 
introduction of a lateral nose 
or nose and pipe (see, e.g., 
Figs. 24 (a) and 28 (b\ pp. 
354) 358). What is more 
surprising is that it appears in 
Fig. 33- rare cases in drawings which 

otherwise would be fairly consistent profile sketches. [Fig. 33 ; 



all this child's completed drawings, four in number, adopt 
the same front-view scheme of arms.] 

The view of the profile with both arms stretched out in 
front seems, however, early to impress itself on the child's 
imagination, and an attempt is made to introduce this 
striking arrangement. The addition of the forward-reach- 
ing arms helps greatly to give a profile aspect to the figure 
(see above, p. 349, Fig. 18 (b) ). 

The addition of the forward-reaching arms is carried 
out more especially when it is 
desired to represent an action, 
as in the drawing given above, 
p. 342, Fig. 7 (c), by a boy of 
six, which represents a nurse 
apparently walking behind a 
child, and in the accompanying 
figure, by a boy of eight and 

a half, of an Irishman knocking a man's head inside a 
tent (Fig. 34). 

The crudest mode of representing the side view of the 
for ward -reaching 
arms is by drawing 
the lines from the 
contour, as in Fig. 
35 (a). Difficulties 
arise when the lines 
are carried across 
the trunk. Very 
often both arms are 
drawn in this way, 

as in Fig. 35 (b}. Fi S- 35 () ^ 

There is a certain Fig. 35 (fe). 

analogy here to the insertion of the two eyes in the profile 
representation, a second feature being in each case added 
which in the original object is hidden. 1 

According to Ricci the second arm is supposed to be seen, 
through the body. 


When the two arms are thus introduced their position 
varies greatly, whether they start from the contour or are 
drawn across the body. That is to say, they may be far 
one from the other (as in Fig. 35 ()), 
or may be drawn close together. And 
again the point of common origin may be 
high up at the meeting point of trunk and 
chin, as in a drawing by a boy of five (Fig. 
36), or at almost any point below this. 

In the cases I have examined the 
insertion of both arms in profile repre- 
sentations is exceptional. More frequent- 
ly, even when action is described, one 
arm only is introduced, which may set 
out from the anterior surface of the trunk, 
or, as we have seen, start from the posterior surface and cross 
the trunk (see above, pp. 353, 356, Figs. 23 (a) and 26 (<:)). 
In most cases where no action such as walking and holding 
a cane is signified both arms are omitted. The uncertainty 
of the arms is hardly Jess here than in the front view. 

With respect to the legs, we find, as in the primitive 
frontal view, an insertion of both. An ordinary child can 
still less represent a human figure in profile with only one 
leg showing than he can represent it with only one eye. 
As a rule, so long as he is guided by his own inner light 
only he does not attempt to draw one leg over and partially 
covering the other, but sets them both out distinctly at a 
respectful distance one from the other. The refinement of 
making the second foot or calf and foot peep out from 
behind the first, as in Fig. 29 (a) (p. 359), and possibly also 
Fig. 1 8 (c) (p. 349), shows either an exceptional artistic eye, 
or the interference of the preceptor. 

The treatment of the feet by the childish pencil is 
interesting. It is presumable that at first no difference 
of profile and front view attaches to the position of the 
foot. It has to be shown, and as the young artist knows 



nothing of perspective and foreshortening, and, moreover,, 
would not be satisfied with that mode of delineation if 
he could accomplish it, he proceeds naturally enough to- 
draw the member as a line at right angles to that of the leg. 
This is done in one of two ways, in opposed directions 
outwards, or in the same direction, answering to what we 
should call the front or the side view. At first, I believe, 
no significance of front and side view is attached to these 
arrangements. Thus in some sketches by a little girl of 
four and a half I find the primitive front view of the head 
combined with each of these arrangements of the foot. 
In drawings, too, of older children of six and upwards I 
have met with cases both of a profile 
representation of head and trunk with 
spread-eagle feet, as also of a side view 
of the feet with a front face (see Figs. 
5 (a) and 13 (c\ pp. 339, 345). This 
last arrangement, I find, appears in a 
profile treatment of the whole leg and 
foot among the drawings of North 
American Indians (Fig. 37); and this 
suggests that the side view in which the 
two feet point one way is more easily reached and fixed by 
the untutored draughtsman. 

A regular and apparently intelligent 
addition of the side view of the feet to the 
child's crude profile drawing of the human 
figure produces a noticeable increase of 
definiteness. One common arrangement, 
I find, in the handling of the profile is the 
combination of the side view of the feet 
v/ith a more or less consistent profile view 
of the head, while the bust is drawn in 
front view (see above, Figs. 35 (<?), 36). The 
effect is of course greater where the side 


Fig- 38. 

view of the bent leg is added (see Fig. 38 and compare with 


this Fig. 37). I find a liking for this same arrangement in 
the drawings of the unskilled adult. An example may be 
seen in a drawing by an English carpenter in General Pitt- 
Rivers' Museum at Farnham. In the pictographs of the 
North American Indians we meet with cases of a similar 
treatment. 1 In the drawings on the Egyptian Mummy 
cases in the British Museum instances of a precisely similar 
treatment are to be found. We seem to have here a sort 
of transition from the first crude impossible conception to 
a more naturalistic and truthful conception. This twist of 
the trunk does not shock the eye with an absolutely im- 
possible posture, as the early artistic solecisms shock it, and 
it is an arrangement which displays much that is character- 
istic and valuable in the human form. 2 

One point to be noticed among these drawings of the 
profile by children is that in a large majority of cases the 
figure looks to the left of the spectator. In the drawings 
which I have examined this appears like a rule to which 
there is scarcely any exception, save where the child 
wants to make two figures face one another in order to 
represent a fight or the less sensational incident of a salute. 
The way in which the new direction of the figure is given 
in these cases shows that children are not absolutely shut 
up to the one mode of representation by any insuperable 
difficulty. There is a like tendency observable in the treat- 
ment of the quadruped, which nearly always looks to the 
left. It may be added that a similar habit prevails in the 
drawings of untutored adults, as the pictographs of the 
North American Indians. The explanation of this, as well as 
of other generalisations here reached, will be touched on 

I conceive, then, that there reveals itself in children's 

1 Annual Report of Bureau of Ethnology, 1882-3, P- J 6o. 

2 Professor Petrie has pointed out to me that the Egyptian of 
to-day with his more supple body easily throws himself into this 


drawings of the human figure between the ages of three or 
four and eight a process of development involving differen- 
tiation and specialisation. This process, instead of leading 
to a fuller and more detailed treatment of the front view, 
moves in the direction of a new and quasi-profile represen- 
tation, although few children arrive at a clear and consistent 
profile scheme. Different children appear to rind their way 
to different modifications of a mixed front and side view, 
some amazingly raw, others less so according to the degree 
of natural intelligence, and probably also the amount of 
good example put in their way by drawings in books, and 
still more by model-drawings of mother or other instructor. 
I have met with only a few examples of a contem- 
poraneous and discriminative use of front view and profile. 
Here and there, it is true, one may light on a case of the 
old lunar scheme surviving side by side with the commoner 
mixed scheme ; but this sporadic survival of an earlier form 
does not prove clear discrimination. In the case of one boy 
of five the two forms were clearly distinguished, but this child 
was from a cultured family, and had presumably enjoyed 
some amount of home guidance. In the case of the rougher 
and less sophisticated class of children it appears to be a 
general rule that the draughtsman settles down to some 
one habitual way of drawing the human face and figure, 
which can be seen to run through all his drawings, with 
only this difference, that some are made more complete 
than others by the addition of mouth, arms, etc. Even the 
fact of the use of one or two eyes by the same child at the 
same date does not appear to me to point to a clear distinc- 
tion in his mind between a front and side view. The 
omissions in these cases may more readily be explained as 
the result of occasional fatigue and carelessness, or, in some 
cases, of want of room, or as indicating the point of transi- 
tion from an older and cruder to a later and more complete 
scheme of profile. This conclusion is supported by the 
fact that a child of six or seven, when asked to draw from 


the life, will give the same scheme, whether the model 
presents a front or a side view. This has been observed 
by M. Passy in the drawings of himself which he obtained 
from his own children, by General Pitt-Rivers in the 
drawings of uneducated adults, and by others. We may 
say, then, that children left to themselves are disposed each 
to adopt some single stereotyped mode of representing the 
human figure which happens to please his fancy. 1 

In this nai've childish art of profile drawing we have 
something which at first seems far removed from the art of 
uncivilised races. No doubt, as Grosse urges, the drawings- 
of savages discovered in North America, Africa, Australia, are 
technically greatly superior to children's clumsy impossible 
performances. Yet points of contact disclose themselves. 
If a North American Indian is incapable of producing the 
stupid scheme of a front view of the mouth and side view of 
the nose, he may, as we have seen, occasionally succumb to- 
the temptation to bring both eyes into a profile drawing. 
We may see, too, how in trying to represent action, and to- 
exhibit the active limb as he must do laterally, the untutored 
nature-man is apt to get odd results, as may be observed in 
the accompanying drawing by a North American Indian of 

1 These results do not seem to agree with those of M. Passy or of 
Professor Barnes. M. Passy distinguishes in children's drawings a 
front and a side view, both of which may be used by the same child at 
the same time. The former consists of nose and mouth of profile and 
eyes and ears of full face, the latter, of nose and mouth of profile 
with one eye and one ear ; that is to say the two differ only in the 
number of eyes and ears (Revue Philosophique, 1891, p. 614 ff.). It 
would be interesting to know on how large an examination this 
generalisation is based. As suggested above, the occasional omission 
of the second eye and ear where both are commonly used can be 
explained without supposing the child to distinguish between profile 
and full face. Professor Barnes goes so far as to state with numerical 
exactness the relative frequency of profile and full face by children 
at different stages. He makes, however, no serious attempt to explain 
the criterion by which he would distinguish the two modes of re- 
presentation (see his article, Pedagogical Seminary, ii., p. 455 ff.). 


a man shooting (Fig. 39 (a)). 1 This may be compared with 
the accompanying Egyptian drawing (Fig. 39 

Fig. 39 (a\ Fig. 39 (&). 

I have already touched on the modifications which ap- 
pear in a child's drawing of the human figure when the 
sculpturesque attitude of repose gives place to the dramatic 
attitude of 
action. This 
transition to the 
of action marks 
the substitution 
of a more real- 
istic concrete 

treatment for W /Tft Fig. 40 (6). 

the early ab- 
stract symbolic 
treatment. Very Fig ' 4 (a) " 

amusing are some of the devices by which a child tries to 
indicate this. As Ricci has pointed out, the arm will some- 
times be curved in order to make it reach, say, the face 
of an adversary (Fig. 40 (a)). A similar introduction of 
curvature appears in the accompanying drawing from a scalp 
inscription (Fig. 40 ()). Sometimes a curious symbolism 
appears, as if to eke out the deficiencies of the artist's technical 

1 Taken from Schoolcraft, vol. i., pi. 48. 

2 From Maspero's Dawn of Civilisation, p. 469. 




resources, as when a boy of five represents the junction of 
two persons' hands by connecting them with a line (Fig. 
40 (c)). 1 With this may be compared the well-known 
device of indicating the direction of sight by drawing a line 
from the eye to the object. 2 The most impossible attitudes 
occur when new positions of the legs are attempted, as in 

Fig. 40 (d) 

Fig. 40 (/) 

the accompanying endeavours to draw the act of running, 
kneeling to play marbles, and kicking a football (Fig. 40 

One other point needs to be referred to before we leave 
the human figure, viz., the treatment of accessories. As 

1 This I take to be the meaning of this odd arrangement. 
a Cf. Barnes, loc. cit. 



Fig. 41. 

pointed out, the child when left to himself is for the most 

part oblivious of dress, though the triangular cape-like form 

of the body may be a rude attempt 

to delineate a clothed figure. In 

general he cares merely to crown 

his figure with the hat of dignity, 

and, at most, to ornament the body 

with a row of buttons. Even when 

he grows sophisticated and attempts 

clothes he still shows his primitive 

respect for the natural frame. A 

well-known anthropologist tells me 

that his little boy on watching his 

mother draw a lady insisted on her 

putting in the legs before shading 

in the petticoats. In General Pitt-Rivers' collection there 

is a drawing by a boy of ten which in clothing the figure 

naively indicates the limbs through their covering (Fig. 41). 

This agrees with what Von den Steinen tells us of the way 

the Brazilian Indians drew him and his companions. 

Yet the artificial culture which children in the better 
classes of a civilised community are wont to receive is apt 
to develop a precocious 
respect for raiment, and 
this respect is reflected in 
their drawings. The early 
introduction of buttons has 
been illustrated above. One 
boy of six was so much in 
love with these that he 
covered the bust with them 
(Fig. 42 (a) ). Girls are 
wont to lay great emphasis 
on the lady's feathered hat 
and. parasol, as in the accompanying drawing by a maiden 
of six (Fig. 42 ()). Throughout this use of apparel in the 

Fig. 42 (a). 

Fig. 42 


crude stage of child-art we see the desire to characterise 
sex, rank, and office, as when the man is given his hat, the 
soldier his military cap, and so forth. This applies, too, 
of course, to such frequent accessories as the walking-stick 
(or less frequently the whip, as in Fig. 35 (b\ p. 363) and 
the pipe, each of which is made the most of in giving 
manliness of look. The pipe, it may be added, figures 
bravely in a drawing of a European by one of Von den 
Steinen's Brazilians. 

First Drawings of Animals. 

Many of the characteristics observable in the child's 
treatment of the human figure reappear in his mode of 
representing animal forms. This domain of child-art 
follows quickly on the first. Children's interest in animals, 
especially quadrupeds, leads them to draw them at an 
early stage. In prescribed exercises, moreover, the cat and 
the duck appear to figure amongst the earliest models. An 
example of this early attempt to draw animals has been 
given above (p. 334, Fig. i). 

The first crude attempts about the age 
of three or four to draw animal forms 
exhibit great incompleteness of conception 
and want of a sense of position and pro- 
portion. In one case the head seems to be 
drawn, but no body if, indeed, head and 
body are not confused ; and in others where 
a differentiation of head and trunk is 
attempted there is no clear local separation, 
or if this is attempted there is no clear 
indication of the mode of connexion (see, 
for example, Fig. 43 ()). In the case of 

Fig. 43 (a). A animals the side view is for obvious reasons 

duck. hit on from the first. But, needless to say, 

there is no clear representation of the profile head. As 
a rule we have the front view, or at least the insertion of 



the two eyes. Both eyes appear in Mr. Cooke's illustra- 
tions of drawings of the cat by children between three and 
four (Fig. 43 ()), as also commonly in drawings of horses. 
The position of the eyes is often odd enough, these organs 
being in one drawing by a boy of five pushed up into the 
ears (Fig. 43 (c) }. 1 The front view of the animal head 

Fig. 43 (c). A horse. 

Fig. 43 (d). A horse. 

along with profile body appears occasionally in savage 
drawings also. 2 In some of children's drawings we see 
traces of a mixed scheme. Thus I have a drawing by a 
boy of five in which a front view is reached by a kind of 
doubling of the profile (Fig. 43 (a?)). 
More remarkable than all, per- 
haps, we have in one case a clear 
instance of the scheme of the 
human face, the features, eyes, nose, 
and mouth being arranged hori- Fi S- 44 (). A horse, 
zontally to suit the new circumstances (Fig. 44 ()). With 
this may be compared the accompanying transference of 

1 Mr. Cooke kindly informs me that in an early Greek drawing 
in the First Vase Room in the British Museum, the eye of a fish is 
placed in the back part of the mouth. 

2 An example is given by Schoolcraft, op. cit., pt. iv., pi. 18. 



the animal ear to the human figure, though this suggests 
especially in view of the pipe a bit of jocosity on the part 
of the young draughtsman (Fig. 44 (b] ). 

The forms of both head and trunk vary greatly. In a 
few drawings I have found the extreme of abstract treat- 
ment in the drawing of the trunk, viz., by means of a 
single line, a device which, so far as I have observed, is 
only resorted to in the case of the human figure for the 
neck and the limbs. An example of this was given above 
in Fig. I (p. 334). The following drawing of a dog by a 
little girl between five and six years old illustrates the same 

Fig. 44 

Fig. 44 (d). 

thing (Fig. 44 (f)). 1 On the other hand we see sometimes a 
tendency to give the trunk abnormal thickness, as if the 
model used had been the wooden toy-horse, as in the 
accompanying drawing by a boy of five (Fig. 44 (d)). 
Rectilinear instead of rounded forms occur, and the head 
is often triangular, these rectilinear contours being probably 

1 Line drawings of animals as well as of men are found in savage 
art: see, for example, Schoolcraft, op. cit., pt. iv., pi. 18. Mr. Cooke 
gives examples from drawings of the Trojans. Hence line drawing 
may, as he infers, be the primitive mode. 



suggested by the teacher in his model schemes (see Fig. 

44 W). 

The legs are of course 
all visible. The strangest 
inattention to number be- 
trays itself here. As we 
saw, a child in beginning Fig ' 44 (<0-~ A h ' 

his scribble-drawing piles on lines for the legs (see above, 
p. 334, Fig. i). A girl between three and four years 
of age endowed a cat with two legs and a bird with 
three (see Fig. 45 (a) and (^)). 1 A boy in his sixth 
year drew a quadruped with ten legs (Fig. 45 (<:)). 
They are often drawn absurdly out of position. In more 

Fig. 45 (6)- A bird. 

Fig. 45 (a). A cat. 
i Whiskers ; 2 Tail. 

Fig. 45 (c). A quadruped. 

Fig. 45 (d). Some 

quadruped. Fig. 45 (e). A mouse. 

than one case I find them crowded behind, as in the 
accompanying drawing of some quadruped by the same 
little girl that drew the cat and the bird, and in a drawing 
of a mouse by another child about the same age, viz., 
three and a half years (Fig. 45 (d) and (<?)). They com- 

1 This is the way in which Mr. Cooke, who sends me these two 
drawings, explains them to me. The beak (?) in Fig. 45 (b) is added 
to the contour, as is the human nose in a few cases. 



monly remain apart from one another throughout their 
course, following roughly a parallel direction. But this 
simple scheme is soon modified, first of all by enlarging 
the space between the fore and the hind legs, and then by 
introducing some change of direction answering to the look 
of the animal in motion. This is most easily effected by 
making the fore and the hind pair diverge downwards, as in 
Fig. 43 (b) and (c) (p. 373). In rarer cases the divergence 
appears between the two legs of the fore and of .the hind pair 
(Fig. 45 (/) ). The knee-bend is early introduced as a 

Fig- 45 (A). 

Fig. 45 () 

means of suggesting motion. Either the legs are all bent 
backwards, as in Fig. 45 (g) (cf. above, Fig. 44 (e) ) ; 
or, with what looks like a perverted feeling for symmetry, 
each pair is bent inwardly, as in Fig. 45 (h). The 
forms are often extraordinary enough, a preternatural 
thickness of leg being not infrequently given, and the knee- 
joint occasionally taking on grotesque shapes as if the little 
draughtsman had just been attending a class on the anatomy 
of the skeleton The hoof is drawn in a still freer manner, 
various designs, as the bird-foot, the circle, and the looped 


pattern, appearing here as in the case of the human foot 
(Fig. 45 (i) and ( ; cf. Figs. 43 (c] and 44 (a) (p. 373)). 

Fig. 45 CO- 
In this unlearned attempt to draw animal forms the 
child falls far below the level of the untutored savage. The 
drawings of animals by the North American Indians, by 
Africans, and others, have been justly praised for their 
artistic excellence. A fine perception of form is, in many 
cases, at least, clearly recognisable, the due covering of one 
part by another is represented, and movement is vigorously 
suggested. Lover though he is of animals, the child, when 
compared with the uncivilised adult, shows himself to be 
woefully ignorant of his pets. 

Men on Horseback, etc. 

Childish drawing move as the dialectic progress of 
the Hegelian thought from distinction and antithesis to a 
synthesis or unity which embraces the distinction. After 
illustrating the human biped in his contradistinction to the 
quadruped he proceeds to combine them in a higher 
artistic unity, the man on horseback. The special interest 
of this department of childish drawing lies in the fresh and 
genial manner of the combining. To draw a man and a 
horse apart is one thing, to fit the two figures one to the 
other, quite another. 

At first the degree 6f connexion is slight. There is no 
suggestion of a composite or mixed animal, such as may 
have suggested to the lively Greek imagination the myth 
of the centaur. The human figure is pitched on to the 
quadruped in the most unceremonious fashion. Thus in 



many cases there is no attempt even to combine the profile 
aspects, the man appearing impudently in frontal aspect, or 

what would be so but for the 
lateral nasal excrescence, as in- 
the accompanying drawing by a 
boy of five (Fig. 46). 

With this indifference to a 
consistent profile there goes 
amazing slovenliness in attaching 
the man to the animal, and this 
whether the front or side view of 
the human figure is introduced. 
No attempt is made in many 
cases to show attachment : the 

Fig. 46. 

man is drawn just above the quadruped, that is all. It 
seems to be a chance whether the two figures meet, 
whether the feet of the man rest circus-fashion on the 
animal's back, or, lastly, whether the human form is drawn 
in part over the animal, and, if so, at what height it is to> 

Fig. 47 (a). 

Fig. 47 (c). 

emerge from the animal's back. Various arrangements occur 

in the same sheet of drawings (see Fig. 47 (a), (&) and ()). 

When this overlapping takes place the presence of the 


animal's trunk makes no difference in the treatment of the 
man. He is drawn with his two legs just "as if he were in 
relief against the horse ; and this arrangement is apt to 
persist even when a child can draw a rude semblance of a 
horse and knows at what level to place the rider. So difficult 
to the little artist is this idea of one thing covering another 
that even when he comes to know that both the legs of the 
rider are not seen, he may get confused and erase both (see 
above (p. 376), Fig. 45 (/) ).* 

The savage is in general as much above the child in the 
representation of the rider as he is in that of the animal 
apart. Yet traces of- similar confusion do 
undoubtedly appear. Von den Steinen says 
that his Brazilians drew the rider with both 
legs showing. Andree gives an illustration, 
among the stone-carvings (petroglyphs) of Fig. 48 (a). 
savages, of the employment of a front view of the human 
figure rising above the horse with no legs showing below (Fig. 
48 (#)). 2 Even among the drawings of the North American 
Indians, in which the horse is in general so well outlined, we 
occasionally find what appear to be the germs of confusions 
similar to those of the child. Thus Schoolcraft gives among 
drawings from an inscription on a 
buffalo skin one in which we have above 
the profile view of a horse the front view 
of a man, with arms stretched out later- 
ally while the legs are wanting. 3 A 
clearer case of confusion is supplied by 
the following drawing, also by a North Fig- 48 (b). 

American Indian, in which the lines of the horse's body cut 
those of the rider's legs (Fig. 48 (<^)). 4 

1 Cf. Ricci, op. cit., Fig. 21 (p. 27). 

2 Op. cit., pi. ii. ; cf. pi. vi., where a drawing from Siberia with, 
the same mode of treatment is given. 

8 Op. cit., pt. iv, pi. 31 (p. 251). 

* From the Annual Report of the Bureau of Ethnology, 1882-83, p. 
206. The common appearance of both legs in these Indian drawings 
means, I take it, that the rider is on the side of the horse. 



The same tendency to show the whole man where the 
circumstances hide a part appears in children's drawings 
of a man in a boat, a railway carriage and so forth. Ricci 
has shown that the different ways in which the child-artist 
puts a human figure in a boat are as numerous as those 
in which he sets it on a horse. The figure may stand out 
above the boat or overlap, in which last case it may be cut 
across by the deck-line and its lower part shown, or be 
clapped wholly below the deck, or again be half immersed 
in the water below the boat, or, lastly, where an attempt 
to respect fact is made, be truncated, the trunk appearing 

Fig. 49 (d). 

through the side of the boat, though the legs are wanting. 1 
A man set in a house, train, or tram car, is seen in his 
totality (Fig. 49 (a) and (b) ). It is much the same thing 
when a child flattens out a house or other object so as to 
show us its three sides, that is to say one which in reality 
is hidden (Fig. 49 (c) and (d) ). With these habits of the 
1 See Ricci, op. cit., pp. 17-23. 


child may be compared those of the savage. The impulse 
to show everything, even what is covered, is illustrated in 
a drawing of a singer in his wigwam by an Indian (Fig. 49. 
(e) ). 1 Even where colour comes in and one 
thing has to be hidden by a part of another 
thing the savage artist, like the child insists 
on drawing the whole. This is illustrated in 
a curious custom, the drawing of two serpents 
(in dry, coloured powder) by North American 
fire-dancers. They are drawn across one 

Fig. 49 (*). 

another, and the artist has first to draw completely the 
one partly covered, and then the second over the first. 2 

The child's drawing of the house, though less remark- 
able than that of the man and the quadruped, has a certain 
interest. It illustrates, as we have just seen, not merely 
his determination to render visible what is hidden, but 
also his curious feeling for 
position and proportion. 
In one case I found that 
in the desire to display 
the contents of a house a 
girl of six had actually 
set a table between the 
chimneys. The accom- 
panying drawing done by 
the boy C. at the age of 
five years five months 

Fig. 50- 

illustrates the fine childish contempt for proportion (Fig. 
50). A curious feature in these drawings of the house is 
the care bestowed on certain details, pre-eminently the 
window. This is even a more important characteristic 
feature than the chimney with its loops of smoke. Some 

1 Andree illustrates how in Australian drawings objects behind 
one another are put above one another as in a certain stage of 
Egyptian art (see his Ethn. Parall. (nene Folge), plates i. and ii.). 

2 Annual Report of Bureau of Ethnology, 1883-84, p. 444 ft". 


children give a quite loving care to the window, drawing 
the lace curtains, the flowers, and so forth. 

Resume of Facts. 

We may now sum up the main results of our study. 
We find in the drawings of untrained children from about 
the age of three to that of eight or ten a curious mode of 
dealing with the most familiar forms. At no stage of 
this child-art can we find what we should regard as ele- 
ments of artistic value : yet it has its quaint and its sugges- 
tive side. 

The first thing that strikes us here is that this child- 
delineation, crude and bizarre as it is, illustrates a process 
of development. Thus we have (a) the stage of vague 
formless scribble, (<) that of primitive design, typified by 
what I have called the lunar scheme of the human face, 
and (c) that of a more sophisticated treatment of the human 
figure, as well as of animal forms. 

This process of art-evolution has striking analogies 
with that of organic evolution. It is clearly a movement 
from the vague or indefinite to the definite, a process of 
gradual specialisation. Not only so, we may note that it 
begins with the representation of those rounded or ovoid 
contours which seem to constitute the basal forms of animal 
organisms, and proceeds like organic evolution by a gradual 
differentiation of the ' homogeneous ' structure through the 
addition of detailed parts or organs. These organs in their 
turn gradually assume their characteristic forms. It is, 
perhaps, worth observing here that some of the early draw- 
ings of animals are strongly suggestive of embryo forms 
(compare, e.g., Fig. 45 () and (d\ p. 375). 

If now we examine this early drawing on its representa- 
tive side we find that it is crude and defective enough. It 
proceeds by giving a bare outline of the object, with at 
most one or two details thrown in. The form neither of 


the whole nor of the parts is correctly rendered. Thus in 
drawing the foot it is enough for the child to indicate the 
angle : the direction of the foot-line is comparatively im- 
material. In this respect a child's drawing differs from 
a truly artistic sketch or suggestive indication by a few 
characteristic lines, which is absolutely correct so far as it 
goes. The child is content with a schematic treatment, 
which involves an appreciable and even considerable de- 
parture from truthful representation. Thus the primitive 
lunar drawing of the human face is manifestly rather a 
diagrammatic scheme than an imitative representation of a 
concrete form. 

In this non-imitative and merely indicative treatment 
there is room for all sorts of technical inaccuracies. Form 
is woefully misapprehended, as in the circular trunk, the 
-oblong mouth, the claw foot, and so forth. Proportion 
ven in its simple aspect of equality is treated with con- 
tempt in many instances (cf. the legs of the quadruped 
and the bird in Fig. 45 (a), (), and (c) (p. 375)). What 
is no less important, division of space and relative 
position of parts, which seem vital even to a diagram- 
matic treatment, are apt to be overlooked, as in drawing 
the facial features high up, in attaching the arms to the 
head, and so forth. Even the element of number is .made 
light of, and this, too, in such simple circumstances as when 
drawing the legs of an animal. 

One of the most curious of these misrepresentations 
comes into view in the third or sophisticated stage, viz., the 
introduction of more than is visible. This error, again, 
assumes a milder and a graver form, viz., (a) the giving of 
the features more distinctly and completely than they appear 
in the object represented, and (b) the introducing of features 
which have no place in the object represented. Examples 
of the first are the introduction of the nasal angle into the 
front view of the human face ; the separation throughout 
their length of the four legs of the horse ; and such odd 

Fig. 51 


tricks as detaching the reins of the horse from the animal, 
as in Fig. 5 1 (a). Illustrations of the second are numerous 

and varied. They in- 
clude first of all the 
nai've introduction of 
features of an object 
which are not on the 
spectator's side and so> 
in view, as the second 
eye and the second arm 
in what are predomi- 
nantly profile repre- 
sentations. With these may be classed the attempt to 
exhibit three sides of a house. Closely related to these 
errors of perspective is the exposure of objects or parts of 
objects which are covered by others. It is possible that the 
spread-eagle arrangement of the two joined arms is an 
attempt to represent a feature of childish anatomy, m'z. t the 
idea that the arms run through and join in the middle of 
the trunk. A clearer example of this attempt to expose to 
view what is covered is the exhibition of the whole human 

figure in a boat, house or 
carriage. With this may 
be compared the disclosure 
of the whole head of a 
horse when drinking, as in 

Fl< 5I ' ' the accompanying drawing 

by a boy of five (Fig. 51 ($)), of the whole head of the 
man through his hat (see above, p. 350, Fig. 20 ()), and 
of the human limbs through the clothes (Fig. 41, p. 371). 

A class of confusions, having a certain similarity to some 
of these, consists in the transference of the features of one- 
object to a second, as when a man or quadruped is given a 
bird-like foot (Figs. 7 (d] and 43 (c), pp. 342, 373), and still 
more manifestly when the facial scheme of the man is trans- 
ferred to the quadruped or vice versa (Fig. 44 (a) and (b) 9 
PP. 373- 374). 


These last errors clearly illustrate the tendency to a con- 
ventional treatment, a tendency which, as I have observed 
already, runs through children's spontaneous drawings. 
This free conventional handling of natural forms has been 
illustrated in the habitual drawing of the mouth and eyes, 
and still more strikingly in that of the hands and feet. 

Paradoxical though it may seem, these drawings, while 
in general bare and negligent of details, show in certain 
directions a quite amusing attention to them. Thus, we 
find at a very early stage certain details, as the pipe of 
the man, insisted on with extravagant emphasis ; and may 
observe at a somewhat later stage in the elaborate drawing 
of hair, buttons, parasol, and so forth, a tendency to give 
some feature to which the child attaches value a special 
prominence and degree of completeness. 

The art of children is a thing by itself, and must not 
straight away be classed with the rude art of the untrained 
adult. As adult, the latter has knowledge and technical 
resources above those of the little child ; and these points of 
superiority show themselves, for example, in the fine delinea- 
tion of animal forms by Africans and others. 1 At the same 
time, after allowing for these differences, it is, I think, incon- 
testable that a number of characteristic traits in children's 
drawings are reflected in those of untutored savages. 

Explanation of Facts. 

Let us now see how we are to explain these character- 
istics. In order to do so we must try to understand what 

1 The tendency to identify the drawings of the child and the 
savage led to an amusing error on the part of a certain Abbe 
Domenech, who in 1860 published his so-called Livre des Sauvages, 
which purported to contain the graphic characters and drawings of 
North American Aztecs, but proved in reality to be nothing but the 
scribbling book of a boy of German parentage. The drawings are of 
the crudest, and show the artist to be much more nasty-minded than 
the savage draughtsmen. 



process a child's mind goes through when he draws some- 
thing, and to compare this with what passes in the mind of 
an adult artist. The problem has, it is evident, to do with 
drawing from memory or out of one's head, for though the 
child may begin to draw by help of models, he develops his 
characteristic art in complete independence of these. 

In order to draw an object from memory two things 
are obviously necessary. We must have at the outset an 
idea of the form we wish to represent, and this visual image 
of the form must somehow translate itself into a series of 
manual movements corresponding to its several parts. In 
other words, it presupposes both an initial conception and 
a correlated process of execution. 

In psychological language this correlation or co-ordina- 
tion between the idea of a form and the carrying out of the 
necessary movements of the hand is expressed by saying 
that the visual image, say, of the curve of the full face, calls 
up the associated image of the manual movement. This 
last, again, may mean either the visual image of the hand 
executing the required movement, or the image of the mus- 
cular sensations experienced when the arm is moved in the 
required way, or possibly both of these. 

The process of drawing a whole form is of course more 
complex than this, each step in the operation being adjusted 
to preceding steps. How far the movements of the draughts- 
man's hands are guided here by a visual image of the form, 
which remains present throughout, how far by attention to 
what has already been set down, may not be quite certain. 
Judging from my own case, I should describe the process 
somewhat after this fashion. In drawing a human face we 
set out with a visual image of the whole, which is incomplete 
in respect of details, but represents roughly size and 
general form or outline. This image is projected indistinctly 
and unsteadily, of course, on the sheet of paper before us, 
and this projected image controls the whole operation. But 
as we advance we pay more and more attention to the visual 


presentation supplied by the portion of the drawing already 
produced, and only realise with any distinctness that part 
of the projected visual image which is just in advance of the 

It is evident that the carrying out of such a prolonged 
operation involves a perfected mechanism of eye, brain and 
hand connexions ; for much of the manual adjustment is 
instantaneous and sub-conscious. At the same time the 
process illustrates a very high measure of volitional control 
or concentration. Unless we keep the original design fixed 
before us, and attend at each stage to the relations of the 
executed to the unexecuted part, we are certain to go wrong. 

Practice tends, of course, to reduce the conscious element 
in the process. In the case of a person accustomed to draw 
the outline of a human head, a cat or what not, the operation 
is very much one of hand-memory into which visual 
representations enter only faintly. The movements follow 
one another of themselves without the intervention of dis- 
tinct visual images (whether that of the linear form or of 
the moving hand). There is an approach here to what 
happens when we put last year's date to a letter, the hand 
following out an old habit. 

Now the child has to acquire the co-ordinations here 
briefly described. He may have the visual image of the 
human face or the horse which he wishes to depict. This 
power of visualising shows itself in other ways and can be 
independently tested, as by asking a child to describe the 
object verbally. But he has as yet no inkling of how to 
reproduce his image. That his inability at the outset is 
due to a want of co-ordination is seen in the fact that 
at this stage he cannot draw even when a model is before 
his eyes. 

The process of learning here is very like what takes 
place when a child learns to speak. The required move- 
ments have somehow to be performed and attached to the 
effects they are then found to produce. Just as a child 


first produces sounds, partly instinctively or spontaneously, 
partly by imitating the seen movements of another's lips, 
etc., so he produces lines by play-like scribble and by 
imitating the visible movements of another person's hand. 
The tendency to imitate is observable in the first loop- 
formations, and possibly also in the abrupt angular changes 
which give a zig-zag look to some of these early tracings. 

In this early stage we see a marked want of control. 
The effort is spasmodic and short-lived : the little draughts- 
man presently runs off into nonsense scribble. The want 
of control is seen, too, in the tendency to prolong lines 
unduly, and to repeat or multiply them, the primitive play- 
movements being very much under the empire of inertia or 
habit, i.e., the tendency to repeat or go on with an action. 
The effect of limitating natural conditions in the motor 
apparatus is illustrated, not only in the slightly curved form 
of these first scribble lines, but in the general obliquity or 
inclination of the line ; it being manifestly easier for the 
hand when brought in front of the body to describe a line 
running slightly upwards from left to right (or in the 
reverse direction) than one running horizontally. The want 
of -control by means of a steady visual image is further seen 
in the absence of any attempt at a plan, at a mapping out 
of the available space, and at an observation of proportion. 

It might be thought that, though a child at this inex- 
perienced stage were unable to produce the correct form of 
a familiar object, he would at once detect the incorrectness 
of the one he sets down. No doubt, if he were in the atti- 
tude of cold critical observation, he would do so : in fact, 
as Mr. Cooke and others have shown, he sees the absurdities 
of his workmanship as soon as they are pointed out to him. 
But when drawing he is in another sort of mood, akin to 
that imaginative mood in which he traces forms in the 
plaster of the ceiling, or in the letters of his spelling-book.. 
He means to draw a man or a horse, and consequently the 
formless jumble of lines becomes, to his fancy, a man or a 


horse. His first drawings are thus, in a sense, playthings, 
which, like the battered stump of a doll, his imaginative 
intention corrects, supplements, and perfects. 

With repetition, and that am unt of supervision and 
guidance which most children who take a pencil in hand 
manage to get from somebody, he begins to note the actual 
character of his line-effects, and to associate these with the 
movements which produce them. A straight horizontal 
line, a curved line returning upon itself, and so forth, come 
to be differentiated, and to be co-ordinated with their 
respective manual movements. 

We may now pass to the second stage, the beginning of 
true linear representation, as illustrated in the first abstract 
schematic treatment of the human face and figure. 

A question arises at the very outset here as to whether, 
and if so to what extent, children re-discover this method 
of representation for themselves. Here, as in the case of 
child-language, such as * bow-wow,' ' gee-gee,' tradition and 
example undoubtedly play their part. A parent, or an 
older brother and sister, in setting the first models, is pretty 
certain to adopt a simple scheme, as that of the lunar face ; 
and even where there is no instruction a child is quick at 
imitating other children's manner of drawing. Yet this does 
not affect the contention that such manner of drawing is 
eminently childish, that is, the one a child finds his way to 
most readily, any more than the fact of the nurse's calling 
the horse * gee-gee ' in talking to baby affects the contention 
that ' gee-gee ' is eminently a baby-name. 

The scanty abstract treatment, the circle enclosing two 
dots and the vertical and horizontal lines, points to the 
absence of any serious attempt to imitate a form closely 
and fully. It seems absurd to suppose that a child of three 
or four does not image a human face better than he delineates 
it ; and even if this were doubtful it is certain that when 
he sets down a man without hair, ears, trunk, or arm, his 
execution is falling far short of his knowledge. How is 


this to be accounted for? My explanation is that the little 
artist is still much more of a symbolist than a naturalist, 
that he does not in the least care about a full and close 
likeness, but wants only a barely sufficient indication. This 
scantiness of treatment issuing from want of the more serious 
artistic intention is of course supported by technical limita- 
tions. The lunar face with the two propping lines answers 
to what the child can do easily and comfortably. Much 
more than his elder brethren our small limner is bound by 
the law of artistic economy, the need of producing his 
effects with the smallest expenditure of labour, and of 
making every touch tell. 

Defects of executive resource and of manual skill 
appear plainly in other characteristics. The common inclina- 
tion of the lines of the legs points to the unconscious selec- 
tion of easiest directions of manual movement. 1 The unduly 
lengthened arm and leg, the multiplication of legs as seen 
most strikingly in the case of the quadruped illustrate the 
influence of motor or muscular inertia. There is, too, 
a noticeable want of measurement and management of the 
space to be covered, as when one eye is put in so large 
as to leave no room for a second, or when filling in details 
from above downwards the eyes are put in too near the 
occipital curve, and so all the features set too high up. 
The same want of measurement of'space may contribute to 
the child's habit of drawing the trunk so absurdly small in 
proportion to the head ; for he begins with the head, and 
by making this large finds he has not left, within the limits 
of what he considers the right size of figure, space enough 
for the trunk. 

Very noticeable is the influence of habit in this 
abstract treatment. By habit I here mean hand-memory, 
or the tendency to combine movements in the old ways, 
though this is commonly aided, as we shall see, by "asso- 

1 This is supported, in the case of children who have begun to 
wield the pen, by the exercises of the copy-book. 


elation of ideas ". Thus a child falls into a stereotyped 
way of drawing the human face and figure ; line follows 
line in the accustomed sequence; the only variation 
showing itself is in the insertion or omission of nose, ears, 
or arms ; these uncertainties being due to fluctuations of 
energy and concentration. A child's art is, in respect of 
its unyielding sameness, a striking example of a conserva- 
tive conventionality. He gets used to his pencil-forms, 
and pronounces them right, to the greater and greater 
neglect of their relation to natural forms. Habit shows 
itself in other ways too. Notice, for example, how a child, 
after adding the trunk, will go on inserting the arms into the 
head as he used to do. Such a habit is an affair not only 
of the hand but of the eye. The arms have by repeated 
delineation come in the art-sphere to belong to the head. 

Coming now to the more elaborate and sophisticated 
stage of five or thereabouts, in which the shape of eyes, mouth, 
and nose is shadowed forth, the difficult appendages as hands 
and feet attempted, and the profile aspect introduced, we 
notice first of all a step in the direction of naturalism. The 
child like the race gets tired of his bald primitive symbolism, 
and essays to bring more of concrete fulness and life into 
his forms. Only this first attempt does not lead to a con- 
tinued progress, but stops short at what is rude and arbi- 
trary enough, substituting merely a second rigid conven- 
tionalism for the first. 

This transition indicates an advance in technical skill ; 
hence we find a measure of free and bold invention, as in 
the management of the facial features, e.g., the scissors- 
shaped nose, and still more in the treatment of hands and 
feet, which is at once exaggerative, as in the big burr 
forms, and freely conventional, as in the leaf-pattern for 
the hand, and the wondrous loop-designs for the foot. 

Yet though this freer treatment shows a certain tech- 
nical advance it illustrates the effect of the limitations of 
the child's executive power. Thus the new partially pro- 


file figures are very apt to lean, looking as if they were 
falling backwards. It is probable that the wide-spread 
tendency to make the profile face look towards the spectator's 
left rather than his right is due to the circumstance that 
the eye can much better follow and control the pencil in 
this case than in the opposite one. In the latter the hand 
is apt to interfere with seeing the line of the face, especially 
if the pencil is held near its point. 

Habit, too, continues to assert its dominion. The 
tendency noticeable now and again, even among English 
children, to treat the feet after the manner of the hands 
illustrates this. Habit is further illustrated in the tendency 
to a transference of forms appropriate to the man to the 
animal ; or, when (owing to the interposition of the in- 
structor) the drawing of animals 
is in advance of the other, in 
the reverse process ; as when 
a cat is drawn with two legs, 
or a horse is given a man's 
face, or the human form de- 
Man. Bird. velops a horse's ears, or a 

bird's feet. With these may 

be compared the transference of a bird-like body and 
tail to a quadruped in Fig. 45 (/), p. 377. The accompanying 
two drawings by a child of six show how similar forms are 
apt to be used for the man and for the animal (Fig. 52). 

But the really noticeable thing in this later sophisticated 
treatment is the bringing into view of what in the original 
is invisible, as the front view of the eye as well as both eyes 
into what otherwise looks a side view of the face, the two 
legs of the rider and so forth. Here, no doubt, we may still 
trace the influence of technical limitations and of habit. The 
influence of the former is seen in the completing of the con- 
tour of the head before or after drawing the hat : for the 
child would not know how to start with the lines which form 
the commencement of the visible part of the head. The 


influence of habit is also recognisable here. A child having 
learned first of all to draw the front view of the eye, the 
two eyes and the two legs side by side, tends partly as the 
result of organised hand-trick, partly in consequence of 
'association of ideas/ to go on drawing in the same fashion 
in the new circumstances. A specially clear illustration of 
this effect of habit already alluded to is the introduction of 
the front view of the nose in the mixed scheme. These 
cases are exactly paralleled by the Egyptian drawing in 
which while one shoulder is pulled round the other is left in 
square front view (see above, p. 369, Fig. 39 (b) ). Still, habit 
does not account for everything here. It does not, for 
example, explain why the child brings into view three sides 
of a house. The technical deficiencies of the small draughts- 
man, his want of serious artistic purpose, seem an insufficient 
explanation of these later sophistries. They appear to point 
plainly to certain peculiarities of the process of Childish 
conception. We are compelled then to inquire a little more 
closely into the characteristics of children's observation 
and of their mental representation of objects. 

We are apt to think that children when they look at 
ihings at all scrutinise them closely, and afterwards imagine 
clearly what they have observed. But this assumption is 
hardly justified. No doubt they often surprise us by their 
attention to small unimportant details of objects, especially 
when these are new and odd-looking. But it is a long way 
from this to a careful methodic investigation of objects. Chil- 
dren's observation is for the most part capriciously selective 
and one-sided. They apprehend one or two striking or 
especially interesting features and are blind to the rest 
This is fully established in the case of ordinary children by 
the wondrous ignorance they display when questioned about 
common objects. It is hardly necessary to add that their 
spontaneous untrained observation is quite unequal to that 
careful analytical attention to form-elements in their 
relations which underlies all clear grasp of the direction of 


linear elements, the relative position of the several parts of 
a figure, and proportion. 

This being so it maybe said that defects of observation are 
reflected in children's drawing through all its phases. Thus 
the primitive bare schematism of the human face answers 
to an incomplete observation and consequently incomplete 
mode of imagination, just as it answers to a want of artistic 
purpose and to technical incapacity. How far defective 
observation assists at this first stage I do not feel sure: 
Further experimental inquiries are needed on this point. 
I lean to the view already expressed, that at this stage 
manual reproduction is far behind visual imagination. 

When, however, we come on to the delineation of art 
object under its different aspects the defects of mental' 
representation assume a much graver character. We must 
bear in mind that a child soon gets beyond the stage of 
recalling and imagining the particular look of an object,, 
say the front view of his mother's face, or of his house. 
He begins as soon as he understands and imitates others' 
language to synthesise such pictorial images of particular 
visual presentations or appearances into the wholes which 
we call ideas of things. A child of four or five thinking of 
his father or his house probably recalls in a confused way 
disparate and incompatible visual aspects, the front view 
as on the whole the most impressive being predominant,, 
though striking elements of the side view may rise into- 
consciousness also. With this process of synthesising 
aspects into the concrete whole we call a thing there goes 
the further process of binding together representations of 
this and that thing into generic or typical ideas answering 
to man, horse, house, in general. A child of five or six, so- 
far from being immersed in individual presentations and 
concrete objects, as is often supposed, has carried out a 
respectable measure of generalisation, and this largely by 
the help of language. Thus a * man ' reduced to visual 
terms has come to mean for him (according to his well-known 


verbal formula) something with a head, two eyes, etc.. etc.,, 
which he does not need to represent in a mental picture 
because the verbal formula serves to connect the features 
in his memory. 

Hence when he comes to draw he has not the artist's 
clear mental vision of the actual look of things to guide 
him. He is led not by a lively and clear sensuous imagina- 
tion, but by a mass of generalised knowledge embodied in 
words, viz., the logical form of a definition or description. 
This, I take it, is the main reason why with such supreme 
insouciance he throws into one design features of the full 
face and of the profile ; for in setting down his linear 
scheme he is aiming not at drawing a picture, an imitative 
representation of something we could see, but rather at 
enumerating, in the new expressive medium which his 
pencil supplies, what he knows about the particular thing. 
Since he is thus bent on a linear description of what he 
knows he is not in the least troubled about the laws of 
visual appearance, but setting perspective at naught compels 
the spectator to see the other side, to look through one 
object at another, and so forth. 

Since the process at this sophisticated stage is controlled 
by knowledge of things as wholes and not by representa- 
tions of concrete appearances or views, we can understand 
why the visible result does not shock the draughtsman. 
The little descriptor does not need to compare the look of 
his drawing with that of the real object : it is right as a 
description anyhow. How strongly this idea of description 
controls his views of pictures has already been pointed out. 
Just as he objects to a correct profile drawing as an inade- 
quate description, so he objects to a drawing of the hind 
part of a horse entering the stable, and asks, ' Where is his 
head ? ' We may say then that what a lively fancy did in 
the earlier play-stages childish logic does now, it blinds the- 
artist to the actual look of what his pencil has created. 

Use soon adds its magic force, and the impossible 


combination, the two eyes stuck on at the side of the 
profile nose, the two legs of the rider untroubled by the 
capacious trunk of the animal which he strides, the man 
wholly exposed to view inside the boat or carriage, gets 
stereotyped into the right mode of linear description. 

All this shows that the child's eye at a surprisingly 
early period loses its primal ' innocence/ grows ' sophisti- 
cated ' in the sense that instead of seeing what is really 
presented it sees, or pretends to see, what knowledge and 
logic tell it is there. In other words his sense-perceptions 
have for artistic purposes become corrupted by a too large 
admixture of intelligence. This corruption is closely 
.analogous to what we all experience when we lose the 
primal simplicity of the eye for colour, and impart into our 
4 visual impressions,' as we call them, elements of memory 
and inference, saying, for example, that a distant mountain 
side is 'green' just because we can make out that it is 
grass-covered and know that grass when looked at nearer is 
of a green colour. 

I have dwelt on what from our grown-up standpoint 
we must call the defects of children's drawing. Yet in 
bringing this study to a close it is only just to remark that 
there are other and better qualities well deserving of re- 
cognition. Crude, defective, self-contradictory even, as 
these early designs undoubtedly are, they are not wholly 
destitute of artistic qualities. The abstract treatment itself, 
in spite of its inadequacy, is after all in the direction 
of a true art, which in its essential nature is selective and 
suggestive rather than literally reproductive. We may dis- 
cern, too,even in these rude schemes a nascent sense of values, 
of a selection of what is characteristic. Even the primitive 
trunkless form seems to illustrate this, for though, as we 
have seen in a previous essay, the trunk plays an important 
part in the development of the idea of self, it is for 
pictorial purposes less interesting and valuable than the 
head. However this be, it is clear that we see this impulse 


of selection at work later on in the addition of the buttons, 
the pipe, the stick, the parasol and so forth. 

It is to be noted, too, that even in these untutored 
performances, where convention and tradition exercise so- 
great a sway, there are faint indications of a freer individual 
initiative. Witness, for example, the .varying modes of 
representing hair, hands, and feet. We may say the i that 
even rough children in elementary schools who are never 
likely to develop artistic talent display a rudiment of art- 
feeling. It is only fair to them to testify that in spite of 
the limitations of their stiff wooden treatment they express 
a certain individuality of feeling and aim, that like true 
artists they convey a personal impression. These traits 
appear most plainly in the later representations of action, 
but they are not altogether absent from the earlier statuesque 
figures. Compare, for example, the look of alert vigour in 
Fig- 5 (#) (p. 339), of grinning impudence in Fig. 6 (a) 
(p. 341), of provoking 'cheekiness' in Fig. 20 (b) (p. 350),. 
of a seedy ' swagger' in Fig. 32 (p. 362), of inebriate gaiety 
in Fig. 17 (p. 348), of absurd skittishness in Fig. 24 (b) (p. 
354), of insane flurry in Fig. 26 (a) (p. 355), of Irish easy- 
goingness even when somebody has to be killed in Fig. 34 
(p. 363), of wiry resoluteness in Fig. 29 (a) (p. 359), of sly 
villainy in Fig. 38 (p. 365), and of demure simplicity in Fig. 
26 (c] (p. 356); and note the delicious variety of equine 
character in Fig. 45 (f) (p. 376) and following. 

If a finer aesthetic feeling is developed the first rude 
descriptive drawing loses its attractions. A friend, a well- 
known psychologist, has observed in the case of his children 
that when they try to draw something pretty, e.g., a beauti- 
ful lady, they abandon their customary mode of description 
and become aware of the look of their designs and criticise 
them as bad. This seems to me a most significant obser- 
vation. It is the feeling for what is beautiful which makes 
a child attend closely to the bare look of things, and the 
beginning of a finer observation of forms commonly takes 


its rise in this nascent sense of beauty. Indeed, may one 
not say that only when a germ of the aesthetic feeling for 
beauty arises, and a child falls in love with the mere look of 
certain things, can there appear the beginnings of genuinely 
artistic work, of a conscientious endeavour to render on 
.paper the aspect which pleases the eye? 




THERE has just come into my hands a curious document. It 
is a sort of diary kept by a father in which he chronicles 
certain of the early doings and sayings of his boy. It makes 
no pretence to being a regular and methodical register of pro- 
gress, such as Mr. F. Galton has shown us how to carry out. 
It may be said by way of extenuation that the diary sets out in 
the year 1880, that is to say, two years before Professor Preyer 
published his model record of an infant's progress. En revanche, 
it is manifestly the work of a psychologist given to speculation, 
and this of a somewhat bold type. In the present paper I 
propose to cull from this diary what seem to me some of the 
choicer observations and comments on these. If these do not 
always come up to the requirements of a rigidly scientific standard 
in respect of completeness, precision, and grave impartiality, 
they may none the less prove suggestive of serious scientific 
thought, while any extravagances of fancy and any levity of 
manner may well be set down to the play of a humorous 
sentiment, which betrays the father beneath the observer. 

I may begin my sketch of the early history of this boy by 
remarking that he appears to have been a normal and satis- 
factory specimen of his class, healthy, good-natured, and 
given to that infantile way of relieving the pressure of his 
animal spirits which is, I believe, known as crowing. Not 
believing in the classifications of temperament adopted by the 
physiologists of a past age, the father forbears from describing 
his child's. For my lady readers I may add that he seems, at 
least by his father's account, to have been a good-sized, chubby 
little fellow, fair and rosy in tint, with bright blue eyes, and a 


limited crop of golden hair of an exceptionally rich, I don't 
know how many carat gold, hue. I shall speak of him linden 
his initial, C. 

First Year. 

The early pages of the record do not, one must confess, yield 
any very striking observations. This is, no doubt, due to the 
circumstance that the observer, not being a naturalist, was not 
specially interested in the dim mindless life of the first weeks. 
For the first few days Master C. appears to have been content 
to vegetate like other babies of a similar age. Although a 
bonny boy, he began life in the usual way with a good cry ;, 
though we now know, on scientific authority, that this, being a 
purely reflex act, has not the deep significance which certain, 
pessimistic philosophers have attributed to it. Science would 
probably explain in a similar way a number of odd facial move- 
ments which this baby went through on the second day of his 
earthly career, and which, the father characteristically remarks,, 
were highly suggestive of a cynical contempt for his new sur- 

Yet, though content in this early stage to do little but 
perform the vegetal functions of life, the infant comes endowed 
with a nervous system and organs of sense, and these are very- 
soon brought into active play. According to this record, the 
sense of touch is the first to manifest itself. 1 Even when only 
two hours old, at a period of life when there is certainly na 
sound for the ear and possibly no light for the eye, C. immedi- 
ately clasped the parental finger which was brought into the 
hollow of its tiny hand. The functional activity of touch was 
observed still more plainly on the second day, when the child 
was seen to carry out awkwardly enough what looked like 
exploring movements of the hands over his mouth and face* 
This early development in the child of the tactual sense agrees, 
says the biographer, with what Aristotle long since taught re- 
specting the fundamental character of this sense, an idea to. 

1 Taste, as involved in the necessary act of taking nourishment^ 
is probably at first hardly differentiated from touch. 


which the modern doctrine of evolution has given a new. 

A distinct step is taken during the first four days towards 
acquiring knowledge of things through a progressive use of the 
eyes and hands. C.'s father noticed on the second day that a 
good deal of ocular movement was forthcoming. Much of this 
was quite irregular, each eye following its own path. Sometimes, 
however, the eyes moved harmoniously or symmetrically now 
to this side, now to that, and now and again seemed to con- 
verge and fix themselves on some near object in front of them. 
Sufficiently loud sounds increased these ocular movements. 

On the third day the father, when chuckling and calling to 
the child at a short distance, fondly supposed that his offspring 
showed appreciation of these attentions by regarding him with 
a sweet expression and something like the play of a smile about 
the lips and eyelids. But it is possible that this apparent 
amiability was nothing but a purely animal satisfaction after a 
good meal. As to seeing his father's face at that early age, 
there is room for serious doubt. Preyer found that long before 
the close of the first day his child wore a different expression 
when his face, turned towards the window, was suddenly de- 
prived of light by the intervention of the professor's hand. If 
the child is thus sensible to the pleasure of light it is, of course, 
conceivable that C.'s eyes, happening in their aimless wander- 
ings to be brought together opposite the bright patch of the 
father's face, might maintain that attitude under the stimulus 
of the pleasure. The father argues in favour of this view by 
quoting the fact that C.'s sister was observed on the fourth day 
to have her eyes arrested by a light or the father's face if brought 
pretty near the child ; yet such blank staring at mere brightness 
is, of course, a long way off from distinct vision of an object. 

On the fourth day, continues the sanguine father, the child- 
showed a distinct advance in the use of the hands. Having 
clasped his sire's finger he now moved it in what looked like 
an abortive attempt to carry it to his mouth. There follow 
some remarks on the impulse of infants to carry objects to 
their mouths, in which again there seems an approach to 
frivolity in the conjecture that the human animal previous to 



education is all-devouring. It is to be noted, however, that 
these early movements are probably quite accidental. As we 
shall see, it is some weeks before the child learns to carry 
objects to his mouth. As to the connexion between this 
movement and infantile greed our observer is not so poor a 
psychologist as not to see that it may be due to the circum- 
stance that the lips and the tip of the tongue form one of 
the most delicate parts of the tactual organ. It is not im- 
probable that in the evolution of man before the tactual sensi- 
bility of the hand was developed these parts were chiefly 
employed as a tactual apparatus in distinguishing and rejecting 
what is hard, gritty and so forth in food. However this be, it 
is probable that, as Stanley Hall has suggested, an infant may 
get a kind of "aesthetic" pleasure by bringing objects into 
contact with the lips and the gums. 

At this period, the diary remarks, the child was very cross 
for some weeks and not a good subject for observation. This 
new difficulty, added to that of overcoming natural scruples in 
his guardians, appears to have baffled the observer for a time, 
for the next observations recorded take up the thread of the 
child's history at the sixth week. 

About this date, the father notes, the power of directing 
the eyes had greatly improved. The child could now converge 
his eyes comfortably and without going through a number of 
unpleasant squinting-like failures on a near object. The range 
of sight had greatly increased, so that the boy's universe, instead 
of consisting merely of a tiny circle of near objects, as his 
mother's face held close to him, began to embrace distant 
objects, as the clock, the window, and so forth. He was observed, 
too, to carry out more precise movements of the head and eyes 
in correspondence with the direction of sounds. This ability 
to look towards the direction of a sound is an important attain- 
ment as implying that the infant mind has now come to learn 
that things may exist when not actually seen. 

This new command of the visual apparatus led to a marked 
increase in observation. The boy may indeed be said to have 
begun about this date something like a serious scrutiny of 
objects. Like other children he was greatly attracted by 


brightly coloured objects. When just seven weeks old he 
acquired a fondness for a cheap showy card with crudely 
brilliant colouring and gilded border. When carried to the 
place where it hung, above the glass over the fire-place, 
he would look up to it and greet his first-love in the world oi 
art with a pretty smile. By the ninth or tenth week, the father 
adds, he began to notice the pattern of the wall-paper and the 

In these growing intervals of observation between the 
discharge of the vegetal functions of feeding and sleeping, C. 
was observed to examine not only any foreign object, such as 
his mamma's dress, which happened to be within sight, but 
also the visible parts of his own organism. In the ninth week 
of his existence he was first surprised in the act of surveying 
his own hands. Why he should at this particular moment 
have woke up to the existence of objects which had all along 
lain within easy reach of the eye, is a question which has 
evidently greatly exercised the father's ingenuity. He hints, 
but plainly in a half-hearted, sceptical way, at a possible dim 
recognition by the little contemplator of the fact that these 
objects belong to himself, forming, indeed, the outlying portion 
of the Ego. He also asks (and here he seems to grow positively 
frivolous) whether the child is taking after the somewhat 
extravagant ways of his mother and beginning to dote on the 
exquisite modelling of his tiny members. 

Psychologists are now agreed that our knowledge of the 
properties of material objects is largely obtained by what they 
call active touch, that is, by moving the hands over objects and 
exploring the space around them. This is borne out by the 
observations made on C. at this period of his existence. While 
viewing things about him he actively manipulated them. The 
organs of sight and touch worked indeed in the closest con- 
nexion. Thus our little visitor was no mere passive spectator 
of his new habitat ; he actively took possession of his sur- 
roundings : like the Roman general, he at once saw and con- 
quered. From the eighth to the tenth week his manual 
performances greatly improved in quality. He was rapidly 
learning to carry the organ of touch to the point of which his 


eye told him. An account of his prpgress in reaching objects 
may however be postponed till we come to speak of the develop- 
ment of his active powers. 

The growing habit of looking at, reaching out to, and 
manually investigating objects, soon leads to the accumula- 
tion of a store of materials for the construction of those complex 
mental products which we call perceptions. And often-repeated 
perceptions, when they become more clearly distinguished, 
supply the basis of definite acts of recognition. The first 
object that is clearly recognised through a special act of atten- 
tion is, of course, the face of the mother. In the case of C., 
the father's face was apparently recognised about the eighth 
week at least, the youngster first greeted his parent with a 
smile about this time an event, I need hardly say, which is 
recorded in very large and easily legible handwriting. The oc- 
currence gives rise to a number of odd reflexions in the parental 
mind. The observer's belief in the necessary co-operation of 
sight and touch in the early knowledge of material objects leads 
him to remark that C.'s manual experience of his face, and more 
particularly of the bearded chin, has been extensive an experi- 
ence which, he adds, has left its recollection in his own mind, too, 
in the shape of a certain soreness. He then goes on to con- 
sider the meaning of the smile. " I cannot," he writes, " be of 
any interest to him as a psychological student of his ways. 
No, it must be in the light of a bearded plaything that he regards 
my face." Further observation bears out this argument by 
going to show that the recognition was not individual but specific : 
that it was simply a recognition of one of a class of bearded 
people ; for when a perfect stranger also endowed with the 
entertaining appendage presented himself, C. wounded his 
father's heart by smiling at him in exactly the same way. Here 
the diary goes off into some abstruse speculations about the first 
mental images being what Mr. Galton calls generic images 
speculations into which we need not follow the writer. As we 
shall see, the father takes up the subject of childish generalisa- 
tion more fully later on. The power of recognising objects 
appeared to undergo rapid development towards the end of the 
fourth month. The father remarks that the child would about 


this time recognise him in a somewhat dark room at a distance 
of three or four yards. 1 

The germ of true imagination, of the formation of what 
Hoffding calls a free or detached image of something not seen 
at the moment, appeared about the same time. The moment 
when the baby's mind first passes on from the sight of his bottle 
to a foregrasping or imagination of the blisses of prehension 
and deglutition a moment which appears to have been reached 
by C. in his tenth week marks an epoch in his existence. 
He not only perceives what is actually present to his senses, 
he pictures or represents what is absent. This is the moment 
at which, to quote from the parent's somewhat high-flown 
observations on this event, " mind rises above the limitations 
of the actual, and begins to shape for itself an ideal world of 
possibilities ". 

This rise of the ideal to take the place of the real appeared 
in other ways too. Thus when just eighteen weeks old the 
child had been lying on his nurse's lap and gazing on some 
pictures on the wall of which he was getting fond. The nurse 
happening to turn round suddenly put an end to his happiness. 
Still the child was not to be done, but immediately began twist- 
ing his head back in order to bring the pictures once more 
into his field of view. Here we have an illustration of a 
mental image appearing immediately after a perception, a rude 
form of what psychologists are now getting" to call a primary 

The expression of the gourmet's delight at the sight of the 
bottle (tenth week) involves a simple process of association. 
Between the ages of five and six months the child's progress 
in building up associations was very marked. Thus he would 
turn from a reflexion of the fire on the glass of a picture to the 
fire itself, and a little later would look towards a particular 
picture, Cherry Ripe, when the name was uttered. Further, 
not only had he now learnt to connect the sight of the bottle 
with the joys of a repast, but on seeing the basin in which his 

1 The clear recognition of individual objects is said to show 
itself in average cases from about the sixth month (Tracy, op. cit.. 
pp. 15-16). 


food is prepared he would glance towards the cupboard where 
the bottle is kept. 

The diary contains but few observations on the growth of the 
power of understanding things and reasoning about them during 
the first year. One of the most interesting of these relates to the 
understanding of reflexions, shadows, etc. We know that these 
things played a considerable part in the development of the first 
racial ideas of the supernatural, and we might expect to see them 
producing an impression on the child's mind. C. when he first 
began to notice reflexions of the fire and other objects in a 
mirror showed considerable marks of surprise. What quaint 
fancies he may have had respecting this odd doubling of things 
we cannot of course say. What is certain is that he distinctly 
connected the reflexion with the original, as is shown by the 
fact already mentioned, his turning from the first to the second. 
By the end of the sixth month the marks of surprise had 
visibly lessened, so that the child was apparently getting used 
to the miracle, even though he could not as yet be said to 
understand it. It is worth notice that though the experiment 
of showing him his own reflexion was repeated again and again 
he remained apparently quite indifferent to the image. Per- 
haps, suggests the father, he did not as yet know himself as 
visible object sufficiently to recognise nature's portrait of him 
in the glass. 

The above may perhaps serve as a sample of the observa- 
tions made on the intellectual development of this privileged 
child during the first year of his earthly existence. I will now 
pass on to quote a remark or two on his emotional develop- 
ment. I may add that the record of this phase of the boy's 
early mental life is certainly the most curious part of the 
document, containing many odd speculations on the course of 
primitive human history. 

The earliest manifestations of the life of feeling are the 
elemental forms of pain and pleasure, crying and incipient 
laughing in the form of the smile. 1 In C.'s case, as in others, 
crying of the genuine miserable kind preceded smiling by a 

1 With the smile there ought perhaps to be taken the infantile 


considerable interval. The child, remarks our observer, seems 
to need to learn to smile, whereas his crying apparatus is in 
good working order from the first. 

The growth of the smile is a curious chapter in child- 
psychology, and has been carefully worked out by Preyer. The 
observations on C. under this head are incomplete. The 
father thought he detected an attempt at a smile on the third 
day, when the child was lying replete with food, in answer to 
certain chuckling sounds with which he sought to amuse him. 
The movements constituting this quasi-smile are said to have 
been the following : a drawing in of the under lip ; a drawing 
inwards and backwards of the corners of the mouth : increase 
of oblique line from the corner of the mouth upwards ; and a 
furrowing or ridging of the eyelids. It is probable, however, 
that this was not a true smile, i.e., an expression of pleasure. 
He remarks, moreover, that in the case of the child's sister the 
first approach to a smile was not observed before the tenth day, 
this, too, by-the-bye, in that state of blissful complaisance which 
follows a good meal. It may be added that in the case of the 
brother, too, the smile seems to have grown noticeably bright 
and significant about the same time (eighth to tenth week). 
At this stage the boy expressed his pleasure at seeing his 
father's face not only by a "bright" smile, but by certain 
cooing sounds. At the same date a playful touch on the 
child's cheek was sufficient to provoke a smile. 1 

Very early in the infant's course the germs of some of our 
most characteristic human feelings begin to appear. One of 
the earliest is anger, which though common to man and 
many of the higher animals, takes on a peculiar form in 
his case. Angry revolt against the order of things showed 
itself early in C.'s case as in that of his sister, the occasion 
being in each instance a momentary difficulty in seizing the 
means of appeasing appetite. It is of course difficult to say 
at what moment the mere vexation of disappointment passes 
into true wrath, but in this boy's case the father is compelled 

1 Darwin puts the first true smile on the forty-fifth day. The 
first </Ms-smiles are probably quite mechanical and destitute of 


to admit that the ugly emotion displayed itself distinctly by the 
third week. 

To detect the first clear signs of a humane feeling, of kind- 
liness and sympathy, is still more difficult. Reference has 
already been made to the signs of pleasure, the smile and the 
cooing sounds, which C. manifested at the sight of his father's 
face. About the same time, viz., the ninth and tenth weeks, 
he began to show himself particularly responsive to soothing 
sounds. The impulse to imitate soft low sounds was of great 
service in checking his misery. When utterly broken by grief 
he would often pull himself together if appealed to by the 
right soothing sound and join in a short plaintive duet. Such 
responses like the early imitative smile may, it is true, 
be nothing but a mechanical imitation, destitute of any emotive 
significance. It is probable, however, that the first crude form 
of fellow-feeling, of the impulse to accept and to give sympathy 
in joy and grief, takes its rise in such simple imitative move- 
ments. The first advance to signs of a truer fellow-feeling 
was made when the child was six and a half months old. His 
father pretended to cry. Thereupon C. bent his head down so 
that his chin touched his breast and began to paw his father's 
face, very much after the manner of a dog in a fit of tenderness. 
Oddly enough, adds the chronicler, there was no trace of sadness 
in the child's face. The experiment was repeated and always 
with a like result. A smile on the termination of the crying 
completed the curious little play. Who would venture to 
interpret that falling of the head and that caressing movement 
of the hand ? The father saw here something of a divine ten- 
derness ; and I am not disposed to question his interpretation. 

Emotion soon begins to manifest itself, too, in connexion 
with the child's peerings into his new world. As the little brain 
grows stronger and the organs of sense come under better 
management, the child spends more time in examining things, 
and this examination is accompanied by a profound wonder. 
C. would completely lose himself in marvelling at some new 
mystery, as the face of a clock, to which he appeared 
to talk as to something alive, or the play of the sunlight on 
the wall of his room ; and the closeness of his attention was 


indicated by the occurrence of a huge sigh when the strain was 

The directions of this early childish attention are, as in the 
example of the clock and the sunlight, towards what has some 
attraction of brightness, or other stimulating quality. The fas- 
cination of bright colour for C. has already been referred to. 
Sounds, too, very soon began to capture his attention and hold it 
spellbound. Thus it is recorded that in the tenth week the 
sound produced by striking a wine-glass excited an agreeable 
wonder. The sound of the piano, by-the-bye, made him cry 
the first time he heard it, presumably because it was strange 
and disconcertingly voluminous. But he soon got to like it, 
and his mother remarked that when his father played the child 
seemed to grow heavier in her lap, as if all his muscles were 
relaxed in a delicious self-abandonment. 1 

Certain things became favourite objects of this quasi-aesthetic 
contemplation. When six weeks old the child got into the 
way of taking special note of one or two rather showy coloured 
pictures on the wall. In these it seemed to be partly the bright- 
ness of colouring in the picture or the frame, partly the re- 
flexions of objects in the glass covering, which attracted him. 
Other things which appeared to give him repeated and endless 
enjoyment of a quiet sort were the play of sunlight and of 
shadow on the walls of his room, the reflexion of the shoot- 
ing fire-flame sent back by the window-pane or the glass 
covering of a picture, the swaying of trees, and the like. He 
soon got to know the locality of some of his favourite works 
of art, and to look out expectantly, when taken into the right 
room, for his daily show. 

Yet the new does not always awaken this pleasurable 
admiration. The child's organism soon begins to adapt 
itself to what is customary, and sudden departures from the 
usual order of things come as a shock, jar the nerves, and 
produce the first crude form of fear. C.'s sensitiveness to the 
disturbing effect of new and loud sounds has been referred to 
in speaking of the first impression of the piano. A strong wind 
making uproar in the trees quite upset him when he was about 

1 See above, p. 195 and p. 308. 


five months old, though he soon got over his dislike and would 
laugh at the wind even when it blew cold. In like manner he 
appeared to be much put out by the voices of strangers, 
especially when these were loud. A similar effect of shock 
showed itself when something in the familiar scene was suddenly 
transmuted. For example, when just twelve weeks old, he was 
quite upset by his mother donning a red jacket in place of the 
usual flower- spotted dress. He was just proceeding to take his 
breakfast when he noticed the change, at the discovery of which 
all thoughts of feasting deserted him, his lips quivered, and he 
only became reassured of his whereabouts after taking a good 
look at his mother's face. 

This clinging to the familiar and alarm at a sudden intrusion 
of the new into his little world showed themselves in a curious 
way in his attitude towards strangers. When ten weeks old 
he would still greet new faces with a gracious smile. But this 
amiable disposition soon underwent a change. When he began 
to discriminate people one from another and to single out 
particular faces, those of the mother, father, sister, etc., as 
familiar, he took up what looked like a less hospitable attitude 
towards strangers. By the fifteenth week he no longer greeted 
their advent with his welcoming smile. A month later the 
diary chronicles a new development of timidity. He now turned 
away from a stranger with all the signs of shrinking. 1 

That this repugnance to the new depends on a kind of 
shock-like effect on the nervous system seems to be borne out 
by the fact that the same object would produce now joyous 
admiration, now something indistinguishable from fear, accord- 
ing to the boy's varying condition of health and spirits. 

Changes of sentiment analogous to those which marked his 
behaviour towards strange, s occurred in his treatment of in- 
animate objects. For instance, a not very alarming-looking 
doll belonging to his sister, after having been a pleasant object 
of regard, suddenly acquired for him, when he was nearly five 
months old, a repulsive aspect. Instead of talking to it and. 
making a sort of amiable deity of it as heretofore, he now 
shrieked when it was brought near. There seems to have been 

1 Compare what was said above, p. 201. 


nothing in his individual experience which could account for 
this sudden accession of fear. 

These observations led C.'s father to some characteristic 
speculations as to the inheritance of certain feelings. Thus 
he hints that the eerie sort of interest taken by his child in the 
reflexions of things in the glass may be a survival of the 
primitive feeling of awe for the ghosts of things which certain 
anthropologists tell us was first developed in connexion with 
the phenomena of reflected images and shadows. He goes on 
to ask whether the fear called forth by the doll and the face 
of strangers at a certain stage of the child's development is 
not clearly due to an instinct now fixed in the race by the 
countless experiences of peril in its early, pre-social, and 
Ishmaelitic condition. But here, too, perhaps, his speculations 
appear, in the light of what has been said above, a little wild 

Among other feelings displayed by the child was that of 
amusement at what is grotesque and comical. When between 
four and five months old he was accustomed to watch the antics 
of his sister, an elfish being given to flying about the room, 
screaming, and other disorderly proceedings, with all the signs 
of a sense of the comicality of the spectacle. So far as the 
father could judge, this sister served as a kind of jester to the 
baby monarch. He would take just that distant, good-natured 
interest in her foolings that Shakespeare's sovereigns took in 
the eccentric unpredictable ways of their jesters. The sense 
of the droll became still more distinctly marked at six months. 
About this date the child delighted in pulling his sister's 
hair, and her shrieks would send him into a fit of laughter. 
Among other provocatives of laughter at this time were sudden 
movements of one's head, a rapid succession of sharp staccato 
sounds from one's vocal organ (when these were not disconcert- 
ing by their violence), and of course sudden reappearances of 
one's head after hiding in the game of bo-peep. 1 

It is hardly necessary to follow the diary into its record 

Darwin tells us that his boy uttered a rude kind of laugh 
when only one hundred and ten days old, after a pinafore had 
been thrown over his head and suddenly withdrawn. C.'s sense of 
humour was hardly as precocious as this. 


of the first stirrings of what psychologists used to call the 
Will (with capital W of course). If a baby in the first months 
can be said to have a will in any sense it must be that un- 
conscious metaphysical "will to live" about which we have 
recently heard so much. On the other hand it is certainly 
true that the child manifests in the first weeks certain active 
impulses, the working out of which leads in about four months 
to the acquisition of the power of carrying out movements 
for a purpose. Reference has already been made to this 
progress in motor activity when speaking of the senses. It 
may suffice to add one or two further observations. 

The father remarks that about the end of the ninth week 
there was a vigorous use of the muscles of the arms and hands 
in aimless movement This superabundance of muscular 
activity is important, as giving children the chance of finding 
out the results of their movements. C. was just ten and a 
half weeks old when he first showed himself capable lying 
on his back of turning his head to the side, and even of half 
turning his body also, in order to have a good view of his 
father moving away to a distant part of the room. 

About the same date, too, purposive movements began to 
be clearly differentiated from expressive movements ; such, for 
example, as the quick energetic movement of the limbs when 
excited by pleasure. For instance, on the seventy-second day 
the father was surprised and delighted to see the boy add to 
the usual signs of joy at his approach the movement of leaning 
forward and holding out the arms as if to try to get near. 
Was this, he asks, the sudden emergence of an unlearnt instinct, 
or was it an imitation in baby fashion of his elders' behaviour 
when they took possession of him ? 

The gradual growth of a voluntary movement into a 
perfect artistic action nicely adjusted to some desired end was 
strikingly illustrated in the boy's mastery of the grasping 
movement, the movement of stretching out the hand to seize 
an object seen. On the seventy-sixth day, the father writes, 
he had carefully watched to see whether the child could 
voluntarily direct his hand to an object. He had tried him by 
holding before him attractive objects, as a bit of coloured rag 


or his hand, which he would regard very attentively. For 
the last week or ten days he had been very observant of 
objects, including his own hands. 

Among the objects that attracted him was his mamma's 
dress, which had a dark ground with a small white flower 
pattern. On this memorable day his hand accidentally came 
in contact with one of the folds of her dress lying over the 
breast. Immediately, it seemed to strike him for the first time 
that he could reach an object, and for a dozen times or more he 
repeated the movement of stretching out his hand, clutching the 
fold and giving it a good pull, very much to his own satisfaction. 

A hasty reasoner might easily suppose that the child had 
now learnt to reach out to an object when only seen. But the 
sequel showed that this was not the case. Four weeks later 
the diary observes that the child as yet made no attempt to 
grasp an object offered to him (although there were manifest 
attempts to uncover the mother's breast). The clutching at the 
dress was thus a blind movement due to the stimulus of 
pleasurable elation. Yet it was doubtless a step in the process 
of learning to grasp. 

The next advance registered occurred when the boy was a 
little over lour months old. He would now bring his two 
hands together just above the level of his eyes and then 
gaze on them attentively, striking out one arm straight in front 
of him, and upwards almost vertically, as if he were trying some 
new gymnastic exercises, while he accompanied each move 
ment with his eye, and showed the deepest interest in what he 
was doing. By such exercises, we may suppose, he was 
exploring space with hand and eye conjointly and noting the 
correspondences between looking in a given direction and 
bringing his hand into the line of sight. 

The next noticeable advance occurred at the end of the 
nineteenth week. The boy's father held a biscuit (the value 
of which was already known) just below his face and well 
within his reach. There was a very earnest look and then a 
series of rapid jerky movements of the hands. These were 
uncertain at first, but on repetition of the experiment soon 
grew more precise. At first the biscuit was dropped (the child 


had not yet learnt to handle things). But after repeated trials 
he managed to hold on to the treasure and bear it triumphantly 
to his mouth. The discovery of the new delight of thus feed- 
ing himself led to more violent efforts to seize the biscuit 
when presented again. Indeed, the youngster's impatience 
led him to reach forward with the upper part of his body so 
as to seize the biscuit with his mouth. It may be added here 
as throwing light on the carrying of the biscuit to the mouth 
that the child had before this acquired considerable facility in 
raising his hand to his mouth and to the region of his head 
generally. Thus he had been noticed to scratch his head with 
a comical look of sage reflexion when he was fifteen weeks old. 
The consummation of the act of seizing an object involving 
a perception of distance was observed when he was just six 
months old. The father writes: " I .held an object in front 
of him two or three inches beyond his reach. The astute 
little fellow made no movement. I then gradually brought 
it closer, and when it came within his reach he held out his 
hand and grasped it. I repeated the experiment with slight 
variations, and satisfied myself that he could now distinguish 
with some degree of precision the near and the far, the attain- 
able and the unattainable, that his eyes could now inform him 
by what Bishop Berkeley called visual language of the exact 
limit, the ' Ultima Thule' of his tangible world." It is natural, 
no doubt, that the father should go off into another high flight 
here. But being a psychologist he might have moderated his 
parental elation by reflecting that his wonderful boy had after 
all taken six months to learn what a chick seems to know as 
soon as it leaves the shell. It is doubtful, indeed, whether 
Master C.'s hand could as yet aim with the precision of the 
beak of the newly hatched chick. If he had only chanced on 
a later decade he might have known that five months is the 
time given by a recent authority (Raehlmann) as the period 
commonly taken in learning the grasping movements, and so 
had his pride in his boy's achievement wholesomely tempered. 1 

i Preyer's boy perfected the action in the fifth month. For dif- 
ferences in precocity here, see F. Tracy, The Psychology of Child- 
hood, pp. 12, 13. 


These early movements are acquired under the stimulus of 
certain impulses which constitute the instinctive basis of 
volition. Thus it is obvious that the movement of carrying 
to the mouth as also that of reaching and grasping was inspired 
by the nutritive or feeding instinct, that deep-seated impulse 
which is common to man and the whole animal kingdom, and 
is the secret spring of so much of his proud achievement. The 
impulse to seize and appropriate may perhaps be regarded 
as an instinct which has become detached from its parental 
stock, the nutritive impulse. Our observer remarks, with a touch 
of cynicism, that the predominance of the grasping propensities 
of the race was illustrated by the fact that his boy only manifested 
the impulse to relinquish his hold on an object some time after 
he had displayed in its perfection the impulse to seize or grasp 
an object. Thus it was some months later that he was first 
observed deliberately to cast aside, as if tired of it, a thing 
with which he had been playing. 

One of the deepest and most far-reaching instincts is to get 
rid of pain and to prolong pleasure. In C.'s case the working of 
the first was illustrated in a large number of movements, such as 
twisting the body round, scratching the head, and so forth. An 
illustration of the impulse to renew an agreeable effect occurred 
in the early part of the eighth month. The child was sitting 
on his mother's lap close to the table playing with a spoon. 
He accidentally dropped it and was impressed with the effect 
of sound. He immediately repeated the action, now, no doubt, 
with the purpose of gaining the agreeable shock for his ear. 
After this when the spoon was put into his hand he deliberately 
dropped it. Not only so, like a true artist, he went on improv- 
ing on the first effect, raising the spoon higher and higher so 
as to get more sound, and at length using force in dashing or 
banging it down. 

Children, as everybody knows, are wont to render their 
elders that highest form of flattery, imitation. Our chronicle 
is unfortunately rather meagre in observations on the first 
imitative movements. There is no evidence that the writer 
went to work in Preyer's careful way to test this capa- 
bility. He thinks he saw distinct traces of imitation (of 


the pointing movement) at the end of the fifteenth week, 
though he admits that a deliberate attempt to copy a 
movement was only placed beyond doubt some time later. 

There is, I regret to say, a terrible gap in the chronicle be- 
tween the ninth and the sixteenth month. This is particularly 
unfortunate because this is just the period when the child is 
making a beginning at some of the most difficult of accomplish- 
ments, e.g., mastering the speech of his ancestors. To make 
up for this loss, the record becomes fuller and decidedly more 
interesting as we enter upon the second year. To this next 
stage of the history we may now pass. 

Second Year. 

The observations from the date of the resumption of the 
diary, at the age of sixteen months, begin to have more of 
human interest about them. It is not till this year has ad- 
vanced that the child makes headway in handling the knotty 
intricacies of an elaborate language like ours, and it is through 
the medium of this mastered speech that he is best able to 
disclose himself to the observer. The observations on C.'s 
progress during the second year relate largely to language and 
intelligence as expressing itself in language. We may, accord- 
ingly, begin this section by giving a brief sketch of the child's 
linguistic progress. 1 

During the first six months nothing was observable in the 
way of vocal sounds but the ordinary baby-singing utterances 
of the * la-la ' category. In this tentative vocalisation vowel 
sounds, of course, preponderated. There was quite a gamut of 
quaint vowel sounds, ranging from the broad a to the cockney 
ow, that is, a-oo. These sounds were purely emotional signs. 
Thus a prolonged a sound indicated surprise with a dash of dis- 
pleasure when the child suddenly encountered an obstacle to his 
movements, as on catching his dress or striking his head gently. 
Again, a kind of o or oo sound, formed by sucking in the breath, 
appeared to indicate that the small person was pleased with 
some new object of contemplation, as a freshly discovered 

1 This should be read in connexion with Study V. 


A sudden enlargement of the range of articulatory excursion 
was noticeable on the completion of the twenty- seventh week r 
when C. astonished his parents by breaking out into a series 
of * da-da's ' and ' ba-ba's ' or ' pa-pa's '. These reduplications 
were quite in keeping with his earlier sounds, e.g., a-oo, a-oo. 
He soon followed up this brilliant success by other experiments, 
as in the production of the sounds ou-a and ditta, also ung 
and ang. 1 

Coming now to the commencement of the true linguistic 
period, that is to say, when C. had attained the age of sixteen 
months, we find him by no means precocious in the matter 
of speech. He reproduced very few of the many names the 
meaning of which he perfectly understood. As to other verbal 
signs he seems to have acted on the principle of biological 
economy, saving himself the articulatory effort. Thus al- 
though he used sounds for expressing assent, viz., " ey," with 
falling inflection, he contented himself in the case of negation 
with the old declining or refusing gesture, viz., shaking the 
head. The movement of nodding seems to have been first 
used as an affirmative sign at the age of seventeen months 
when he was asked whether his food was hot. 2 

C. illustrated the common childish impulse to mimic natural 
sounds. Thus when sixteen months old he spontaneously 
imitated in a rough fashion the puffing sound produced by his 
father when indulging in the solace of tobacco ; and he uttered 
a similar explosive sound when hearing the wind. Yet this 

rather bald account of early vocal sounds should be 
contrasted with those of Preyer and others referred to in 
Study V. 

2 Perez speaks of both the affirmative and negative movement of 
the h"ad appearing about the fifteenth month (First Three Years of 
Childhood, Engl. transl., p. 21). Darwin finds that the sign of affir- 
mation (nodding) is less uniform among the different races of men 
than that of negation. According to Preyer, while the gesture of 
negation appears under the form of a turning away or declining 
movement as an instinct in the first days of life, the accepting ges- 
ture of nodding (which afterwards becomes the sign of affirmation) is 
acquired and appears much later (see his full account of the growth 
o these movements, Die Seele des Kindes, p. 242). 



child does not seem to have been a particularly good illustration 
of the onomatopoetic impulse. 

While the imitative impulse thus aids in the growth of an 
independent baby vocabulary, it contributes, as we have seen, 
to the adoption of the language of the community. At first, 
however, the little learner will not repeat a sound merely in 
response to another's lead. Many a mother is doubtless able to 
recall the chagrin which she experienced when on trying to 
trot out her baby's linguistic powers by giving the lead, e.g., 
" Say ta-ta to the lady ! " the little autocrat obdurately refused 
to comply with the parental injunction. It is only when what 
the child himself considers to be the appropriate circumstances 
recur, and, what is more, when the corresponding feeling is 
excited in his breast, that he utters the sound. Thus C.'s 
father observes that though the child will not say "ta-ta" 
when told to do so, he will say it readily enough when he sees 
him, hat in hand, moving towards the door. In like manner 
the father remarks : " He will say, * Ta ' (' thank you '), on 
receiving something, yet not do so in mere response to me 
when I say it ". Herein, it would seem, the vocal imitation of 
children is less mechanical and more intelligent than that of 
animals, as the parrot. 

It was not until he was well on in his second year that C. 
condescended to let his young speech-organ be played on by 
another's will. By this time, it may be conjectured, associa- 
tions between sounds and vocal actions had become firm enough 
to allow of such imitation without a consciousness of exertion 
or strain. Having no special reason to refuse he very sensibly 
fell in with others' suggestions. It is not at all improbable, too, 
that at this stage of development the little vocalist found a 
pleasure in trying his instrument and producing new effects. 

Of course these first tentatives in verbal imitation were far 
from perfect. At first there was hardly more than a reproduc- 
tion of the rhythm and the rise and fall of voice, as in 
rendering All gone,' the sign of disappearance, by a, a, with 
rise and fall of voice. Like other little people, C. displayed a 
lordly disposition to save himself trouble and to expect infinite 
pains from others in the way of comprehension. He was in 


the habit of reducing difficult words to fragments, the com- 
prehension of which by the most loyal of attendants was a 
matter of considerable difficulty. In thus chopping off splinters 
of words he showed the greatest caprice. In many cases he 
selected the initial sounds, e.g., " bo " for ball, " no " for nose, 
" pe " for please. In other cases he preferred the ending, e.g., 
" ek " for cake, " be " for Elizabeth. It looked as if certain 
sounds and combinations, e.g., I, s, fl, sh, etc., lay altogether 
beyond his gamut. And others seemed to be specially difficult, 
and so were avoided as much as possible. 1 

While C.'s parents could not help resenting at times an 
economising of speech-power which imposed so heavy a 
burden on themselves, they were often amused at the way in 
which the astute little fellow managed after softening down all 
the asperities of a name to retain a certain rough semblance 
of the original. Thus, for instance, sugar became " ooga," 
biscuit "bik," bread and butter " bup," fish " gish " (with 
soft g-), and bacon-fat, that is bread dipped in the same, " ak ". 
In some cases it might have puzzled his father to say whether 
the sound was a reproduction or an independent creation. 
This remark applies with particular force to the name he gave 
himself. His real name as commonly used was, I may say, 
Clifford. Instead of this he employed as the name for himself 
" Ingi " or " Ningi " (with hard g}. He stuck to his own 
invention in spite of many efforts to lead him to adopt the 
name chosen for him by his parents. And perhaps the 
sovereignty of the baby was never more clearly illustrated than 
in the fact that in time he constrained his parents and his sister 
to adopt his self-chosen prsenomen. Possibly his real name was 
to his ear a hopelessly difficult mass of sound, and " Ningi " 
seemed to him a fair equivalent within the limits of practicable 
linguistics for so uncouth a combination. 2 These changes are 

1 Cf. above, p. 148 ff. 

2 The supposition that ' Ningi' was easy seems reasonable. First 
of all it is in part a reduplication like his later name ' Kikkie '. Again, 
we know that children often add the final y or ie sound, as in saying 
'dinnie' for dinner, ' beddie ' for bread. Once more, from the early 
appearances of c ng ' sound in ' ang,' ' ung,' etc., we may infer it to 


interesting as illustrating how the child attends to the general 
form of the word-sound rather than to its constituent elements. 1 
The same thing is seen in the modified form of "Ningi," which 
he adopted at the beginning of the third 'year, viz., " Kikkie," 
where, too, the special impressiveness of the initial sound is 

It is now time to pass to the most important phase of baby- 
speech from a scientific point of view, namely, the first use of 
sounds as general signs, or as registering the results of a 
generalising process, as when the child begins to speak of man 
or boy. 

It must be confessed that our diary does not give us much 
that is startling in the way of original generalisation. So far 
as we can judge, C. was a steady-going baby, not given to 
wanton caprices. Yet though not a genius he had his moments 
of invention. One of the earliest illustrations of a free work- 
ing of the generalising impulse was the extension of the 
sound " 6t " (hot). At first he employed this sign in the con- 
ventional manner to indicate that his milk or other viand was 
disagreeably warm. When, however, he was seventeen and a 
half months old he struck out an original extension of meaning. 
He happened to have placed before him cold milk. On tasting 
this he at once exclaimed, " Ot ! " It looks as though the 
sound now meant something unpleasant to taste, though, as 
we shall see presently, the boy had another sound ("kaka") for 
expressing this idea. 2 But "ot" was being extended in an- 
other way by a process of association. This was illustrated a 
month later, when the boy pointed to an engraving of Guide's 
Aurora, and exclaimed, " Ot ! " His dull parents could not at 
first comprehend this bold metaphoric use of language, until they 
bethought them that the clouds on which the aeronauts are 
sailing are a good deal like a volume of ascending steam. 

be easy. Indeed, one observer (Dr. Champneys) tells us that an 
infant's cry is exactly represented by the sound ' nga ' as pro- 
nounced in Germany (Mind, vi., p. 105). 

1 See above, p. 157 f. 

2 It has been found that the sensations of hot and cold are readily- 
confused even by adults. 


The sounds " ke," " ka," and " kaka " were employed by C. 
from about the same age (seventeen and a half months) to 
express what is actually known or simply suspected to be dis- 
agreeable to taste or smell, such as a pipe held near him, a 
glass of beer, a vinegar bottle, and so forth. He had smelt the 
beer, and learnt its disagreeable odour, and in pronouncing the 
untried vinegar " kaka " he was really carrying out a form of 
reasoning of a simple kind. This sound came to represent a 
much higher effort of abstraction some weeks later, when it 
was applied to things so unlike in themselves as milk spilt on 
the cloth, crumbs on the floor, soiled hands, etc. The idea here 
seized was plainly that of something soiled or dirty* But this 
half-aesthetic, half-ethical idea was reached largely by the 
help of others, more particularly perhaps his sister, who, as 
elder sisters are wont to do, supplemented the parental 
discipline by a vigorous inculcation of the well-recognised 

Another extension of the range of application of names used 
by others occurred about the same time (end of twentieth month). 
He employed the sound ' ga ' (glass) so as to include a plated 
drinking cup, which of course others always called ' cup '. 
This was curious as showing at this stage the superior interest 
of use (that of drinking utensil) to that of form and colour. 

The general : sations just touched on have to do with those 
qualities and relations of things which strongly impress the 
baby mind, because they bear on the satisfaction of his wants 
and his feelings of pleasure and pain. In order to watch the 
calm movements of the intellect, when no longer urged by 
appetite and sense, we must turn to the child's first detection 
of similarities in the objective attributes of things, as their 
shape, size, colour, and so forth. Here the first generalisations 
respecting the forms of bodies are a matter of peculia. interest 
to the scientific observer. The young thinker, with whom we 
are now specially concerned, achieved his first success in 
geometric abstraction, or the consideration of pure form, when 
just seventeen months old. He had learnt the name of his 
india-rubber ball. Having securely grasped this, he went on 
calling oranges "bo". This left the father in some doubt whether 


the child was attending exclusively to form, as a geometrician 
should, for he was wont to make a toy of an orange, as when 
rolling it on the floor. This uncertainty was, however, soon 
removed. One day C. was sitting at table beside his sire, 
while the latter was pouring out a glass of beer. Instantly the 
ready namer of things pointed to the bubbles on the surface, 
and exclaimed, "Bo!" This was repeated on many subsequent 
occasions. As the child made no attempt to handle the 
bubbles, it was evident that he did not view them as possible 
playthings. As he got lost in contemplation, muttering, " Bo ! 
bo ! " his father tells us that he had the satisfaction of feeling 
sure that the young mind was already learning to turn away 
from the coarseness of matter, and fix itself on the refined 
attribute of form. 

Although this was the most striking instance of pure or 
abstract consideration of form, attention to the shape of things 
was proved by many of the simple ideas reached at this stage. 
It is obvious, indeed, that a ready recognition of any member 
of a species of animals, as dog, in spite of considerable 
variations in size and colour, implies a power of singling out 
for special attention what we call relations of form. And this 
conclusion is borne out by the fact that by the end of the 
eighteenth month C. was quite an adept in recognising 
uncoloured drawings of animal and other familiar forms. 

Colour is of course in itself of much more interest to a 
child than form, since it gives a keen sensuous enjoyment. 
Our diary furnishes a curious illustration of a propensity 
to classify things according to their colour. In his nine- 
teenth month C. was observed to designate by the sound 
" appoo " (apple) a patch of reddish colour on the mantel- 
piece, which bore in its form no discoverable resemblance 
to an apple. At the same time, the effect of growing ex- 
perience and of a deeper scrutiny of things in bringing out 
the superior significance of form is seen in the fact that this 
same word "appoo" came subsequently to be habitually 
applied to things of unlike colours, namely, apples, oranges, 
lemons, etc. It may be added that the history of this word 
1 ' appoo " illustrates a process analogous to what Archbishop 


Trench (if I remember rightly) has called the degradation of 
words. When C. first used this name it designated objects 
simply as visible and tangible ones ; he knew nothing of 
their taste. After he was permitted to try their flavours, the 
less worthy sensations now added naturally contributed a 
prominent ingredient to the meaning of the word. Thus, 
he began to use " appoo " for all edible fruits, including such 
shapeless masses as stewed apples. 

It is not to be expected that children in their first attempts 
at scrutinising objects should be able to take in completely 
a complex form, as that of an animal, with all its parts 
and their relations one to another. C. gave ample proof 
of the fact that the first generalisations respecting form are apt 
to be rough and ready, grounded simply on a perception of one 
or two salient points. Thus, his first use of " bow-wow " 
showed that the name meant for him simply a four-legged 
creature. About the fifteenth month this word was thrown 
about in the most reckless way. Later on, when the canine 
form began to be disengaged in his mind from those of other 
quadrupeds, the pointed nose of the animal seems to have be- 
come a prominent feature in the meaning of the word. Thus, 
in his eighteenth month, C. took to applying the name ' bow- 
wow ' to objects, such as fragments of bread or biscuit, as well 
as drawings, having something of a triangular form with a sharp 
angle at the apex. It is probable that if our little thinker had 
been able at this stage to define his terms, he would have said 
that a " bow-wow " was a four-legged thing with a pointed 

Here, however, it is only fair to C. to mention that his 
mind had at this time become prepossessed with the image of 
" bow-wow". Not long before the date referred to he had been 
frightened by a small dog, which had crept unobserved into the 
room behind a lady visitor, lain quiet for some time under the 
table, and then, forgetting good manners, suddenly darted out 
and barked. There were many facts which supported the 
belief that the child's mind was at this period haunted by 
images of dogs which approximated in their vividness to 
hallucinations ; and this persistence of the canine image in 


the child's brain naturally disposed him to see the " bow-bow " 
form in the most unpromising objects. 

The use of the word " gee-gee," which towards the end of 
the second year competed with " bow-wow " for the first place 
in C.'s vocabulary, illustrates the same fact. A horse 
was first of all distinguished from other quadrupeds by the 
length of his neck. Thus, when twenty months old, C. in a 
slovenly way, no doubt, applied the name " gee-gee " to the 
drawing of an ostrich, and also to a bronze figure representing 
a stork-like bird. This is particularly curious, as showing how 
a comparatively unimportant detail of form, as length of neck, 
overshadowed in his mind at this time what we should consider 
the much more important feature, the possession of four legs. 
The following are selected from among many other illustrations 
of the imperfect observation of complex forms. When twenty- 
one and a half months old he took to calling all triangular 
objects, including drawings, "ship". The feature of the ship 
as seen in real life and in his picture-books which had 
fixed itself in his mind was the triangular sail. 1 A similar 
propensity to select one characteristic feature was illustrated in 
another quaint observation of the diary. When twenty-three 
months old C.'s mother showed him a number of drawings 
of patterns of dresses, some surmounted by faces, some not. 
He pointed to one of the latter and said : " No nose ! " From 
this, writes the father, lapsing again into his frivolous vein, it 
would seem that at this early age he had acquired a dim pre- 
sentiment of the supreme dignity of the nasal organ among the 
features of the human countenance. 

Progress in the accurate use of words was curiously 
illustrated in C.'s way of looking at and talking about his 
fellow-creatures. Oddly enough he began apparently by con- 
fusing his two parents, extending the name " ma " to his 
father till such time as he learnt " papa ". Then he pro- 
ceeded after the manner of other children to embrace with- 
in the term " papa " all male adults, whether known to 
him or not. Thus he applied the name to photographs of 

1 1 think this supposition more probable than that the child saw 
the whole form hull, masts and sails as a triangle. 


distinguished savants, artists, and poets, which he found in 
his father's album. When just eighteen months old he was 
observed to introduce the word * man '. For instance, he took 
to calling an etching of a recent British philosopher, and a 
terra-cotta cast of an ancient Roman one, " man," as well as 
*' papa ". Oddly enough, however, members of the other sex 
were still called exclusively by the name " mamma," though 
the words " woman " and "lady" were certainly used at least as 
frequently as " man " in his hearing. This earlier discrimina- 
tion of individual men than of individual women leads the 
father into some jocose observations about the more strongly 
marked individuality of men than of women, observations which 
would do very well in the mouth of a misogynist of the old 
school, but are altogether out of date in this advanced age. 

By the twentieth month the extension of the name " papa" 
to other men was discontinued. His father tried him at this 
date with a photographic album. " Man " was now instantly 
applied to all male adults, except old ones with a grey beard. 
To these he invariably applied the name of an old gentleman, 
a friend of his. A woman was still called " mamma," though 
the term " lady " ("'ady ") was clearly beginning to displace it ; 
and no distinction was drawn between women of different 
ages. Finally, children were distinguished as boys or girls, 
apparently according as they were or were not dressed in 

The reservation of the names " papa " and " mamma" for 
his parents naturally gave pleasure to these worthy persons. 
It was something, they said, to feel sure at length that they 
were individualised in the consciousness of their much-cared- 
for offspring. This restricted use of the terms may be supposed 
to have involved a dim apprehension of a special relation of 
things to the child. " Papa " now carried with it the idea of the 
man who stands in a particular connexion with C. or " Ningi"; 
or, to express it otherwise, " man " began to signify those 
papas who have nothing specially to do with this important 
personage. This antecedent conjecture is borne out by the 
fact that the act of distinguishing between his father and other 
men followed rapidly, certainly within two or three weeks, the 


first use of his own name " Ningi". In other words, as soon* 
as his attention began to direct itself to himself, as the centre 
of his little world-circle, he naturally went on to distinguish 
between those persons and things that had some special 
connexion with this centre and those that had not. 

The consciousness of self was noticed to grow much more 
distinct in the second half of this year. As might be expected: 
the first idea of ' self was largely a mental picture of the 
body. Thus the father tells us that when eighteen months 
old the child would instantly point to himself when he heard 
his name. If his father touched his face asking who that was, 
he replied, * Ningi '. Here the corporeal reference is manifest. 
When just over nineteen months, however, he showed that the 
idea was becoming fuller and richer with the germ of what we 
mean by the word personality. Thus when asked to give up> 
something he liked, as the remnant of a biscuit, he would say 
emphatically, ' No, no ! Ningi ! ' Similarly, when he saw his 
sister wipe her hands, he would say ' Ningi ! ' and proceed to- 
imitate the action. By the end of the twenty-first month the 
child began to substitute ' me ' for ' Ningi '. 

As we saw above, the child and the poet have this in common, 
that they view things directly as they are, free from the super- 
ficial and arbitrary associations, the conventional trappings, by 
the additions of which we prosaic people are wont to separate 
them into compartments with absolutely impenetrable walls.. 
Hence the freshness, the charming originality of their utter- 

For example, C., when eighteen months old, was watching 
his sister as she dipped her crust into her tea. He was- 
evidently surprised by the rare sight, and after looking a 
moment or two, exclaimed, " Ba ! " (bath), laughing with 
delight, and trying, as was his wont when deeply interested in 
a spectacle, to push his mother's face round so that she too 
might admire it. The boy delighted in such a figurative use of 
words, now employing them as genuine similes, as when he 
said of a dog panting after a run, " Dat bow-wow like puff-puff,^ 
and of the first real ship which he saw sailing with a rocking 
movement, " Dat ship go marjory-daw" (i.e., like marjory-daw 


in the nursery rhyme). Like many a poet he had his recurring 
or standing metaphors. Thus, as we have seen, " ship " was. 
the figurative expression for all objects having a pyramidal 
form. A pretty example of his love of metaphor was his habit 
of calling the needle in a small compass of his father's "bir" 
(bird). It needs a baby mind to detect here the faint resem- 
blance to the slight fragile form and the fluttering movement 
of a bird poised on its wings. 

C. illustrates the anthropocentric impulse to look at natural 
objects as though they specially aimed at furthering or hindering 
our well-being. Thus he would show all the signs of kingly 
displeasure when his serenity of mind was disturbed by noises. 
When he was taken to the sea-side (about twenty-four months 
old) he greatly disappointed his parent, expectant of childish 
wonder in his eyes, by merely muttering, " Water make 
noise "- 1 Again, he happened one day in the last week of 
this year to be in the garden with his father while it was 
thundering. On hearing the sound he said with an evident 
tone of annoyance, " Tonna ma Ningi noi," i.e., thunder 
makes noise for C., and he instantly added " Notty tonna ! " 
(naughty thunder). Here, remarks the father, he was evidently 
falling into that habit of mind against which philosophers have 
often warned us, making man the measure of the universe. 

The last quarter of this year was marked in C.'s case by a 
great enlargement of linguistic power. A marked advance was 
noticeable in the mastering of the mechanical difficulties of 
articulation. Thus he would surprise his father by suddenly 
bringing out new and difficult combinations of sound, as- 
'flower,' 'water' and 'fetch'. Up to about the twenty-first 
month C.'s vocabulary had consisted almost entirely of what 
we should call substantives, such as, * papa,' ' man,' which were 
used to express the arrival on the scene and the recognition of 
familiar objects. A few adjectives, as " 6t " (hot), "co " (cold), 
"ni-ni" (nice), and "goo" (good), were frequently used, and 
were apparently beginning to have a proper attributive function 
assigned them. But these referred rather to the effect of 

1 He had been at the sea-side a year before this, but there was 
no evidence of his having remembered it. 


things on the child's feeling than to their inherent qualities. 
His father failed before this date to convey to him the meaning 
of " black " as applied to a dog. It is noteworthy that the 
child made considerable advance in the use of ''me" and 
" my " before he was capable of qualifying objects by append- 
ing adjectives to them. The first use of an adjective for in- 
dicating some objective quality in a thing occurred at the end 
of the twenty-first month, when he exclaimed on seeing a 
rook fly over his head, " Big bir ! " 

At about the same date other classes of words came to be 
recognised and used as such, giving to the child's language 
something of texture. Thus relations of place began to be set 
forth, as in using simple words like ' up,' ' down,' ' on '. In 
some cases the designation of these relations was effected by 
original artifices which often puzzled the father. For instance 
the sound ' da ' (or ' dow ') was used from about the seventeenth 
month for the departure of a person, the falling of a toy on the 
ground, the completion of a meal. It seemed to be a general 
sign for ' over' or ' gone V It is doubtful whether this implied 
a clear consciousness of a relation of place. Sometimes the 
attempt to express such a relation in the absence of the needed 
words would lead to a picturesque kind of circumlocution. Thus 
when about twenty-one months old C. saw his father walking 
in the garden when he and his sister were seated at the 
luncheon table. He shouted out, ' Papa 'at off! ' thus ex- 
pressing the desirability of his father's entering and taking part 
in the family meal. 

Similar make-shifts would be resorted to in designating other 
and more subtle relations. Sometimes, indeed, the child would 
expect his hearers to supply the sign of relation, as when after 
having smelt the pepper box he put it away with an emphatic 
Papa ! ' which seemed to the somewhat biassed observer an 
admirably concise way of expressing the judgment that the 
pepper might suit his father, but it certainly did not suit him. 
A month later (at. twenty-two months) he condescended to be 
more explicit. Having been told by his father that the cheese 

1 Compare above, p. 162. 


was bad for Ningi, he indulged a growing taste for antithesis 
by adding, ' Good, papa ! ' 

His ideas of time-relations were at this date of the haziest. 
He seems to have got a dim inkling of the meaning of * by-and- 
by '. His father had managed to stop his crying for a thing 
by promising it ' by-and-by '. After this when crying he would 
suddenly pull up, and with a heroic effort to catch his breath 
would exclaim, ' By-'n'-by ! ' " What (asks the father) was the 
equivalent of this new symbol in the child's consciousness ? 
Was he already beginning to seize the big boundless future 
set over against the fleeting point of the present moment and 
holding in its ample bosom consolatory promises for myriads 
of these unhappy presents ? " and so forth ; but here he seems 
to grow even less severely scientific than usual. It may be added 
that about the same time (twenty-one months) the child began 
to use the word ' now '. Thus after drinking his mi4k he would 
point to a little remainder at the bottom of his cup and say r 
' Milk dare now,' that is presumably 'there is still milk there'. 

His ideas of number at this time were equally rudimentary. 
Oddly enough it was just as he was attaining to plurality of 
years that he began to distinguish with the old Greeks the one 
from the many. One was correctly called 'one'. Any number 
larger than one, on the other hand, was sometimes styled 'two,' 1 
sometimes ' three/ and sometimes ' two, three, four '. He had 
been taught to say * one, two, three, four,' by his mother, but the 
first lesson in counting had clearly failed to convey more thar* 
the difference between unity and multitude. The series of verbal 
sounds, 'two, three, four,' probably helped him to realise the idea, 
of number, and in any case it was a forcible way of expressing it. 

As suggested above, primitive substantive-forms probably do- 
duty as verbs in the language of the child as in that of primitive 
man. True verb . as differentiated signs of action came into use- 
at the date we are speaking of, and these began to give to the- 
boy's embryonic speech something of the structure, the sentence. 

As one might naturally conjecture from the disproportionate 
amount of attention manifestly bestowed on this child, he had' 

1 I find that another little boy when two years old used ' two ' ii> 
this way for more than one. 


all the masterfulness of his kind, and the first form of the verb 
to be used was the imperative. Thus by the end of the 
twentieth month he had quite a little vocabulary for giving 
effect to his sovereign volitions, such as, ' On ! ' (get on), 
* Ook ! ' (look). It was in the use of commands that he 
showed some of his finest inventiveness. Thus when just 
seventeen months old he wanted his mother to get up. He began 
by lifting his hands and saying, ' Ta, ta ! ' (sign of going out). 
Finding this to be ineffective, he tried, with a comical simula- 
tion of muscular strength, to pull or push her up, at the same 
time exclaiming, " Up ! " The lifting of the hands looked like 
a bit of picturesque gesture-language. In his twenty-first 
month he acquired a new and telling word of command, viz., 
' Way ' (i.e., out of my way), as well as the invaluable sign of 
prohibition, ' Do ' (i.e., don't), both of which, it need hardly be 
said, he began to bandy about pretty freely, especially in his 
dealings with his sister. 

A landmark in C.'s intellectual development is set by the 
father at the age of nineteen and a half months. Before this 
-date he had only made rather a lame attempt at sentence- 
building by setting his primitive names in juxtaposition, e.g., 
' Tit, mamma, poo,' which being interpreted means, * Sister 
.and mamma, have pudding'. But now he took a very 
decided step in advance, and by a proper use of a verb as such 
constructed what a logician calls a proposition with its subject 
.and predicate. He happened to observe his sister venting 
some trouble in the usual girlish fashion, and exclaimed, ' Tit 
ki ' (sister is crying), following up the assertion by going 
towards her and trying to stop her. Another example of a 
sentence rather more complex in structure which occurred a 
fortnight later had also to do with his sister. He saw her 
lying on her back on the grass, and exclaimed with all the 
signs of joyous wonder, 'Tit dow ga ! ' (i.e., sister is down on 
the grass). Evidently the unpredictable behaviour of this mem- 
ber of his family deeply impressed the young observer. It is 
noticeable that these first exceptional efforts in assertion were 
prompted by feeling. 1 

1 Compare above, p. 171 f. 


These first tentatives in verbal assertion, we are told, 
sounded very odd owing to the slowness of the delivery and 
the stress impartially laid on each word. C. had as yet no 
inkling of the subtleties of rhetoric, and was too much taken 
up with the weighty business of expressing thought somehow 
to trouble about such niceties as relative emphasis, and varia- 
tion of pitch and pace. 

As a rule, remarks the father, it was surprising how 
suddenly, as it seemed, the boy hit on the right succession of 
verbal sounds. Only very rarely would he stumble, as when 
after having seen a fly taken out of his milk, and on being 
subsequently asked whether he would not be glad to see his 
sister on her return from a visit, he said, ' (Y)es, tell Ningi 
'bout fy ' (Yes, Ningi will tell her about the fly). 1 

The impulse to express himself, to communicate his 
experiences and observations to others, seemed to be all-pos- 
sessing just now, and odd enough it was to note the make- 
shifts to which he was now and again driven. One day, when 
just twenty and a half months old, he sat in a chair with a 
heavyish book which he found it hard to hold up. He turned 
to his mother and said solemnly, " Boo go dow" (the book 
is going down or falling). Then, as if remarking a look of 
unintelligence in his audience, he threw it down and exclaimed, 
41 Dat ! " by which vigorous proceeding he gave a vivid illustra- 
tion of his meaning. 

It was noticeable that he would at this time play at 
sentence-making in a varied imitation of others' assertions, 
thereby hitting out some quaint fancy which appeared to 
amuse him. Thus when told that there is a man on the horse 
he would say, ' Ningi on horse,' * Tit on horse,' and so forth. 
Such playful practice in utterance probably furthers the growth 
of readiness and precision in the use of sentences. 

The point in the intellectual growth of a child at which he 
acquires such a mastery of language as to carry on a sustained 
conversation is a proud and happy one for the fond parent. In 
the case of C. this date, twenty-three months and ten days, is, 
of course, marked with red letters. He made a great noise 

1 See above, p. 173. 


running about and shouting in his bedroom. His mother 
came in and rebuked him in the usual form (' Naughty L 
naughty!'). He thereupon replied, "Tit mak noi " (Sister 
makes the noise). Mother (seriously) : " Sister is at school''^ 
C., with a still bolder look: "Mamma make noi". Mother 
(with convulsive effort to suppress laughing, still more emphati- 
cally) : "No, mamma was in the other room". C. (looking archly 
at his doll, known as May) : " May make noi ". This sally was- 
followed by a good peal of boyish laughter. 

The father evidently feels that this incident is highly 
suggestive of a lack of moral sense. So he thinks it well 
to add to the observation that the child had all the normal 
moral sensibility. But of this more presently. 

We may now pass to the comparatively few observations 
(other than those already dealt with under verbal utterance) 
which refer to the child's feelings. As already remarked, he 
was, like most other children, peevish and cross in the first 
year, and I regret to say that the diary refers more than once 
to violent outbursts of infantile rage in the second year also.. 
Here is one sample entry (at. nineteen months) : Feelings of 
greediness, covetousness and spite begin to manifest them- 
selves with alarming distinctness. When asked to give up a bit 
of pudding he says, " No," in a coy, shy sort of manner, turning 
away. When further pressed he grows angry. On the other 
hand, he clamours for his sister's dolls, and bears refusal with 
very ill grace. When, given up as hopelessly naughty, he 
is handed over to the nurse, and carried out of the room by 
this long-suffering person, he ferociously slaps her on the 
face. This slap appears not to be a pure invention, his sister 
having been driven more than once to visit him with this- 
chastisement. He will also go up and slap his sister when 
she cries. He probably puts the nurse who carries him out 
and the sister who cries in the same category of naughty 
people. Sometimes he seems quite overpowered by vexation 
of spirit, and will lie down on the floor on his face and have a 
good, long, satisfying cry. 

The child's timidity has already been touched on. At the 
age of sixteen months, we. are told, the sight of the drawing o 


a lion accompanied by roaring noises imitated by the father 
would greatly terrify him, driving him to his mother, in whose 
bosom he would hide his face, drawing down his under lip in 
an om.'nous way. Two months later the diary tells us that the 
child has had a fright. One day a lady called with a dog, 
which secreted itself under the table, and later on suddenly 
rushed out and made for Master C. The shock was such that 
since that time whenever he hears a strange noise he runs to 
his mother, exclaiming, * Bow-wow ! ' in a terrified manner. 

Before the close of the year, however, he began to show a 
rftanlier temper. The sight of a dog still made him run 
towards his mother and cling to her, but as soon as the 
animal moved off he would look up into her face laughingly 
and repeat the consolatory saying which she herself had taught 
him : " Ni (nice) bow-wow ! bow-wow like Ningi ". In this 
humble fashion did he make beginning at the big task of 
manning himself to face the terrors of things. 

As pointed out above, he extended his dislike to sudden 
and loud noises to inanimate objects. Thus in the last week of 
the year he was evidently put out, if not actually frightened, 
by hearing distant thunder ; and about the same date, as we 
have seen, he showed a similar dislike to the sea when first 
taken near it. He would not approach it for some days, and 
he cried when he saw his father swimming in it. 

It is sad in going through the pages of the diary to note 
that there is scarcely any observation during this second year 
on the development of kindly feelings. One would have 
supposed that with all the affection and care lavished on him 
C. might have manifested a little tenderness in response. 
The only incident put down under the head of social feeling in 
this year is the following (cet. twenty months) : " When he 
eats porridge in the morning at the family breakfast he takes a 
look round and says : ' Mamma, Tit, papa, Ningi,' appearing to 
be pleased at finding himself sharing in a common enjoyment. 
This (continues the narrator) is a step onward from the anti- 
social attitude which he took up not long since when some of 
his mother's egg was given to his sister and he shouted 
prohibitively : * No ! no ! ' ' 



The worthy parent appears to be making the most of very 
small mercies here. Yet in justice to this child it must be 
said that he seems to have shown even at this tender age 
the rudiment of a conscience. The father is satisfied, indeed, 
that he displayed an instinctive respect for command or 
law. "Thus," he says, "when sixteen months old the child 
hung down his head or hid it in his mother's breast when for 
the first time I scolded him." He goes on to say that after 
having been forbidden to do a thing, as to touch the coal 
scuttle or to take up his food with his fingers, he will stop just 
as he is going to do it, and take on a curious look of timidity 
or shamefacedness. 

He seemed, too, before the end of the second year, to be 
getting to understand something of the meaning of that 
recurrent nursery-word ' naughty,' and the less frequent ' good '. 
When seventeen months old his father tried him, on what 
looked like the approach of an outburst of temper, with a 
' Cliffy, be good ! ' uttered in a firm peremptory manner. The 
child's noise was at once arrested, and on the father's asking : 
'Is Cliffy good?' he answered, 'Ea,' his sign for ' yes '. A 
little later he showed that he strongly disliked being called 
naughty, vigorously remonstrating when so described with an 
emphatic, ' No, no ! good ! ' He seems to have followed the 
usual childish order in beginning to apply " naughty " to 
others, his sister more particularly, much sooner than " good.". 
It was not till the middle of the twenty-first month that he 
recognised moral desert in this long-suffering sister. After a 
little upset of temper on her part, when the crying was over, 
he remarked in a quiet approving tone, ( Goo ! ' and on being 
asked by his mother who was good he answered, ' Tit '. 

As our example of his dawning powers of conversation may 
suggest, C. early developed the childish sense of fun. Most if 
not all children love pretence or make-believe. Here is an 
example of this childish tendency. When about eighteen 
months old during a short visit to his father's room C. 
happened to be walking in the direction of the door. His 
father at once said, c Ta ta,' just as if the child were really 
going away. C. instantly entered into the joke, repeating the 


' ta ta,' moving towards the door, then returning, and so 
renewing the pretty little fraud. 

Sometimes, as parents know, this impish love of make- 
believe comes very inconveniently into conflict with discipline 
and authority. One day, about the same date, he got hold of a 
photograph portrait of an uncle of his. His mother bade him 
give it up to her. He walked towards her looking serious 
enough, nearly put it into her hand, and then suddenly drew 
his hands back laughing. 

In other examples of laughter given in this chapter we see 
something very like contempt. When two years and eight 
months old he was observed to laugh out loudly on surveying 
his small india-rubber horse, the head of which had somehow got 
twisted back and caught between the hind legs and the tail. 
He then waxed tender and said pityingly, " Poor gee-gee ! " 
" Here," writes the father in his most ponderous manner, "we 
see an excellent example of the capricious and variable attitude 
of the childish mind towards its toys, an attitude closely 
paralleled by that of the savage towards his fetich." 

The two or three notes on the development of the active 
powers have to do with the application of intelligence to manual 
and other performances. Here is one. At the age of seventeen 
months he was sitting at table with the family when he found 
himself in want of some bread and butter. He tried his 
customary petition, ' Bup,' but to no purpose. He then 
stretched out his hand towards the bread knife, repeating the 
request. A day or two after this the father put his inven- 
tive powers to a severer proof. He placed the knife out of 
his reach. When the desire for more recurred he grew very 
impatient, looking towards his father and saying ' Bup ' with 
much vehemence of manner. At length, getting more excited, 
he bethought him of a new expedient and pointed authorita- 
tively to his empty plate. 

Some of these practical tentatives were rather amusing. 
One day, just a month after the date of the last incident, he 
had two keys, one in each hand. With one of these he pro- 
ceeded to try the keyhole of the door, oddly enough, however, 
holding it by the wrong end and inserting the handle. Now 


came the difficulty of turning it. Two hands at the very least 
were needed, but unhappily the other hand was engaged with 
the second key, which was not to be relinquished for an instant. 
So the little fellow, with the inventive resource of a monkey 
(the father naturally says of an c engineer'), proceeded to use 
his teeth as pincers, clutching the obstinate key between these 
and trying to turn it with the head. At this date he had acquired 
considerable skill in the manipulation of door handles and keys. 
A certain cupboard was a peculiarly fascinating mystery, 
appealing at once to the desires of the flesh and to a disin- 
terested curiosity, and he was soon master of the * open 
sesame ' to its spacious and obscure recesses. 

By far the most respectable exhibition of will about this 
time was in the way of self-restraint. I have already re- 
marked how he would try to pull himself together when pros- 
trated by fear of the dog. A similarly quaint attempt at self- 
mastery would occur during his outbreaks of temper. The 
father says he had got into the way, when the child was inclined 
to be impatient and teasing, of putting up his finger, lowering 
his brow, and saying with emphasis : * Cliffy, be good ! ' After 
this when inclined to be naughty he would suddenly and quite 
spontaneously pull himself up, hold up his finger and lower 
his brow as if reprimanding himself. " The observation is 
curious," writes the father, in his graver manner, "as suggesting 
that sell-restraint may begin by an imitation of the action of 
extraneous authority." l 

Third Year. 

One cannot help regretting on entering upon the third 
chapter of C.'s biography that the father gives us no account of 
his physical development. This is a desideratum not only 
from a scientific but from a literary point of view. Biographers 
rightly describe the look of their hero, and, if possible, they aid 
the imagination of their reader by a portrait. The reader of 
this child's history has nothing, not even a bare reference to 
height, by which he can form an image of the concrete person- 

1 Compare the similar instances given above, p. 287. 


ality whose sayings and doings are here recorded ; and these 
sayings and doings begin now to grow really interesting. 

There is very little in the notes of this year respecting 
the growth of observation. When the child was two years 
five months old the father appears to have made a rather lame 
attempt to determine the order in which he learnt the 
colours. He says that he placed the several colours before him 
and taught him the names, and found as a result that the 
order of acquisition was the following : red, blue, yellow, and 
green. It is added that blue was distinguished some time 
before green. His observations, taken along with those of 
Preyer and others, are interesting as seeming to suggest that 
the order in which the colours are learnt differs considerably in 
the case of individual children. 1 In the eighth month of this 
year we find a note to the effect that the boy discriminates 
and recognises colour well. This is illustrated by the fact 
that he at once calls grey with a slightly greenish tinge 
* green '. The connexion between the possession of suitable 
vocables and explicit discrimination is seen in the fact that 
whereas he applies the name blue not only to the several 
varieties of that colour but also to violet, he uses " red " as 
the name for certain reds only, excepting pink, which is called 
" pink/' and deep purple red, which is called " brown ". 

The third year is epoch-making in the history of memory. 
It is now that impressions begin to work themselves into the 
young consciousness so deeply and firmly that they become a 
part of the permanent stock-in-trade of the mind. The earliest 
recollections of most of us do not reach back beyond this date, 
if indeed so far. In C.'s case the father was able to observe 
this fixing' and consolidating of impressions. For instance, 
when two years and two months old he had been staying for a 

month or so at a farmhouse in a little sea-side village, D , 

where there was a sheep dog yclept Bob. Some three and a half 
months later he happened, during one of his walks in his 
London suburb, to see a sheep dog, whereupon he remarked, 
' Dat old Bob, I dink '. A week or two after this, on seeing 
the picture of a wind-mill, he remarked, " Dat like down at 

See above, p. 19 f. 


D ". Later on, six months after this visit, on being asked 

what honey was, he remarked that he had had some at D . 

Nine months after this visit his father was talking to him 
about the game of cricket. He then said, " Oh, yes (his 
favourite expression just now when he understands), I 

'member, Jingo ran after ball down at D ". As a matter of 

fact his father and friends used to play tennis at D , and 

Jingo, the sheep dog, did pretend to * field ' the balls, often in 
a highly inconvenient fashion. 

It is evident from these quotations that the experiences at 

D , just at the beginning of the third year, had woven 

themselves into the tissue of his permanent memory. The 
father remarks in a footnote that C. retains a certain recollec- 
tion of D at present, that is to say, in his fourteenth year. 

These lively recallings show a growth of imaginative power, 
and this was seen in other ways too. Thus it is remarked 
by the father in the fourth month of the year that he was getting 
much comfort from anticipation. If there are apples or other 
things on the table which he likes but must not have, he will 
philosophically remark, "Ningi have apples by-and-by when he 
big boy ". He says this with much emphasis, rising at the end 
to a shouting tone, and half breaking out into jubilant laughter. 

The childish power of vivid imaginative realisation was 
abundantly illustrated in his play. Here is a sample (end of 
fourth month). His sister went to the end of the room and 
said (with a reference to their recent visit to the sea-side) : ' I'm 
going far away on the beach '. He then began to whisper some- 
thing, and went under the table and said distinctly : ' Ningi 
go away from Tit, far away on beach '. He repeated this with 
tremulous voice, and at length burst out crying. He wept 
also when his sister pretended to do the same, so that these 
little tragic representations had to be stopped as dangerously 

It has often been said that 'fibbing' in young children is the 
outcome of a vivid imagination. C. illustrated this. As the 
example given under the second year shows, his daring in in- 
venting untruth and passing it off as truth was pure play, and 
frankly shown to be so by the accompaniment of a hearty 


laugh. This tendency to invent continued to assert itself. 
Thus when (in the eighth month) he is asked a question, as, 
" Who told you so ? " and has no suitable answer ready 
he will say, 'Dolly,' showing his sense of the fun of the thing 
by a merry laugh. The father remarks that it is a little diffi- 
cult to bring heavy moral artillery to bear on this playful 
fibbing which is evidently intended much more to astonish than 
to deceive. 1 

We may now see what progress C. was making in thinking 
power during this year. It is during the third year that children 
may be expected to get a much better hold on the slippery 
forms of language, and at the same time to show in connexion 
with a freer and more extensive use of language a finer and 
deeper insight into the manifold relations of things. 

In C.'s case, to judge by the journal, the progress of 
speech advanced at a normal pace, neither hurrying nor yet 
greatly loitering. Articulation, the father remarks early in the 
year, has got much more precise, only a few sounds seeming to 
occasion difficulty, as for example the initial s, which he trans- 
forms into an aspirate, saying, for example, ' huga ' for sugar. 

A noticeable linguistic advance is registered in the fourth 
month of the year, viz., a kind of sudden and energetic raid on 
the names of objects and persons. " He is always asking the 
names of things now (writes our chronicler). Thus, after 
calling a common object, as a brush, by its name he will ask 
me, * What is the name of this ? ' Perhaps he thinks that 
everything has its own exclusive or ' proper' name as he has. 
He is beginning to note, too, that some things have more 
than one proper name, that his mother, for example, though 
called ' ma ' by himself, is addressed by her Christian name 
by me, and so forth. When asked, * What is Ningi's name ? ' 
he now answers, ' Kifford '." 

What is far more significant, he now (at. two years three 
months) began to use 'you ' in addressing his father or mother, 
also 'me' and * I*. But these changes are so momentous 
and epoch-making in the history of the young intelligence 
that they will have to be specially considered later on. 

1 Compare above, p. 254. 


Like other children he showed a fine contempt for the 
grammatical distinctions of pronominal forms. Thus 'me' was 
used for 'mine,' 'her' for 'she,' 'she's' for 'hers,' 'him' 
for 'he' and for 'his,' 'us' for 'our,' and so forth. 1 It 
is pretty clear that none of these solecisms was due to an 
imitation of others' incorrect speech, and they appear to show 
the action of the principle of biological economy, a few word- 
sounds being made to do duty for a number of relations (e.g., 
in the use of ' me ' for ' my '), and familiar word-sounds being 
modified according to analogy of other modifications where older 
people use a quite new form (' she's ' for ' hers '). A similar dis- 
position to simplify and rationalise the tongue of his ancestors 
showed itself in the use of verbs. Thus, if his mother said, 
' Cliffy, you are not good,' he would reply in a perfectly rational 
manner, " Yes, I are ". " It was odd," writes the father, " to 
hear him bring out in solemn judge-like tones such terrible 
solecisms as ' Him haven't,' yet there was a certain logical 
method in his lawlessness." Another simplification on which 
he hit in common with other children was the use of ' did ' as 
a sign of past tense, thus saving himself all the trouble of 
understanding the irregular behaviour of our verbs. 2 

One or two quaint applications of words are noted. Thus 
towards the end of the third month of this year he took to 
using ' cover ' in a somewhat puzzling fashion. Thus he once 
pointed to the back of his hand and remarked, ' No milk on 
this cover*. The father suspects that the term connoted for 
his consciousness an outside part or the outer surface of an 

A very noticeable improvement took place in the forming 

1 Later on towards the end of the year he oddly enough seemed 
disposed to reverse his early practice, using for example 'she 'for 
' her,' and even going to the length of correcting his sister for saying 
' Somebody gave her,' by remarking with all the dogmatism of 
the most pedantic of grammarians, "No, E., you must say 'Gave 
she ' ". 

2 Compare above, p. 176 f. C.'s father probably makes too much 
of the principle of economy h^re. Thus, like other children, the boy 
was wont to use double negatives, e.g., " Dare isn't no water in dat 
cup," whe'-e there is clearly a redundance 


of sentences. All sorts of questions (writes the chronicler) are 
now put correctly and neatly, as, ' Where are you going to ? ' 
* Where did that come from ? ' He is now striking out most 
ambitiously in new and difficult directions, not fighting shy 
even of such school-horrors as conditional clauses (as they used 
to be called, at least). Very funny it must have been to watch 
these efforts, and the ingenuities of construction to which the 
little learner found himself driven. For example, he happened 
one morning (end of fourth month) when in his father's bed- 
room to hear a knocking in the adjoining room. He walked 
about the room remarking to himself, ' I can't make out some- 
body,' which seemed his own original fashion of avoiding the 
awkwardness of our elaborate form, " I can't make out who the 
person is (that is knocking) ". A still quainter illustration of 
the skill with which he found his way out of linguistic diffi- 
culties is the following. His sister once said to him (first week 
of fifth month), ' You had better not do that,' whereupon he 
replied, " I think me better will ". Here is a sample of his 
mode of dealing with conditionals (end of sixteenth month), 
" If him (a tree) would be small, I would climb up ". 

His- highly individualised language, remarks the father, was 
rendered more picturesque by the recurrence of certain odd 
expressions which he picked up and applied in his own royal 
fashion. One of these was, " Well, it might be different," 
which he often used when corrected for a fault, and on other 
occasions as a sort of formula of protestation against what he 
thought to be an exaggerated statement. 

We may now notice some new manifestations of thinking 
power. All thought, we are told, proceeds by the finding out 
of similarities and dissimilarities. C. continued to note the re- 
semblances of things. Thus one day (end of second month) 
he noticed the dog Jingo breathing quickly after a smart run 
and observed, 'Like puff-puff'. But what was much more 
noticeable this year was the boy's impulse to draw distinctions 
and contrasts. It may certainly be said in his case that 
likeness was distinctly apprehended before difference, that 
in the development of his rhetoric the antithesis followed the 
simile. One of the first contrasts to imprss the tender con- 


sciousness of children is that of size. This comes out srncng- 
other ways in their habit of setting their own puny persons in: 
antithesis to big grown-up folk, a habit sufficiently attested 
by the recurring expressions, " When I am big," " When I 
am a man". C., like other children, took to denoting a 
contrast of size by a figurative extension of the relation,, 
mamma baby. Thus it was noted (end of seventh month); 
that he would call a big tree " mamma tree," and a shrub 
" baby tree ". One day he pointed to the clock on the mantel- 
piece and talked of the ' big mamma clock '. He had, it seems, 
just before been playing with his father's watch, which he also 
called clock. 1 

This love of contrasting appeared in a striking manner in* 
connexion with the use of propositions. If, for example (third 
month), his father says, " That's a little watch," he at once 
brings out the point of the statement by adding, ' That not SL 
big watch '. The same perception of contrast would some- 
times help him to take the edge off a disagreeable prohibition 
when unguardedly worded. Thus when told one day not to* 
make much noise, he considered and rejoined, " Make little 
noise ". 

A more subtle perception of contrast betrayed itself towards, 
the end of the ninth month. His father had been speaking to 
him of the little calf which made a big noise. He mentally 
turned over this astonishing bit of contrariness in the order of 
things, and then observed with a sage gravity, " Big calf not 
make little noise," which so far as the limited faculties of the 
observer could say appeared to mean that the contrast between: 
size and sound did not hold all round, that the big sound 
emerging from the little thing was an exception to the order of 

In connexion with this habit of opposing qualities and 
statements reference may be made to the curious manner in. 
which the boy expressed negation. It was evidently a diffi- 
culty for him to get hold of the negative particle, and to deny 
straight away, so to speak. At first (beginning of the year) 
he seemed to indicate negation or rejection merely by tone of 

1 Compare above, p. 163 f. 


voice. Thus he would say about something which he evidently 
did not like, 'Ningi like that,' with a peculiar querulous tone 
which was apparently equivalent to the appendage 'N.B.. 
ironical'. About a fortnight later he expressed negation by 
first making the correlative affirmation and adding * No,' thus : 
" Ningi like go in water no ! " A week later, it is noted,. 
'no' was prefixed to the statement, as when he shouted, 'No, 
no, naughty Jingo,' in contradiction of somebody who had 
called the dog naughty. Towards the end of the third month 
'not' came to be used as an alternative for 'no,' which little 
by little it displaced. 

The father remarks that C.'s sister had had a similar trick 
of opposing statements, e.g., " Dat E.'s cup, not mamma's- 
cup". He then proceeds to observe in his somewhat heavy 
didactic manner that these facts are of curious psychological, 
and logical interest, showing us that negation follows affirma- 
tion, and can at first only be carried out by a direct mental 
confronting of an affirmation, and so forth. 1 

As already shown by the reference to the use of ' somebody ' 
C.'s thought was growing slightly more abstract. Yet how 
slow this advance was is illustrated in his way of dealing with: 
time-relations, some of the most difficult, as it would seem, 
for the young mind to grapple with. At the end of the second: 
month the ideas of time, we are told, were growing more exact, 
so far at least that he was able to distinguish a present time 
from both a past and a future. He called the present variously 
' now,' ' a day ' (to-day) or ' dis morning '. 2 The present 
seemed, so far as the father could judge, to be conceived of as 
a good slice of time. ' To-morrow ' and ' by-and-by ' now served 
to express the idea of futurity, the former referring to a nearer 
and more definitely conceived tract of time than the latter. 

a On the use of antithesis in children's language and on the early 
lorms of negation, see above, p. 174 f. 

2 A note in the diary says that C.'s sister had also used 'this, 
morning ' in a similar way for any present. Can this curious habit 
arise, he asks, from the circumstance that children hear ' this morn- 
ing' more frequently than 'this afternoon' and 'this evening,' or 
that they are more wakeful and observant in the early part of the 
day ? 


That the child had no clear apprehension of our time-divisions 
is seen not only in his loose employment of ' dis morning/ but 
in his habitual confusion of the names of meals, as in calling 
-dinner * tea,' tea ' dinner ' or * breakfast,' and so forth. 

Another abstruse idea for the child's mind is that of absence. 
It would seem as if this were thought of at first as a disappear- 
ance. As all mothers know, when a child is asked where some- 
body is he answers, ' All gone'. C., on his return from D 
(end of second month), when asked where the people and the 
highly interesting Jingo were, would say, ' All gone/ and some- 
times add picturesquely, * in the puff-puff 1 .. 1 

The acquisition of clearer ideas about self and others has 
been touched on in connexion with the growth of the boy's 
language. The first use of ' I ' and the contemporaneous first 
use of 'you' (end of third month) seem to point to a new 
awakening of the intelligence to the mystery of self, and of its 
unique position in relation to other things. There is to the 
father evidently something pathetic in the gradual abandon- 
ment of the self-chosen name, ' Ningi/ of the early days, and 
the adoption of the common-place * I ' of other people. But 
we need not attend to his sentimental musings on this point. 
The exchange, we are told, was effected gradually, as if to 
make it easier to his hearers. At first (beginning of year) we 
have 'me' brought on the scene, which, be it observed, did 
duty both for ' me ' and for ' my '. 2 Later on followed ' I/ as an 
occasional substitute for ' me/ as if he were beginning to see a 
difference between the two, though unable to say wherein 
precisely it lay. Within less than a month, we are told, the 

1 (Note of the father.) C., on leaving D , had travelled by 

the train. He may, therefore, have intended merely to say "removed 
from sight through the agency of the locomotive ". From other 
examples, however, it would look as if the boy meant to explain all 
disappearance as a removal from his own local sphere. 

2 The chronicler observes here that C.'s sister had also used the 
same expression for ' I ' and ' mine/ viz., " my". It looks as if the 
me and its belongings were not at first differentiated. Even of the 
later and maturer ideas of self a well-known American psychologist 
writes: " Between what a man calls me and what he simply calls 
.mine the line is difficult to draw". Compare above, p. 181. 


child was beginning to use " Kikkie " as his name in place 
of " Ningi," which " Kikkie " was afterwards improved into 
" Kifford ". "It was evident (writes the narrator) that in 
venturing on the slippery ground of ' I ' and 'you' he experienced 
a sudden accession of manly spirit, as a result of which he began 
to despise the ' Ningi' of yore." But dear old ' Ningi' did not 
go out all at once, and we read so late as the end of the 
third month of his amusing his mother when standing on- 
the window-sill of the nursery by remarking thoughtfully,. 
" How am I, Ningi, come down ? " Here, it would seem 
evident, the addition of ' Ningi ' was intended to help the 
faculties of his mother in case this still puzzling " I " should 
prove too much for them. By the end of the fourth month we 
read that ' I ' was growing less shy, not merely coming on the 
scene in familiar and safe verbal companionship, as in expres- 
sions like * I can,' but boldly pushing its way alone or in new 
combinations. 1 By the sixth month (czt. two and a half) the 
name Ningi may be said to have disappeared from his 
vocabulary. His rejection of it was formally announced at the 
age of two years seven and a half months. On being asked at 
this date whether he was Ningi he answered, " No, my name 
Kiffie". He then added, " Ningi name of another little boy," 
very much as in a remarkable case of double personality 
described by M. Pierre Janet, the transformed personality look- 
ing back on the original observed, " That good woman is not 
myself". He looked roguish in saying this, as if there were 
something funny in the idea of altered personality. The 
determination to be conventional was shown at the same date 
in the fact that when, for. example, the mother or father, fol- 
lowing the old habit, would bid him go and ask the nurse to 
wash " Cliffie's hands," he would, in delivering the message, 
substitute " my hands ". By the end of the year ' I ' came to be 
habitually used for self, as in answering a question, e.g., "Who- 
did this or that ? " Tyrannous custom had now completely 
prevailed over infantile preferences. 

During the third year C. seemed determined to prove to 

1 The same holds true of 'me,' which was first used only in 
particular connexions, as ' Give me '. 


his parents and sister that he had attained the age of reason. 
He began to ply these well-disposed persons with all manner 
of questionings. Sometimes, indeed, as when in the case al- 
;ready referred to he would ask for the names of things just 
.after calling them by their names, the long-suffering mother 
was half inclined to regret the acquisition of speech, so much 
did it present itself at this stage in the light of an instrument of 
torture. But the child's questionings were rarely attributable 
to a spirit of persecution or to sheer " cussedness ". He began 
in the usual manner of children to ask : ' Who made this and 
that?' (early in the fourth month). That there is a simple pro- 
cess of reasoning behind this question is seen in his sometimes 
suggesting an answer thus: "Who made papa poorly? 
Blackberries ; " where there was obviously a reference to an 
unpleasant personal experience. His mind about this time 
seemed greatly exercised in the matter of sickness and health. 
One day (middle of sixth month) walking out with his mother 
he met a man, whereupon ensued this dialogue : C. ( Is that 
-a poorly gentleman ? ' M. * No.' C. * Is that a well gentle- 
man ?' M. 'Yes.' C. 'Then who made him well ? ' From 
which (writes the father) it would look as if, just as Plato 
could only conceive of pleasure as a transition from pain, 
Master C. could only conceive of health as a process of con- 
valescence. 1 

Another way of prying into the origin of things seems 
worth mentioning. Having found out that certain pretty 
things in the house had been "bought," he proceeded with 
the characteristic recklessness of the childish mind to assume that 
.all nice things come to us this way. One day (middle of third 
month) he asked his father, " Who bought lady ? " lady being 
an alabaster figure of Sappho. The father then asked him, and 
he answered : " Mamma ". Asked further where, he replied : 
" In town ". This looked like romancing, but it is hard to 
draw the line between childish romancing and serious thought. 
He may have really inferred that the alabaster lady had come 
to the house that way. A still funnier example of the appli- 

1 This reminds one of the childish use of ' broken ' and ' mended,' 
illustrated above, p. 98. 


-cation of his purchasing idea occurred at the date, three 
months and one week. Stroking his mother's face he said : 
" Nice dear mother, who bought you ? " What, asks the 
father, did he understand by " bought " ? Perhaps only some 
.mysterious way of obtaining possession of nice pretty things. 

The other form of reason-hunting question, ' What for ? ' or 
* Why ? ' came to be used about the same time as " Who 
made ? " etc. In putting these questions he would sometimes 
suggest answers of a deliciously childish sort (as the writer has 
it). Thus one day (beginning of fourth month) he saw his 
father putting small numbered labels on a set of drawers, and 
after his customary " What dat for ? " added half inquiringly, 
" To deep drawers nice and warm?" C. would pester his 
parents by asking not only why things were as they were, but 
why they were not different from what they were. Thus (end 
of third month) on seeing in a nursery book a picture of 
Reynard the fox waving his hat he asked in his slow emphatic 
way : ' Why not dat fox put on his hat ? ' In a similar way 
he would ask his mother why she did not go to school, and so 
forth. 1 

With this questioning there went a certain amount of con- 
fident assertion respecting the reasons of things. At first C. 
proceeded modestly, reproducing reasons given by an adequate 

authority. Thus when told during his stay at D that he 

would not go into the sea to-day, he would supplement the 
announcement by adding the reason as given before by his 
mother, e.g., " 'Cause it's too cold," or, " 'Cause big waves to- 
day ". Very soon, however, he took a step forward and 
discovered reasons for himself. One day (end of fifth month) 
his father was seating him at table, and was about to add a 
second cushion to the chair when he remarked in his gravest 
of manners, " I can't put my leg in, you know (i.e., under the 
table), if me be higher ". Here is another of these specimens of 
reasoning, dating two weeks later, and based like the first on 
direct observation. His father was walking out with him on 
the famous Heath of their suburb. The former, probably more 
than half lost in one of his trains of philosophic speculation, 

1 Compare above, p. 86 ff. 


observed absent-mindedly, "Why are these babas (sheep) running, 
away ? " C. promptly took up the question and answered with 
vigour, " 'Cause the bow-wow dare with man". As a matter 
of fact a man was approaching with a small dog, which the 
father in his reverie had failed to see. 

Of course, the reasoning was not always so consonant with 
our standard as in these two examples. C. appears to have 
had his own ideas about the way in which things come about. 
For example, he seems to have argued, like certain scholastic 
logicians, that the effect must resemble the cause. At least, 
after find'ng out that his milk came from the cow, he referred 
the coldness of his milk one morning (towards end of fourth, 
month) to the coldness of the cow, which property of that 
serviceable quadruped was, of course, a pure invention of his- 
own. Just three months later he came out one morning 
with the momentous announcement, " Milk comes from the 
white cow down at D " ; and on being asked by his ever- 
attentive father what sort of milk the brown cow gave, instantly 
replied, ' Brown milk ' ; where, again, it must be admitted, he 
came suspiciously near romancing. 

He seems, further, to have shown slight respect for the 
logical maxim that the same effect may be brought about in, 
more than one way. For C. nature was delightfully simple,, 
and everything happened in one way, and in one way only. 
So that, for example, when during a walk (end of sixth month) 
his glove happened to slip off, he proceeded in a most hasty 
and unfair manner to set down the catastrophe to the malignity 
of the wind, exclaiming, " Naughty wind to blow off glove". 

A like want of maturity of judgment in dealing with the 
subtle connexions of nature's processes showed itself in other 
ways. Thus he argued as if the same agency would always- 
bring about like results, whatever the material dealt with. An 
amusing illustration of this occurred in the latter half of the 
tenth month. He was observed towards the end of a meal 
pouring water on sundry bits of bread on his plate, and on 
being asked why he was doing this, said : ' To melt them, of 
course '. 

One of his thoroughly original ideas was that other things. 


besides living ones grow bigger with time. One day (middle 
of sixth month) he began to use' a short stick as a walking- 
stick. His mother objected that it was not big enough, on 
which he observed: "Me use it for walking-stick when stick 
be bigger". In like manner just a month later he remarked, 
apropos of a watch-key which was too small for the father's 
watch, that it would be able to wind up the watch ' when it 
grow bigger '. So far as the father could observe it was only 
little things which he thought would increase in size. It thus 
looked, adds the father, like a kind of extension of the supreme 
law of his own small person to the whole realm of wee and 
despised objects. 1 

C. followed other children and the race which he so well re- 
presented in supposing that sensation is not confined to the 
animal world. Thus towards the end of the eleventh month 
when warned in the garden not to touch a bee as it might sting, 
he at once observed : " It might sting the flower". "It is odd," 
interpolates the father here, "that C.'s sister, when, towards the 
end of her fourth year, she was bidden not to touch a wasp on the 
window-pane, had gone further than C. by suggesting that it 
might sting the glass. Everything seems to live and to feel in 
the child's first fancy-created world." 2 

Towards the end of the year, it appears, C. developed con- 
siderable smartness in logical fencings with his mother and 
others, warding off unpleasant prohibitions by a specious dis- 
play of argument. For example, when told that something he 
wanted would make him poorly, he rejoined : ' I am poorly,' 
evidently thinking that he had convicted his estimable parent 
of what logicians call irrelevant conclusion. 

One cannot say that these first incursions into the domain 
of logic do Master C. particular credit. Perhaps we may see 
later on that he came to use his rational faculty with more 
skill and precision, and to turn it to nobler uses than the in- 
vention of subterfuges whereby he might get his wilful way. 

The notes on the development of the feelings continue to 
be rather scanty. I will reproduce one or two of the more note- 

1 Compare above, p. 97 f. 2 Compare above, p. 96 ff. 



The visit to D was attended with a great change in 

his feeling for animals. He no longer feared them. Jingo, 
spite of his warlike name, was an amiable creature, and seems 
to have reconciled him to the canine species. Cats, too, now 
came in for special affection. He would watch the animals in 

D , horses, cows, and especially ducks, with quiet delight 

for many minutes, imitating their sounds. Strange to say, 
now that fear had gone he showed himself disposed to take 
liberties \vith animals. Thus he would slap Jingo and even his 
favourite cat in moments of displeasure, just as he and his 
sister before him used to slap their dolls. 

A new emotion showed itself towards the end of the fourth 
month, viz., shyness. If his parents unguardedly spoke about 
him at table he would hang down his head and put his hands 
over his face. So far as the father could observe this expres- 
sion of shyness was unlearned. His sister, it appears, had 
not been remarkable for the feeling. The father observes that 
the fact of this new feeling synchronising with the acquisition 
of the use of ' I,' ' my,' etc., seems to show that it was 
connected with the growth of self-consciousness. 

His sense of fun continued to develop, though it still had 
a decidedly rude and primitive character. When just four 
months on in the year his father amused him by battering in 
an old hat of his own. He broke into loud laughter at this 
performance. We know, writes the observer, how the sight 
of a hat in trouble convulses the grown mind. Can it be that 
C. was already forming associations of dignity with this com- 
pletion and crown of human apparel ? 

Tender emotion, as became a boy, perhaps, was in abey- 
ance. He rarely indulged in manifestations of love, or if he 
did, it must have been towards his mother secretly in a con- 
fidence that was never violated. Here is one of the few in- 
stances recorded (beginning of eighth month). He happened 
to see his own picture in his mother's eye and said in a highly 
sentimental tone : " Dear pitty little picture, I do love 'oo," 
and then proceeded to kiss his mother's eyelid. It was little 
things, as kittens, flowers, and so forth, which seemed to move 
him to this occasional melting mood. 


The sympathetic feelings though still weak may be said to 
be slowly developing. Thus in the first month of the year it 
is remarked that he now thinks of his sister when absent, so 
that if he has the highly-prized enjoyment of a biscuit he will 
suggest that ' Tit have bisc too '. 

This year witnessed the formation of more definite aesthetic 
likings in the matter of colours and forms. His dislike for a 
black cat and black things generally, may perhaps be called in 
a way a preference of taste. In his animal picture-books, of 
which he was now growing very fond, he showed a marked dislike 
for a monkey with an open mouth, also for the rhinoceros, and 
strong likings, on the other hand, for birds in general, also for 
horses and zebras. 

He began to learn nursery rhymes, and showed a good ear 
for rhyme. Thus in saying : 

Goosey goosey gander, 
Where shall I wander ? 

he was observed (end of tenth month) to correct the rhyme by 
first pronouncing the a in " wander" less broadly than is our 
wont, just as in " gander," and then substituting the conven- 
tional pronunciation. 

The moral side ot the child's nature appears during 
this year to have undergone noticeable changes. The most 
striking fact which comes out in the picture of the boy as 
painted in the present chapter is the sudden emergence of self- 
will. He began now to show himself a veritable rebel against 
parental authority. Thus we read (about the end of the sixth 
week) that when corrected for slapping Jingo, or other fault, he 
would remain silent and half laugh in a cold contemptuous way, 
which must have been shocking to his worthy parents. A 
month later we hear of an alarming increase of self-will. He 
would now strike each of these august persons, and follow up the 
sacrilege with a profane laugh. As might be expected from his 
general use of subterfuge about this time, he showed a lament- 
able want of moral sensibility in trying to shirk responsibility. 
Thus (middle of seventh month) he was noticed by his mother 
putting a spill of paper over the fire-guard into the fire so as to 


light it. His mother at once said : " Ningi mustn't do that". 
Whereupon he impudently retorted : " Ningi not doing that, 
paper doing it "- 1 

All this is dreadful enough, yet it is probable that many 
children go through a longer or shorter stage of rebellion, who 
afterwards turn out to be well-behaved, respectable persons. 
And, as his father is not slow to point out, C., even in these re- 
bellious outbursts, showed the rudiments of moral feeling in the 
shape of a deep sensitiveness to injury and more definitely to 
unjust treatment. Thus we are told (middle of seventh month) 
that when his sister eats the leavings of his pudding or other 
dainty he shows a well-marked moral indignation. He gets very 
excited at such moments, his eyes dilating, his voice rising in 
pitch, and his arms executing a good deal of violent gesticulation. 
When scolded by his mother for doing a thing which he has only 
appeared to do, he will turn and exclaim, with all the signs of 
righteous wrath, " Mamma naughty say dat ! " One day (end of 
seventh month) when, after being very naughty, his mother had 
to carry him upstairs, he broke out into a more than usually 
violent fit of crying. His mother asked him what he meant 
by making such a noise when being carried upstairs ; where- 
upon he replied, "'Cause you carry me up like a pig" (as re- 
presented in one of his picture-books). 

There is nothing particularly meritorious in all this, yet it 
is significant as showing how, in this third year, the conscious- 
ness of self was developing not only on its intellectual but on 
its moral side, as a sense of personal dignity and rightful claim, 
which, after all, is a very essential element in a normal and 
robust moral sentiment. 

Fourth Year. 

The reports of progress during the fourth year are still 
scantier than their predecessors : perhaps the observer was 
getting tired of his half-playful work. Nevertheless, there are 
some interesting observations in this chapter also. 

C.'s observation seems to have been decidedly good, to 

1 Compare above, p. 273 f. 


judge by an incident that occurred at the end of the third week 
of the year. He had been to the Zoological Gardens. His 
father asked him about the seals, and more particularly as to 
whether they had legs. He answered at once, "No, papa, 
they had foot-wings ". The chronicler is evidently proud of 
this feat, and thinks it would have satisfied Professor Huxley 
himself. But allowance must here as elsewhere be made for 
parental pride. 

The child's colour-sense, we are told about the same time, 
was developing quite satisfactorily. He could now (end of fifth 
week) discriminate and name intermediate shades of colour. 
Thus he called a colour between yellow and green quite 
correctly * yellowish green,' and this way of naming colours 
was, so far as the father could ascertain, quite spontaneous. 
Later (three and a half months), on being questioned as to 
violet, which he first said was blue, he replied correcting his 
first answer, "and purple". Later on (beginning of last 
quarter), he could distinguish a 'purplish blue' from a "purplish 
pink ". 

Along with a finer observation we find a more active and 
inventive imagination. It was during this year that he began 
to create fictitious persons and animals, and to surround him- 
self with a world, unseen by others, but terribly real to him- 

About the middle of the third month he made his first essay 
in story-fabrication. Considering that he had a lively and 
imaginative elder sister, who was constantly regaling him with 
fairy and other stories, this argues no particular precocity. 
His first style in fiction was crude enough. He would pile up 
epithets in a way that makes the most florid of journalistic 
diction seem tame by comparison. Thus he would begin the 
description of a dog by laying on a miscellaneous pile of colour- 
adjectives, blue, red, green, black, white, and so forth. With 
a similar disregard for verisimilitude and concentration of aim 
on strong effect, he would pile up the agony in a story, relating, 
for example, how the dog that had killed a rabbit (" bunny") 
had his head beaten off, was then drowned, and so on, through 
a whole Iliad of canine calamity. Here is another example of 


his literary sensationalism (middle of ninth month). While he 
and his father were taking a walk in the country, where the 
family was staying, they found the feathers and bones of a bird 
in a tiny cleft in the tree. The father thereupon began to 
weave for him a little story about the unfortunate bird, how it 
had taken shelter there one cold winter's day weary and hungry, 
and had grown too weak to get away. This did not satisfy 
the strong palate of our young poet, who proceeded to improve 
on the tragedy. " P'haps a snake there, p'haps dicky bird flew 
there one cold winter day and snake ate it up, and then spit it 
out again," and so forth. " P'haps (he ended up) he (the bird) 
thought there was nothing but wind (air) there." 

He had, of course, his super-sensible world, made up of 
mysterious beings of fairy-like nature, who, like the spirits of 
primitive folk-lore, were turned to account in various ways. 
The following incident (seven months one week) may illustrate 
the modus operandi of the child's myth-making impulse. He 
was eagerly looking forward to going to a circus. His father 
told him that if it rained he would not be able to go, for 
nobody could drive away the rain. Whereupon he instantly 
remarked : " The Rainer can ". His father asked him who 
this wonderful person was, and he replied : " A man who lives 
in the forest my forest and has to drive rain away ". The 
expression " drive away " used by the father had been enough 
to give this curious turn to his fancy. 

His fairy-world was concocted from a medley of materials 
drawn from his observations of animals, his experiences at the 
circus, including the ladies in beautifully tinted short dresses, 
whom, with childish awe, he named < fairies,' and the book-lore 
that his sister was imparting to him from Stories of Uncle 
Remus, and other favourites. In the ninth month he got into 
the way of talking of his fairy-world, of the invisible fairies, 
horses, rabbits, and so forth, to which he gave a local habitation 
in the wall of his bedroom. When in a difficulty he thinks his 
fairies can help him out. Nothing is too wonderful for their 
powers : they can even solace his pitiful heart by making a 
dead dog alive again. For the rest, like other imaginative 
children, he peoples the places he knows, especially dark and 


mysterious ones, with imaginary beings. Thus one day, on 
walking in a wood with his mother, he was overheard by her 
talking to himself dreamily in this wise : " Here there used to 
be wolves, but long, long time ago". 

It is noticeable that at this same period of his myth-making 
activity he began to speak of his dreams. He evidently takes 
these dream-pictures for sensible realities, and when relating 
a dream insists that he has actually seen the circus-horses and 
fairies which appear to him when asleep. Possibly, writes 
the father, this dreaming, as in the case of the primitive race, 
had much to do in developing his intense belief in a super- 
natural world. It may be added that during this same period 
he was in the habit of seeing the forms of his animals, as lions, 
"gee-gees," in such irregular and apparently unsuggestive 
groupings of line as those made by the cracks in the ceiling 
of his nursery. 1 

There is little to note in the way of verbal invention. Here 
is one amusing specimen (third week of third month). His 
father asked him whether his toy-horse was tired, whereupon 
he answered : ' No, I make him untired '. This leads off the 
writer to an abstruse logical discussion of " negative terms," 
and how it comes about that we do not all of us talk in C.'s 
fashion and say 'untired,' 'unfatigued'. Another quaint inven- 
tion was the use of ' think ' as a noun. It was funny, writes 
the father, to hear him rejecting his sister's statements by the 
contemptuous formula : " That's only your thinks ". 

His understanding was slowly ripening in spite of his 
free indulgence in the intoxicating pleasures of the imagina- 
tion. He could understand much that was said to him by the 
aid of a liberal application of metaphor. Thus one day (end 
of the year) his father when walking with him late in the 
evening in a park where sheep were grazing told him that 
animals did not want bed-clothes, but could lie on the 
grass wet with dew and afterwards be dried with the sun. 
He said : " Yes, the sun is their towel to make them dry ". 

The subtleties of time were still too much for him. In the 
fourth month of the year when his sister was narrating an 

1 Compare above, p. 28 if. 


incident of the evening before and used the term 'yesterday,' 
he corrected her saying : " No, E., last night". Yet he was 
now beginning to penetrate into the mysteries of the subject. 
His father happened one day (end of seventh month) to speak 
of to-morrow. C. then asked: "When is to-morrow? To- 
morrow morning ? " He then noticed that his hearers were 
remarking on his question, and proceeded to expound his own 
view of these wonderful things. " There are two kinds of 
to-morrow, to-morrow morning and this morning ; " and then 
added with the sagest of looks : " To-morrow morning is to- 
morrow now ". 

At this the father tells us both he and the mother were 
sorely puzzled, and if one may be allowed to read between the 
lines, it is not improbable that the latter must have indulged 
in some such exclamation as this : " There ! this comes of 
your stimulating the child's brains too much ". However this 
be, it is certain that the observer's mind was greatly exercised 
about this dark and oracular deliverance of the child. What 
could he have meant ? At length he bethought him that the 
child was unable as yet to think of pure abstract time. To- 
morrow had to be filled in with some concrete experience, 
wherefore his wishing to define it as " to-morrow morning " 
with the interesting experiences of the early hours of the day. 
And if " to-morrow " means for his mind to-morrow's experi- 
ence, he is quite logical in saying that it becomes to-day's ex- 
perience. Whether the father has here caught the subtle thread 
of childish thought may be doubted. 1 Who among the wisest 
of men could be sure of seizing the precise point which the 
child makes such praiseworthy effort to render intelligible to us ? 

It would appear as if C. were still rather muddled about 
numbers. One day (end of third month) he was looking at 
some big coloured beads on a necklace, and touching the 
biggest he said to his mother : " These are six," then some 
smaller ones: "these five," then some still smaller ones: 
" these four," and so on. He was apparently failing as yet to 
distinguish number from that other mode of quantity which 
we call magnitude. 

1 Compare what was said above, p. 119. 


The use of the word " self" at this time showed that it had 
reference mainly to the body, and apparently to the central 
trunk. Thus one evening towards the end of the eleventh 
month, after being put to bed, he was heard by his mother 
crying out peevishly. Asked by her what was the matter he 
answered, " I can't get my hands out of the way of myself " ; 
which, being interpreted by his mother, was his way of saying 
that he could not wriggle about and get into cool places (the 
evening was a warm one) as he would like to do. 

As might be inferred from his essays in fictitious 
narrative, he was getting quite an expert in the matter of 
.assertion. It was odd sometimes, observes the journal, to 
-hear the guarded manner in which he would proffer a statement. 
Thus, on one occasion (beginning of twelfth month), he 
reported to his father, who had been from home for some days, 
that he had been behaving quite satisfactorily during his 
absence, and then added cautiously, " I did not see mamma 
punish me, anyhow ". 

During this year he followed up his questioning relentlessly, 
often demanding the reasons of things, as children are wont 
to do, in a sorely perplexing fashion. His interrogatory 
embraced all manner of objects, both of sense-perception and 
of thought. Thus he once asked his mother (seventh month) 
how it was that he could put his hand through water and not 
through the soap. A matter that came to puzzle him especially 
just now was growth. Thus, when told by his father (tenth 
month) that a little tree would grow big by-and-by, he asked, 
,., How is it that everything grows flowers, trees, horses, and 
people ? " or, as he worded it a few days later, " How can 
trees and sheep grow without anybody making them ? " He 
seems now (notes the father) to have given up his belief in the 
growth of lifeless things. The inequalities of size among fully 
grown things were also a puzzle to him. Thus, when just 
four years old, he was much concerned to know why ponies 
did not grow big like other horses. 1 

The father must doubtless at this time have had his hands 
full in satisfying the intellectual cravings of the child. But, 

1 Compare what was said above, pp. 88, 104. 


happily, the small inquirer would sometimes come forward to- 
help out the explanation. One day (end of the year) his- 
father, when walking out with him, pointed to a big dray-horse 
and said: "That is a strong horse". On which the child: 
observed: " Ah ! that horse can gallop fast". He was then- 
told that heavy horses did not go fast. He looked puzzled for 
a moment and then asked : " Do you mean can't lift themselves 
up?" " Had he," asks the father, "noticed that when- 
weighted with thick clothes or other impedimenta he was less- 
springy, and so found his way, as is the manner of children, 
from his own experience to explaining the apparent contra- 
diction of the strong and slow horse ? " 

Other questionings were less amenable to purposes of 
instruction. He would often get particularly thoughtful im- 
mediately after going to bed, and put posers to his mother.. 
For example, one evening (tenth month) he asked in his slow, 
earnest way, " Where was I a hundred years ago ? '' and then 
more precisely, "Where was I before I was ' orn ? " These 
are, as everybody knows, stock questions of childhood, and,, 
perhaps, are hardly worth recording. It is otherwise with a 
curious poser which he set his father about the middle of the 
last month : " When are all the days going to end, papa ?" It 
is a pity that the diary does not record the answer given ta 
the question. In lieu of this we have the customary pedantic 
style of speculation about the " concept" of infinity with refer- 
ences to Sir W. Hamilton and I don't know what other 
profound metaphysicians. The answer, if any was attempted,, 
does not appear to have been very satisfactory to Master C., 
for we read further on that more than three months after this 
date he put the same question about all the days ending to his- 

With this questioning about the causes of things there went 
much assigning of reasons. By the end of the fourth month, 
it is remarked, he was getting more accurate in his thinking, 
substituting limited generalisations such as, " Some people do- 
this," for the first hasty and sweeping ones. He appears,, 
further, to have grown much more ready in finding reasons, 
bringing out " 'cause '' (because) on all manner of occasions,. 


much to his own satisfaction and hardly less to that of his- 
observant father. He continued, it is added, to display the 
greatest ingenuity in finding reasons for his own often capri- 
cious-looking behaviour, and especially in discovering excuses 
whereby a veil of propriety might be thrown over actions which 
he knew full well would, if left naked, have a naughty look. 

The tendency to give life to things observable in the last 
year was less marked, but broke out now and again, as when 
sitting one day (beginning of tenth month) on his chair on a 
loose cushion and wriggling about as his manner was, he felt 
the cushion slipping from under him and exclaimed : " Hullo ! 
I do b'lieve this cushion is alive. It moves itself." About a 
month after this the father set about testing the state of his. 
mind by asking him whether trees did not feel pain when they 
were cut. This " leading question " was not to entrap Master 
C., who answered with something of contempt in his tone : 
" No, they only made of wood ". He was not so sure about 
dead rabbits, however, saying first "yes" and then "no". 

The intricate relations of things continued to trouble his 
mind. His father chanced One day (end of eleventh month) to 
remark at table that C. did not take his milk so nicely as he 
used to do. C. pondered this awhile and then said: "It's 
funny that little babies behave better than big boys. They 
don't know so much as boys." From which the father appears 
to have inferred that children, like certain Greek philosophers, 
are wont to identify virtue with cognition. 

There are not many brilliant strokes of childish rationality 
to record during this year. It is worth noting, perhaps, that 
when just seven months and one week of the year had passed, 
he showed that he had found his own way to an axiomatic 
truth familiar to students of geometry. He had been to the 
circus the day before, where a gorgeous pantomimic spectacle 
had greatly delighted him He talked to his father of the 
beautiful things, and among others, of " the fairies going up in- 
the air ". His father asked him how they were able to fly. 
Whereupon with that good-natured readiness to enlighten the 
darkness of grown-up people which makes the child the most 
charming of instructors, he proceeded to explain in this wise : 


" They had wings, you know. Angels have wings like birds, 
and fairies are like angels, and so you see fairies are like 

The first development of reason in the child is apt to be 
trying to parents and others, on account not only of the thick 
hail-like pelting of questions to which it gives rise, but still 
more, perhaps, of the circumstance that the young reasoner 
will so readily turn his new instrument to a confusing criti- 
'cism of his elders. The daring interference of childish 
dialectic with moral discipline in C.'s case has already been 
touched on. Sometimes he would follow up a series of 
questions so as to put his logical antagonist into a corner, 
very much after the manner of the astute Socrates. Here is 
an example of this highly inconvenient mode of dialectical 
attack (middle of seventh month). He was at this time like 
Bother children, much troubled about the killing of animals for 
food. Again and again he would ask with something of 
fierce impatience in his voice : " Why do people kill them ? " 
On one occasion he had plied his mother with these questionings. 
He then contended that people who eat meat must like animals 
to be killed. Finally, to clench the matter, he turned on his 
mother and asked : " Do you like them to be killed ? " Here 
is another example of his persistent dialectical attack (end of 
eleventh month). A small caterpillar happening to drop on 
the shoulder of the father, the mother expressed the common dis- 
like for these creatures. C. was just now championing the whole 
dumb creation against hard-hearted man, and he at once saw his 
opportunity. ' Why,' he demanded in his peremptory catechising 
tone, ' don't you like caterpillars ? ' To which the mother, amused 
perhaps with his grave argumentative manner, thought to 
escape the attack by answering playfully: "Because they 
make the butterflies ". But there was no room for jocosity in 
C.'s mind when it was a matter of liking or disliking a living 
creature. So he followed up his questioning with the true 
Socratic irony, asking : " Why don't you like butterflies ? " 
On this both the parents appear to have laughed ; but he was 
not to be upset, and ignoring the patent subterfuge of the 
butterfly returned to the caterpillar. " Caterpillars," he ob- 


served thoughtfully, "don't make a noise." He had doubtless 
generalised that the pet aversions of his parents, more especi- 
ally his fathe 1 , were dogs, cocks and other noise-producing, 
animals. Whether he returned to the subject of the caterpillar 
is not stated. Perhaps his mother's dislike for the wee soft 
noiseless thing was to be added to the stock of unexplained 
childish mysteries. 

Passing to manifestations of feeling, we have a curious, 
note on a new emotional expression. It seems that when a 
suckling the child had got into the way of accompanying the 
bliss of an ambrosial meal by soft caressing movements of the 
fore-finger along the mother's eyebrows. When three years 
and ten months old he was sitting on his father's lap in one of 
his softer moods when he touched this parent's eyebrows in the 
same dainty caressing manner. The observer suspects that 
we have here an example of a movement becoming an. 
emotional sign by association and analogy. At first asso- 
ciated with the ne plus ultra of infantile happiness it came to- 
indicate the oncoming of any analogous state of feeling, and 
especially of the luxurious mood of tenderness. 

Two or three curious examples of fear are recorded in this, 
chapter. In the second week of the fourth month he went with 
his mother to the photographer's to have his likeness taken.. 
When he reached the house he strongly objected, clung to his 
mother and showed all the signs of a true fear. On entering 
the room he told the photographer in his quiet authoritative 
manner that he was not going to have his likeness taken. The 
process, an instantaneous one, was accomplished, however, 
without his knowing it. Next morning when asked by his 
sister how he liked having his likeness taken, he answered 
snappishly : " Haven't had my likeness taken. Don't you see I 
can talk ? " The father suspects that the child feared he would 
be transformed by the black art of the camera into a speechless 
photograph. It is curious that savages appear to show a similar 
dread of the photographic camera. Thus, in a recent number 
of the Graphic (November, 1893) there was a drawing of 
Europeans and natives having their likeness taken in a camp 
in South Africa. One native, terror-struck, is hiding behind a. 


tree so as not to be taken. The text explains that the drawing 
represents a real incident, and that the fear of the native came 
from his belief that there is an evil spirit in the camera, and 
adds that, on finding out that after all he was in the group, 
the poor fellow instantly disappeared from the camp. Is there 
not for all of us something uncanny in that black box turned 
towards us bent on snatching from us the film or image of our 
very self ? 

The other instances of C.'s fear point to a like superstitious 
frame of mind at this time. Thus in the last month he 
happened one day to see some white -linen swaying in the 
breeze on a hill not far off. He took it for a light and was 
afraid, saying it was a wolf. This was, we are told, his first 
experience of ghosts. At the same date he showed fear when 
passing through a wood with his father about nine o'clock on a 
summer evening. Though his father was carrying him he 
said he could not help being afraid of the dark. He fancied 
there must be wolves in the dark. He afterwards informed his 
father that his sister had told him so. The wolf appears at 
this time (by a quaint confusion of zoology) to have been the 
descendant of his old bete noire, the "bow-wow". "Have 
we," writes the father, " a sort of parallel here to the super- 
stition of the were-wolf so familiar in folk-lore ? " 

A new development of angry outburst is recorded. In the 
third month, to the horror of his parents and the disgust of his 
sister, he positively took to biting others, an action, it is need- 
less to say, which he could not have picked up from his highly 
.respectable human environment. Was this, asks the father, 
with praiseworthy detachment of mind, an instinct, a survival 
of primitive brute-like habit, and happily destined in the case 
of a child born into a civilised society, like other instincts, as 
pilfering, to be rudimentary and transient ? 

As implied in the account of his much questioning, the 
feeling which was most strongly marked and dominant during 
this year was wonder. His father would surprise him some- 
times standing on the sofa and looking at an engraving of 
Guide's " Aurora " hanging on the wall above. The woman's 
figure in front, perfectly buoyant on the air, the horses and 


chariot firmly planted on the cloud, all this fascinated his 
Attention and filled him with delightful astonishment. 

With wonder there often went in these days sore perplexity 
of spirit. The order of things was not only intricate and 
difficult to take apart, it seemed positively wrong. That 
animals should be beaten, slaughtered, eaten by his own kith 
and kin, this, as already hinted, filled him with dismay. In 
odd contrast to this, he would protest with equal warmth 
against any ordinance which affected his own comfort. Thus, 
having on one occasion (middle of seventh month) taken a 
lively interest in the manufacture of jellies, custards, and other 
dainties, and having learned the next day that they had been 
disposed of by a company of guests, he asked his mother queru- 
lously why she had " wisitors," and then added in a comical 
tone of self-compassion, " Didn't the ' wisitors ' know you had 
a little boy ? " " It is odd to note," writes the father, " how a 
humane concern for the lower creation coexisted with utter 
indifference to the duties of hospitality. Perhaps, however," 
he adds, succumbing to paternal weakness, and saying the 
best he can for his boy, " there was no real contradiction here. 
The compassionateness of childhood goes forth to weak, 
defenceless things, and to C.'s mind the ' wisitors ' may very 
likely have appeared as over-fed, greedy monsters who robbed 
poor children of their small perquisites." 

The wondering impulse of the child assumed now and 
again a quasi-religious form in speculations about death and 
heaven. Early in the year he had lost his grandpapa by 
sudden death, and the event set his thoughts in this direction. 
In the ninth month his mother read him Wordsworth's well- 
known story, "Lucy Gray". He was much saddened by 
the account of Lucy's death. On hearing the line " In heaven 
we all shall meet,'' he began questioning his mother about 
heaven. She gave him the popular description of heaven, but 
apparently in a way that left him uncertain as to whether she 
believed what she said. Whereupon he exclaimed: 'We shall 
meet,' and then after a moment's pause, as though not quite 
certain, added, * shan't we ? ' Five weeks later, when driving 
an the country with his mother on a lovely May day, he was 


in his happiest mood, looking at the flowers in the fields and' 
hedgerows, and suddenly exclaimed : " I shall never die ! "" 
The question of immortality (observes the father) had thus- 
early begun to wring the child's soul. 

There are, I regret to say, in this chapter, hardly any re- 
marks about the development of the child's will and moral 
character. The father appears to have been disproportionately 
interested in the boy's intellectual advancement. The reader 
is left to hope that Master C. was growing a more orderly and 
law-abiding child than the incident of the biting would suggest. 
The one remark which can be brought under this head refers- 
to the growth of practical intelligence in applying rules to- 
action. C. had been told it was well to keep nice things to the 
end, and he proceeded to work out the consequences of the 
rule in an amusing fashion. Thus we read (end of eleventh 
month) that he would take all the currants out of his cake and 
stick them round the corner of his plate so as to eat them last. 
A still more amusing instance of the same thing occurred about 
the same date. On putting him to bed one evening his mother 
noticed that he carefully sought out the middle of the bed, say- 
ing to himself, " I'll keep these last". Questioned by her as- 
to what he meant by 'these,' he explained, " These nice cool 
places at the edge of the bed ". " Children," remarks the 
chronicler, " do not drop their originality even when they 
make a show of following our lead. Obedience would be far 
more tedious than it is but for the occasional opportunities of a 
play of inventive fancy in the application of a rule to new and 
out-of-the-way cases." 

Fifth Year. 

With the fifth year we enter upon a new phase of the diary. 
The father appears now to have finally abandoned the trans- 
parent pretence of a methodical record of progress, and he 
limits himself to a fuller account of a few selected incidents. 
Very noticeable is the introduction of something like prolonged 
dialogue between the child and one of his parents. 

The boy continued to take a lively interest in objects and 
to note them with care. Here is an illustration of his atten- 


tion to natural phenomena. He was walking out (end of fifth 
month) with his father on their favourite Heath towards sunset, 
when he asked : " What are these pretty things I see after 
looking at the sun ? When I move my eyes they begin to 
move about.'' The father said he might call them fairy suns. 
He then wanted to know whether they were real. He said : 
" When they seem to be on the path they disappear wfren I go 
up to them ". Later on he began to romance about the 
spectral discs that he saw after looking at a red sun, calling 
them fire balloons and saying that there was a fairy in each 
one of them. 1 

A quaint example of his attention to the form of objects, 
as well as of his odd childish mode of thought, comes out in 
a talk with his mother (end of seventh month). She had been 
reading to him from Alice in Wonderland, where the caterpillar 
tells Alice that one side of a mushroom would make her grow 
taller, and one side shorter, which set Alice wondering what the 
side of a mushroom could be. C. could not sympathise with 
Alice's perplexity, and said to his mother : " Why, a mushroom 
is all ends and sides. Wherever you stand it's an end or a 
side." The father thinks he sees here a dim apprehension of 
the idea that a circle is formed by an infinite number of straight 
lines, but he is possibly reading too much into the boy's thought. 

His observation of colour continued. One day (end of 
seventh month) he was overheard by his father saying to him- 
self (without any suggestion from another) that a particular 
colour " came next " to another. His father thereupon ques- 
tioned him and elicited that orange came next to red. Asked 
' What else ? ' he answered yellow. Dark brown came next to 
black, a lighter brown to red, purple next to blue, pink to red, 
and so forth. Asked what green came next to, he answered : 
" I don't know " ; from which it would appear that he had 
pretty clearly observed the affinities of colours. 

He showed himself observant of people's ways too. Here 
is a funny example of his attention to his sister's habits of 
speech. One evening (end of sixth month) when his sister was 
out at a party he had a cracker which he wished to give her 

1 Compare above, p. 102 f. 


" as a surprise". So he told his mother to put it under the 
table, and added: "When E. comes in, and after she says, 

* Well ! how've you been getting on ? ' then you must say : 

* Look under the table'". 

His memory, as the foregoing incident may show, was 
growing tenacious and exact. This exactitude showed itself in 
almost a pedantic fashion with respect to words. Here is a 
funny example (end of sixth month). He had a new story- 
book, The Princess Nobody, illustrated by R. Doyle. His 
mother had read it to him about four or five times during the 
three weeks he had possessed it. One Sunday evening his 
father read it to him as a treat. In one place the story runs : 
" One day when the king had been counting out his money all 
day," which the father carelessly read as " counting out all 
his money ". The child at once pulled up and corrected his 
sire, saying, " No, papa, 'tis ' counting out all the day his 
money ' ". He had remembered the ideas and the words though 
not the precise order. The jealous regard of the child for the 
text of his sacred books in the face of would-be mutilators is 
one of those traits which, while perfectly childish, have a 
quaint old-fashioned look. 

The dreamy worship of fairies passed into a new and even 
more blissful phase this year. Before the close of the third 
month C. was actually brought into contact with one of these 
dainty white-clad beings. The memorable occasion was a 
girl's costume ball, to which he was taken as a spectator. 
Among the younger girls present was one dressed as a fairy, 
in short white gauze, golden crown, and the rest. C. was at 
first dazed by the magnificence of the assembly and shrank 
back shyly to his mother's side ; but after this white sylph had 
been pointed out to him as a fairy, and when she came up to 
him and spoke to him, he was transported with delight. 
Hitherto the fairy had never been nearer to him than on a 
circus stage : now he had one close to him and actually talked 
with her ! He firmly believed in the supernatural character of 
this small person, and on his return home proceeded to tell 
cook with radiant face how he had seen a live fairy and spoken 
to her. He added that his sister had never spoken to one. 


This last might easily look like a touch ot malicious ' crowing' : 
yet the father appears to think that the boy meant only to 
deepen the mystery of the revelation by pointing out that it 
was without precedent. 

The weaving of fairy legend now went on vigorously. 
Sometimes when out on a walk and observing a scene he 
would suddenly drop into his dream-mood and spin a pretty 
romance. This happened one Sunday in winter (beginning of 
seventh month), as he stood and watched the skaters on a 
pond. He said his fairies could skate, and he talked more 
particularly of his favourite Pinkbill, whom, he said, he 
now saw skating, though nobody else was privileged to see 
her, and who loved to skate at night on tiny pools which were 
quite big for her. " Delightful days (writes the father, who 
is rather apt to gush in these later chapters), when one holds 
a wondrous world of beauty in one's own breast, safe from all 
prying eyes, to be whispered of perhaps to one's dearest, but 
never to be shown." 

The full enjoyment of this supernal world was during sleep. 
C. often spoke of his lovely dreams. One morning (middle of 
fourth month) when still in bed, he engaged his mother in the 
following talk : C. " Do you have beautiful dreams, mamma?" 
Mother. " No, dear, I don't dream much." C. " Oh, if you 
want to dream you must hide your head in the pillow and shut 
your eyes tight." Mother. " Is dreaming as good as hearing 
stories ? " C. " Oh, yes, I should think so. One gets to know 
about all sorts of things one didn't know anything about 
"before." Dreams (writes the father) came to him like his fire- 
balloons by shutting his eyes tight, and perhaps his story- 
books were the real suns of which his dreams were the ' after- 
images '. 

As the use of the grown-up and high-bred vocable " one " 
the first instance observed, by-the-bye, suggests, C. was 
making rapid strides in the use of language. By the middle 
of the year, we are told, he could articulate all sounds including 
the initial y and th when he tried to do so. He gave to the a 
sound an unusual degree of broadness, a fact which lent to his 
speech a comical air of learned superiority. This was of course 


especially the case when, as still happened, he would slip into 
such solecisms as ' I were ' and * Weren't I ? ' He would still 
use some quaint original expressions. It may interest the 
philologist to know that he quite spontaneously got into the 
way of using ' spend ' for ' cost,' as in asking one day (begin- 
ning of third month), on seeing a frill in a shop window : 
' How much does this frill spend ? ' and also of making ' learn' 
do duty for ' teach,' as when (end of tenth month) he asked 
his mother, pointing to a globe : " When are you going to 
learn me that ball ? " 

He continued quite seriously and with no thought of pro- 
ducing an effect to frame new words more or less after the 
analogy of those in use. Thus one day (middle of third month) 
he surprised his parents by bringing out the verb ' firework- 
ing ' in reference to the coming festivities of the fifth of Novem- 
ber. Sometimes, too, he would amuse them by trotting out 
some * grown-up ' phrase which he generally used with clear 
insight, though now and again he would miss the precise shade 
of meaning. Thus it happened (about middle of fifth month) 
that he had been taking tea at the house of some girl friends, 
and on his return his mother questioned him about his doings, 
and in particular what his host had said to him. C. pondered 
for a moment and then said : " Oh ! nothing surprising". 

This progress in the use of language indicated a higher 
power of mental abstraction. This was seen among other 
ways in the attainment of much clearer ideas about number. 
In the second month of the year he was able, we are told, to 
define the relations of the simpler numbers, saying that four 
was one less than five, and so on. That he had his own way 
of counting is evident from the following story, which dates 
from the middle of the same month. When walking with his 
mother on the Heath he found four crab apples. He observed to 
her: "How nice it would be, mamma, if I could find two 
more ! " His mother replied : " Yes. How many would you 
have then, C. ? " To this C. responded in his grave business- 
like tone : " Wait a minute," then got down on his knees, put 
the four apples in a row, and then proceeded to the mysterious 
ceremony of counting. He began by saying ' one, two ' to 


himself, then on reaching the " three " he pointed to the first 
of the row, using the apples to help him in adding the four 
last digits. He appears, says the father, to have imagined or 
1 visualised ' the first two units, and then used the visible 
objects for the rest of the operation not a bad way, one would 
say, of turning the apples to this simple arithmetical use. 

That he visualised distinctly when counting is illustrated 
by another incident dating three weeks later. His mother, 
as was her wont, was seeing him into bed. Before 
climbing on to the bed he put on the coverlid a number of 
small toy treasures. When tucked up he opened up the follow- 
ing dialogue. C. " Put my toys in the drawer, mamma." 
M. " I have done it, dear." C. ' How many were there ? " 
M. 'Three.' C. "Oh no, there were four." M. "Are you 
sure, dear ? What were they ? " C., after sitting up and 
pointing successively to imaginary objects on the coverlid : 
" One, two, three, four, two dollies, a tin soldier, and a 

His interest in physical phenomena continued to manifest 
itself in questionings. He would spring his problems in physics 
on his patient parents at the most unexpected moments. 
For instance, when sitting at table one day (end of first month ) 
he observed quite suddenly, and in no discoverable connexion 
with what had been happening before : " There's one thing 
I can't imagine. How is it, papa, that when we put our hand 
into the water we don't make a hole in it ? " It would be 
curious to know how the father dealt with this hydrostatic 

The other inquiries recorded about this time have, oddly 
enough, to do with water. It looks as if water were dividing 
with number just now the activity of his brain. Thus he 
asked one day when staying at the sea-side (middle of second 
month) : " How does all the water come into the world ? '' 
His mind was also greatly exercised about the hydrostatic 
puzzle of things sinking and swimming (floating). 

There are hardly any examples of a reasoning process this 
year. One of these, however, is perhaps characteristic enough to 
deserve reproduction. One day (middle of fourth month) when 


his mind was running on the great problems of counting, his 
sister happened to speak about a large number of chestnuts 
(over 200). This excited C.'s imagination, and he exclaimed : 
" Why, even Goliath couldn't count them ". The idea that 
mere bulk should measure intellectual capacity was delicious, 
and C.'s remark was no doubt received with a peal of laughter 
to which the bewildered little inquirer into the mysteries of things 
must by this time have been getting hardened. And yet, writes 
the apologetic father, C.'s reasoning was not so utterly silly as 
it looks, for in his daily measurement of his own faculties with 
those of others what had impressed him most deeply was 
that knowledge is the prerogative of big folk. 

With respect to C.'s emotional development during this 
year, I am pleased to be able to record a diminution in the 
outbursts of angry passion. There seems to have been no 
more biting, and altogether he was growing less homicidal and 
more human. It is only to be expected that the father should set 
down these paroxysms of rage to temporary physical conditions. 

Among feelings which were still strong and frequently 
manifested was fear. He had no fear of the dark, and did 
not in the least mind being left alone when put to bed. But 
he was weakly timid in relation to other things, e.g., the 
tepid morning bath, from which he shrank as from a horror. 
His bravery was as yet an infinitesimal quantity, as we may 
see from the following anecdote. His mother was one day 
(end of fourth month) talking to him about the self-denying 
bravery of captains of ships when shipwrecked. She asked 
him whether he would not like to be brave too, adding 
for his encouragement that many timid little boys like him had 
grown up to be brave men. Upon this I regret to say that 
C. asked sceptically, " Do they ? " and then added, with a little 
impatient wriggle of his body, " I am going to be a painter, 
and painters don't need to be brave ". The mother pursued 
the subject saying : " But if when you are big we all go to 
sea and get shipwrecked, wouldn't you wish mamma and E. 
to get into the boat before you ? " C. managed to parry even 
this home-drive, answering: " Oh, yes, but I should get in the 
very minute after you ". 


A noticeable change occurred during this period in what 
the Germans call " self-feeling ". A consciousness of growing 
power gave a certain feeling of dignity and even of superiority 
which often betrayed itself in his words and actions. Although, 
so far as I can gather, a pretty boy, and a good deal admired 
for his golden hair, he does not seem to have set much store 
by his good looks. One day (towards end of sixth month) a 
grown-up cousin remarked at table that he had had his hair 
cut : whereupon ensued this talk. Mother (to cousin). " It 
looks better now that it is cut." C. " Oh, no, it was prettier 
before." Cousin. " Oh, you think you've got pretty hair." 
C. (unhesitatingly). "Oh, yes." Cousin. " Who told you your 
hair was pretty ? " C. " Mamma." " All this," writes the 
father, " was said very quietly, and without the least appear- 
ance of vanity. He might have been talking about the hair of 
another person, or of a head in one of his pictures. His interest 
here seemed to be much more in correcting his mother and 
bringing her into consistency with former statements than in 
laying claim to prettiness." 

On the other hand, the child does certainly appear to have 
plumed himself a good deal on his intellectual possessions. It 
is to be noted that about this time he grew unpleasantly 
assertive and controversial. He would even sometimes stick 
to his own view of things when contradicted by his parents. 
He prided himself more particularly on being " sensible," 
as he called it. His eagerness to be thought so may be 
illustrated by the following incident. He and his mother had 
been reading a story in which a little girl speaks of her mother 
as the best mother in the world. Whereupon in a weak 
moment his mother asked him, " Do you think your mother 
the best in the world, dear?" To this C. replied, "Well, I 
think you are good, but not the best in the world. That would 
not be sensible, would it, mamma ? " We are not told how 
this Cordelia-like moderation was received. 

To many people, mothers especially, there might well 
seem to be a touch of the prig in this exact weighing of words 
when it was a question only of the exaggeration of love. I regret 
to say that about this same time a tendency to priggishness 


did certainly show itself in a critical air of superiority to- 
wards girls of his own age. When about four years eight 
months he was sent to stay for a few days at the house of a 
lady friend where there was a girl about his own age, who 
seems to have been a lively mischievous young person, 
delighting in 'drawing' her grave boy comrade. On his return 
home he entertained his mother by expressing his feeling 
respecting his new companion. He said : " I don't like E.'s 
looks. She looks naughty. Her cheeks look naughty " (and 
he puffed out his own cheeks by way of illustration). He 
added : " She looks naughty about here," pointing to his 
forehead just above the eyes. He then proceeded to describe 
the measures he had taken for correcting her naughtiness. 

" One day," he said, " when she was naughty, I told her 
about dynamite men, and she was naughty after that. And 
then I told her about the dynamite men being put in prison, 
and she was naughty even then." On this his mother inter- 
posed : " Why ever did you talk about dynamite men, dear ? " 
C. " Because I thought it would make her better. Perhaps if I 
could have told her what sort of a place a prison was that 
would have made her better. But I didn't know." Then after 
a pause : " What do they put people in prison for, mamma ? " 

M. " For stealing, hurting other people, and telling 

C. (abruptly). " Oh, E. tells a lot of stories." 

M. " Oh no, E. doesn't tell stories." 

C. " Yes, she does. When I say yes she says no, and I 
know that I am right." 

He talked of this same experience of feminine frailty to 
others, remarking to one of his lady friends that E. had not 
said a sensible thing all the week he was staying with her. 
He also attacked his father on the subject, and after illustrating 
her odd way of contradicting others, he observed : " She's are 
never as sensible as he's, I suppose, are they, papa ? especially 
if a boy is older ". 

The father asked him if he had shown his displeasure to 
his girl playmate, to which he replied : " I didn't show my 
angriness;" and after a pause: "I'd better not show how 


angry I can be, I'm too strong and too big, ain't I ? " As a 
matter of fact he had once, at least, been so ungallant as to 
strike his companion on her nose with one of his toys, select- 
ing this objective for his attack apparently for no other reason 
than that it was already disfigured by a scratch. He wound 
up this disquisition on E.'s shortcomings by an attempt at a 
magnanimous allowance for her weakness : " I b'lieve she 
tries not to say these things because she knows they will tease 
me, but I think she can't help it ; " and he repeated this as if to 
emphasise the point. 

Even our much-biassed chronicler is obliged to own that 
all this is a lamentable exhibition of boyish swagger, and 
particularly out of place in one born in these enlightened days, 
when, as we all know, ' she's ' are as good as ' he's,' if not a 
great deal better. The only palliation of the unpleasant picture 
of coxcombry which he offers is the information that a year 
or too later C.'s views about girls were profoundly modified 
when he found himself in a school where a girl of his own age 
could beat him at certain things of the mind. 

The growing vigour of his self-consciousness was shown 
in other ways too. He was much hurt by anything which 
seemed to him an invasion of his liberty. About the end 
of the sixth month, we read, he had got into * finicking ' 
ways of taking his food. Thus he conceived a strong dislike 
for the * cream ' on his boiled milk. If anybody attempted to 
cross him in these faddish ways he would be greatly offended. 
It looks as if he were at this time getting a keen sense of 
private rights, any interference with which he regarded as an 

The story about what he would do if his family were ship- 
wrecked suggests that self-sacrifice was as yet not a strong 
element in the boy's moral constitution. Egoism, it might 
well seem, was still the foundation of his character. This 
egoism would peep out now and again in his talk. One day 
(middle of eighth month) when the family was lodging in a 
cottage his mother had reason to scold him for walking on the 
flower-beds in the cottage garden. Whereupon he answered : 
" It isn't your garden, it's Mr. G.'s ". To this the mother 


observed : " I know, dear, but I have to be all the more par- 
ticular because it is not mine " ; which observation drew forth 
the following : " I should think Mr. G. would be all the more 
particular because it is his ". It was evident, writes the father, 
from this somewhat cynical observation that caring for things 
and resenting any injury to them seemed to C. to devolve on 
the owner and on nobody else. 

He himself certainly did repel any encroachment on his 
rights. Here is an amusing illustration, One day (the end 
of seventh month) he was playing on the Heath under 
the eye of his mother. He had put on one of the seats a lot 
of grass and sand as fodder for his wooden horse. While he 
went away for a minute a strange nurse and children arrived, 
making a perfectly legitimate use of the bench by seating 
themselves on it, and in order to get room brushing away the 
precious result of his foraging expedition. On coming back 
and seeing what had happened he turned to his mother and 
swelling with indignation exclaimed loudly : " What do you 
mean by it, letting these children move away my things ? " 
Of course this was intended to intimidate the real culprits, the 
children. Finding that they were not abashed at this, but on 
the contrary were looking at one another with a look of high-bred 
astonishment, he turned to them and shouted : " What do you 
mean by it ? " This outburst, observes the father, showed a 
preternatural heat of indignation, for in general he was very 
distant and reserved towards strange children. 

Yet C. was very far from being wholly absorbed in himself 
and his own interests. It cannot be said indeed that self 
monopolised the intensest of his feelings, for he felt just as 
strongly for others too. There was, we are told, a marked 
development of sympathy during this year. His sister was 
now away from home at school, and the absence seems to have 
drawn out kindly feeling. So that when, on one occasion 
(middle of seventh month), his father and aunt were going to 
visit her, and to take her to the Crystal Palace, though he 
wanted dreadfully to go himself, he made a great effort, and in 
answer to his father's question, what message he had for his 
sister, answered a little tremulously, " Give her my love," and 


then, waxing more valiant, added, "I hope she will enjoy 
herself at Crystal Palace ". 

Some months later (end of ninth month), he proved him- 
self considerate for his father, whose repugnance to noises 
has already been alluded to. A man had come to repair a 
window and his father had been forced to stop his work and to 
go out. On his return C. met him in the garden and asked him 
loudly, evidently so that the man might hear, " Does that man 
disturb you, papa ? " He had previously talked to his mother 
in an indignant way about the noises which disturbed his 
father. About a fortnight after this, on hearing some children 
make an uproar in the passage, he asked indignantly, "What 
are those children about, making papa not do his work ? " " He 
was at this time," writes the father, " transferring some of that 
chivalrous protection which he first bestowed on animals to 
his own kith and kin. He became to me just at this time 
something of a guardian angel." 

His compassion for the lower creation had meanwhile by 
no means lessened. Here is a story which shows how the 
killing of animals by human hands still tortured his young 
heart. One day (towards end of fourth month) he was looking 
at his beloved picture-book of animals. Apropos of a picture 
of some seals he began a talk with his mother in the usual 
way by asking her a question. 

C. " What are seals killed for, mamma ? " 

M. " For the sake of their skins and oil." 

C. (turning to a picture of a stag). " Why do they kill the 
stags ? They don't want their skins, do they ? " 

M. " No, they kill them because they like to chase them." 

C. " Why don't policemen stop them ? " 

M. " They can't do that, because people are allowed to kill 

C. (loudly and passionately). " Allowed, allowed ? People 
are not allowed to take other people and kill them." 

M. " People think there is a difference between killing men 
and killing animals." 

C. was not to be pacified this way. He looked woe-begone 
and said to his mother piteously, " You don't understand me ". 


He added that he would tell his friend the Heath-keeper about 
these things. 

The father observes on this : "There was something almost 
heart-breaking in that cry ' You don't understand me '. How 
can we, with minds blinded by our conventional habits and 
prejudices, hope to catch the subtle and divine light which is 
reflected from the untarnished mirror of a child's mind ? " Some- 
how, the father's sentimental comments seem less out of place 
here. But already the boy's wrestlings of spirit with the 
dreadful ' must,' which turns men into killers, were proving too 
much for his young strength. He was learning, sullenly 
enough, to adjust his eye to the inevitable realities. This 
accommodation of thought to stern necessity was illustrated by 
an incident which occurred at the end of the fourth month. 
He had had some leaden soldiers given him at Christmas. 
Some time after this he had been observed to break off their 
guns. His mother now asked him why he had broken them 
off. He replied : " Oh ! that was when I didn't know what 
soldiers were for, when I thought they were just naughty men 
who liked to kill people". On his mother then asking him 
what he now thought soldiers were for, he explained : "Oh! 
when some people want to do harm to some other people, then 
those other people must send their soldiers to fight them, to 
stop them from doing harm ". 

One moral quality had, it seems, always been distinctly 
marked in C., viz., a scrupulous regard for truth. His father 
believes the child had never knowingly made a false statement, 
save playfully, when throwing for a moment the reins on the 
neck of fancy and allowing it to come dangerously near the 
confines of truth. This scrupulosity the father connects, 
reasonably enough, with certain intellectual qualities, as close 
observation and accurate description of what was observed. 
Sometimes this scrupulous veracity would display itself in 
a quaint form. One morning (end of tenth month) C. was 
obstinate and would not say his lesson to his mother, so that 
she had to threaten him with forfeiture of his toys till the 
lesson was got through. On this C. said rebelliously : " Very 
well, I won't say them ". His mother then talked to him 


about his naughtiness. He grew very unhappy, and said 
sobbing and looking the very picture of misery : " It's a good 
deal worse to break my promise than not to say my lesson ". 

Another incident of about the same date throws a curious 
light on the quality of his moral feeling at this period. He had 
been out one afternoon in the garden with a girl companion of 
about his own age, and the two little imps between them had 
managed to strip that unpretending garden of its spring glory, 
to wit, about twenty buds of peonies. The sacrilege betrayed 
itself in C.'s red-dyed fingers. A condign chastisement was 
administered by the mother, and the culprit was sent to bed 
immediately after tea in the hope that solitude might bring 
reflexion and remorse. In order to ensure so desirable a 
result the mother before leaving him in bed enlarged on the 
heinousness of the offence. At last he began to get downright 
miserable, and the mother, expectant of a confession of guilt, 
overheard him say to himself: "I'm so sorry I picked the 
flowers. I didn't have half enough tea." The next day, 
referring to his mischievous act, his mother happened to say : 
" You were not sorry for it at the time ". Whereupon he 
burst out in a contemptuous tone : " Eh ! you didn't suppose I 
was sorry at the time ? I liked doing it." " Shocking enough, 
no doubt," writes the father on this in his characteristic manner, 
"yet may we not see in this defiant avowal of enjoyment in 
wrong-doing the germ of a true remorse, which in its essence 
is the resolute confronting of the lower by the higher self ? " 

His mind was still occupied about the mysteries of God, 
death, and heaven. Following the example of his sister he 
would occasionally on going to bed quite spontaneously say 
his prayers. One evening at the end of the eleventh month, 
having knelt down and muttered over some words, he asked 
his mother whether she had heard him. She said no, and he 
remarked that he had not wished her to hear. On her asking 
why not, he rejoined: " If anybody hears what I say perhaps 
God won't listen to me," which seems to suggest that talking to 
God was to him something particularly confidential, what he 
himself once described as telling another a " private secret "a 

i Compare above p. 283 f. 



When his mother asked him what he had been praying for he 
said it was for a fine day on his birthday. He thought much 
of God as the maker of things, and wondered. One day 
(middle of tenth month) he asked how God made us and " put 
flesh on us," and made " what is inside us ". He then proceeded 
to invent a little theory of creation. " I s'pose he made stone 
men and iron men first, and then made real men." "This 
myth," writes the father, " might readily suggest that the 
child had been hearing about the stone and the iron age, and 
about sculptors first modelling their statues in another material. 
It seems probable, however, that it was invented by a purely 
childish thought as a way of clearing up the mystery of the 
living thinking man." There is subsequent evidence that 
his theory did not fully satisfy him. In the eleventh month he 
continued to ask how God made things, and wanted to know 
whether ' preachers ' could resolve his difficulty. (His sister 
appears about this time to have had the common childish 
awe for the clergy.) On learning from his mother that 
even these well-informed persons might not be able to satisfy 
all his questions, he observed : " Well, anyhow, if we go to 
heaven when we die we shall know," and added after a pause, 
"and if we don't it doesn't much matter". "From this," 
writes the father, " it seems fully clear that the child was 
beginning to adjust his mind to the fact of mystery, to the 
existence of an impenetrable region of the unknown." 

C.'s deepest interest just now in religious matters grew out 
of the feelings awakened by the thought of death. In the early 
part of the year he plied his mother with questions about death 
and burial. He was manifestly troubled about the prospect of 
being put under ground. One night (end of third month) when 
his mother was seeing him to bed, he said : " Don't put earth 
on my face when I am buried". The touch of the bed-clothes 
on his face had no doubt suggested the stifling effect of the 
earth. About the same date he remarked in his characteristic 
abrupt manner, after musing for some time : " Mamma, perhaps 
the weather will be very, very fine, much finer than we have 
ever seen, when we are not there ". The mother was not un- 
naturally puzzled by this dark utterance and asked him what 


he meant. He replied : " I mean when we are buried, and then 
we shall be very sorry". " Who can tell," writes the father, 
" what this fancy of lying under the ground, yet catching the 
whispering of the most delicious of summer breezes, and the far- 
off touch of the gladdest of sunbeams, and the faint scent of 
the sweetest of flowers, may have meant for the wee dreamy 
sensitive creature ? " 

The following dialogue between C. and his mother at the 
beginning of the fourth month may further illustrate his feeling 
about this subject. 

C. " Why must people die, mamma ? " 

M. " They get worn out, and so can't live always, just as 
the flowers and leaves fade and die." 

C. " Well, but why can't they come to life again just like 
the flowers ? " 

M. " The same flowers don't come to life again, dear." 

C. " Well, the little seed out of the flower drops into the 
earth and springs up again into a flower. Why can't people 
do like that? " 

M. " Most people get very tired and want to sleep for 

C. " Oh ! / shan't want to sleep for ever, and when I am 
buried I shall try to wake up again ; and there won't be any 
earth on my eyes, will there, mamma ? " 

The difficulty of coupling the fact of burial with after- 
existence in heaven then began to trouble him. One day 
(middle of eighth month) he and his mother were passing a 
churchyard. He looked intently at the gravestones and asked : 
" Mamma, it's only the naughty people who are buried, isn't 
it ? " Being asked why he thought so he continued : " Because 
auntie said all the good people went to heaven ". On his 
mother telling him that all people are buried he said : " Oh, 
then heaven must be under the ground, or they couldn't get 
there ". Another way by which he tried to surmount the difficulty 
was by supposing that God would have to come up through 
the ground to take us to heaven. He clung tenaciously to the 
idea of heaven as an escape from the horror of death. That 
the hope of heaven was the core of his religious belief is seen 


in the following little talk between him and his mother and 
sister one evening at the end of the first month. 

C. " Does God ever die ?" 

E. (the sister). " No, dear, and when we die God will take 
us to live with him in heaven." 

C. (to mother). " Will he, mamma? " 

M. " I hope so, dear." 

C. " Well, what is God good for if he won't take us to 
heaven when we die ? " l 

Sixth Year. 

The sixth year, the last with which the diary attempts 
to deal, is very meagrely represented. The observation was 
plainly becoming intermittent and lax. I have, however, 
thought it worth while to complete this sketch of a child's 
mental development by a reference to this fragmentary 

The child continued to be observant of the forms of things. 
He began to attend the Kindergarten at the beginning of this 
year, and this probably served to develop his visual observa- 
tion. We have, however, no very striking illustrations of his 
perceptual powers. It might interest the naturalist to know 
that he compared the head of Mr. Darwin, which he saw in a 
photograph, to that of an elephant, and being asked why he 
thought them like one another, answered : " Because it is so 
far from the top of the head to the ear ". Perhaps admirers of 
our great naturalist may be ready to pardon the likening of their 
hero's head to that of one of the most intelligent of the large 
animal family which he showed to be our kinsfolk. 

Another remark of his at about the same date seems to 
show that he still entertained a particularly gross form of the 
animistic conception that things are double, and that there is a 
second filmy body within the solid tangible one. He was look- 
ing at the pictures in Darwin's Descent of Man, and came 
on some drawings of the human embryo. His mother asked 
him what they looked like, and he replied : " Why, like the 

*On children's attempts to understand about being buried and 
going to heaven, see above, p. 120 ff. 


inside of persons of course ". Asked to explain this he pointed 
to the head, the eye, the stomach, and so forth. 

He spontaneously began to talk (middle of eighth month) 
about opposition of colours. He was looking at his coloured 
soldiers and talking to himself in this wise : " Which colour 
is most opposite colour to blue ? " He said that red was its 
opposite, not yellow as suggested by his father, in which 
opinion he probably has a good many older people on his side. 
He also observed to his father at the same date : " I tell you, 
papa, what two colours are very like one another, blue and 
green ". The father remarks, however, that he was now 
mixing pigments and using them, and that the knowledge so 
gained probably made him bring blue and green nearer to one 
another than he used to do. 

An opportunity of testing his memory occurred at the 
beginning of the sixth month. He met a gentleman who had 
been kind to him during that memorable visit to the sea-side 

village D just three and a half years before, and whom he 

had not seen since. His father asked the child whether he 
knew Mr. S. He looked at him steadily, and answered yes. 
Asked where he had seen him, he answered: " Down at 
". He had forgotten the name of the place. On his 
father further asking him what he remembered about him he 
said : " He made me boats and sailed them in a pool ". This 
was quite correct. So far as the father can say the fact had 
not been spoken of to him since the time. If this is so, it 
seems worth recording that a child of five and a half should 
recall such distinct impressions of what had occurred when he 
was only just two. 

Fancy, the old frisky, wonder-working fancy, was now 
getting less active. At least, we meet this year with none of 
the pretty fairy-myths of earlier years. So far as the journal 
tells us, it was only in sleep that C. entered the delightful 
region of wonderland. Here is a quaint dream of his (end of 
fifth month). It was Christmas time, and he had been seeing 
a huge prize-ox, a shaggy Highland fellow with big head and 
curled horns. He had taken a violent fancy to it and wanted 
his father to draw it for him. A morning or two afterwards he 



told his father that he had had a funny dream. Both his father 
and his mother were turned into oxen, and it was a "very nice 
dream ". 

For the rest, the brain of our little Kindergartner was being 
engrossed with the business of getting knowledge, and, as a 
result of this fancy, was being taken in hand by sober under- 
standing and drilled to the useful and necessary task of 
discovering truth. 

We get one or two pretty glimpses of the boy trundling 
his hoop beside his father in a late evening walk and now and 
again stopping to ask questions. Here is one (end of third 
month) : They were walking home together across the sands 
at Hunstanion at the rosy sun-set hour. C. was much im- 
pressed and began asking his father how far off the sun was. 
On finding out that the clouds were not a hard substance but 
could be passed through, he wanted to know what was on the 
other side. " Is it another world, papa, like this ? " 

Shortly after this date he was talking about the size of the sun, 
when he remarked: " I s'pose the sun's big enough to put on the 
world and make see-saw ". He seemed to think of the sun as a 
disc, and imagined that it might be balanced on the earth-globe. 

What with home instruction and the ' lessons ' at the 
Kindergarten his little brain was being confronted with quite a 
multitude of new problems. It was interesting, remarks the 
father, to note how he would try to piece together the various 
scraps of knowledge he thus gathered. For instance, we find 
him in the ninth month trying hard to make something out of 
the motley presentations of the ' world ' which he had got from 
classical myths as known through the Tanglewood Tales and 
from his elementary geography lessons. He asked whether 
Atlas could stand in the middle of the sea and not be drowned. 
On his father's trying to evade this awkward question, the boy 
inquired whether the sea came half way up the world. Asked 
to explain what he meant, he continued : " You know the shore 
gets lower and lower or else the sea would not go out; and 
out in the middle it goes down very deep. Now, where the 
sea comes in, is that half way up the world ? " One would like 
to know how the father met this dark inquiry. 


He would sometimes apply his newly-gained knowledge in 
an odd fashion. One day (middle of ninth month), he observed 
that his porridge was hottest in the middle, and remarked : 
" That's just like the earth. It's hottest in the middle. There's 
real fire there." This smacks just a little perhaps of pedantry, 
and the child, on entering the new world of school-lore, is, we 
know, apt to display the pride of learning. Yet we must be- 
ware, writes the ever-apologetic father, of judging the child's 
ways too rigorously by our grown-up standards. 

The progress in the more abstract kind of thinking and in 
the correlative use of abstract language was very noticeable at 
this stage. An odd example of an original way of expressing 
a newly attained relation of thought occurred towards the end 
of the third month. C. was at this time much occupied with 
the subject of the bearing-rein, the cruelty of which he had learnt 
from a favourite story, the autobiography of a horse, called 
Black Beauty. One day when walking out, and, as was his 
wont, vigilantly observant of all passing horses, he said : 
"That horse has bearing-rein at all," by which he seems to 
have meant that the horse had it somewhere or wore it some- 
times. The use of expressions like these, which at once made 
his statements more cautious and showed a better grasp of the 
full sweep of a proposition, was very characteristic at this 

Even now, however, he found himself sometimes compelled to 
eke out his slender vocabulary by concrete and pictorial descrip- 
tions of the abstract. Thus one day (end of eighth month) he 
happened to overhear his father say that he should oppose a propo- 
sal of a member of the Library Committee to which he belonged. 
C., boy-like, interested in the prospect of a tussle, asked : "Who 

is the greatest man, you or Mr. ? " Asked by his father, 

who imagined that the child was thinking of a physical con- 
test with the honourable gentleman, " Do you mean taller ? " 
he answered : " No. Who is most like a king ? " In this 
wise, observes the chronicler, did he try to express his new- 
idea of authority or influence over others. 

While he thus pushed his way into the tangle of abstract 
ideas, he found himself now and again pulled up by a thorny 


obstacle. Some of us can remember how when young we had 
much trouble in learning to recognise the difference between the 
right and the left hand. C. experienced the same difficulty. One 
evening (towards the end of the eleventh month) after being put 
to bed he complained of a sore spot on his foot. Being asked 
on which foot, the right or the left, he said : " I can t tell when 
in bed. I can't say when my clothes are off. I know my 
right side by my pockets." It would seem as if the differences 
in the muscular and other sensations by help of which we come 
to distinguish the one side of the body from the other are too 
slight to be readily recognised, and that a clear intuition of this 
simple and fundamental relation of position is the work of a 
prolonged experience. 1 

By the end of the fourth month a month after joining the 
Kindergarten he was able to count up to a century. His 
interest in counting, which was particularly lively just now, is 
illustrated in the fact that in the fifth month, after showing 
himself very curious about the word ' fortnight,' saying again 
and again that it was a funny word, and asking what it meant, 
he put the question : " Does it mean fourteen nights ? " 

About the same date he proffered a definition of one of the 
most difficult of subjects. His mother had been trying to ex- 
plain the difference between poetry and prose by saying that 
the former describes beautiful things, when he suddenly in- 
terrupted her, exclaiming : " Oh yes, I know, it's language 
with ornaments ". But here the diary has, it must be confessed, 
the look of wishing to display the boy's accomplishments, a 
fault from which, on the whole, it is creditably free. 

As might be expected, the boy's reasoning was now much 
sounder, that is to say, more like our own. Yet now and again 

1 According to Professor Baldwin's observations the infant shows 
a decided right-handedness, that is, a disposition to reach out with 
the right hand rather than with the left, by the seventh or eighth 
month (quoted by Tracy, The Psychology of Childhood, p. 55). But of 
course this is a long way from a definite intuition and idea of the 
right and the left hand. Mr. E. Kratz finds that more than one- 
fourth of children of five coming to a primary school cannot distin- 
guish the right hand from the left. 


the old easy fashion of induction would crop up. Thus one 
day (towards end of ninth month) he was puzzled by the fact 
that boys of the same age might be of unequal size. This 
brought him to the old subject of growth, and he suggested 
quite seriously that the taller boys had had more sun. On 
his father saying : ' The sun makes plants grow,' he added : 
" And people too ". 

His questionings took about this time the direction of 
origins or beginnings. As with other children, God did not 
appear to be the starting-point in the evolution of things, 
and he once asked quite seriously (end of sixth month) : 
" What was God like in his younger days ? " With a like im- 
pulse to go back to absolute beginnings he inquired about the 
same date, after learning that chicken-pox was only caught 
from other animals : " What was the person or thing that first 
had chicken-pox ? " A little later (beginning of ninth month) 
he and a boy companion of nearly the same age were talking 
about the beginnings of human life. C. said " I can't make 
out how the first man in the world was able to speak. A word, 
you know, has a sound, and how did he find out what sound 
to make ? " His friend then said that his puzzle was how the 
first babies were nursed. This child seems to have set out 
with the supposition that the history of our race began with 
the arrival of babies. 

Very little is told us in this unfinished chapter of the child's 
emotional and moral development. As might be expected from 
the increase of intellectual activity the movements expressive 
of the feelings of strain and perplexity which accompany 
thought grew more distinct. In particular it was noticeable at 
this time that during the fits of thought the child's face would 
take on a quaint old-fashioned look, the eye-brows being 
puckered up and the eye-lids twitching. 

He continued very sensitive about the cruelties of the world, 
more especially towards animals. One day (at the end of the 
fifth month) his mother had been reading to him his favourite, 
Black Beauty, in which a war-horse describes to the equine 
author the horrors of war. C. was deeply affected by the 
picture, and at length exclaimed with much emphasis, " Oh, 


ma ! why do they do such things ? It's a beastly, beastly 
world," at the same time bursting into tears and hiding his face 
in his mother's lap. "So hard," writes the father, "did the 
boy still find it, notwithstanding his increased knowledge, to 
accept this human world as a right and just one." 

The religious thought and sentiment remained thoroughly 
childish. He was still puzzled about the relations of heaven 
and the grave. One day (end of sixth month) his father 
observed, looking at the Christmas pudding on the table 
wreathed with violet flame : " Oh, how I should like to be 
burned after death instead of being buried". On this C. 
looking alarmed said : "/ won't be burned. I shouldn't go to 
heaven then." On his father remarking: " 'Tisn't your body 
that goes to heaven," he continued: "But my .head does". 
Here, writes the father, we seem to perceive a transition from 
the old gross materialism of last year to a more refined form. 
C. was now, it may be presumed, localising the soul in the 
head, and clinging to the idea that at least that limited portion 
of our frame might manage to get away from the dark grave: to 
the bright celestial regions. It may be too, he adds, that this 
fa,ncy was aided by seeing pictures of detached cherub heads. 1 

A month or two later (beginning of ninth month) he began 
to attack the difficult problem of Divine fore-knowledge and 
free-will. His mother had been remonstrating with him about 
his naughty ways. He grew very miserable and said : "I 
can't make out how it is God doesn't make us good. I pray to 
him to make me good." To this his mother replied that he 
must help himself to be good. This only drew from C. the 
following protest : " Then what's the use of having God if 
we have to help ourselves ". " Even now," writes the father, 
" it looks as if God and heaven were for him institutions, the 
raison d'etre of which was their serviceableness to man." 

He brought to the consideration of prayer a childish sense 
of propriety which sometimes wore a quaint aspect. One da} 7 
(end of third month) on his return from the Kindergarten he 
asked his mother : " Does God teach us ? " and when bidden ex- 
plain his question continued : " Because they said that at school " 
1 Compare above, p. 123. 


(" Teach us to be good "). He then added : " But anyhow 
that isn't a proper way to speak to God". His notion of what 
was the proper way was illustrated in his own practice. One 
evening (end of sixth month) after his bath he was kneeling 
with his head on his mother's lap so that she might dry his 
hair. He began to pray half audibly in this wise : " Please, 
God, let me find out before my birthday, but at least on my 
birthday. ... So now good-bye ! " This ending, obviously 
borrowed from his sister's letters, was varied on another 
occasion in this way : " With my love, good-bye". 1 

It seems strange that the diary should break off at a time 
when there was so much of the quaint and pretty child-traits 
left to be observed. No explanation of the abrupt termination is 
offered, and I am only able to conjecture that the father was at this 
time pressed with other work, and that when he again found the 
needed leisure he discovered to his chagrin that time, aided by the 
school-drill, was already doing its work. We know that it is 
about this time that the artist, Nature, is wont to rub out the 
characteristic infantile lines in her first crude sketch of a human 
mind, and to elaborate a fuller and maturer picture. And 
while the onlooking parent may rejoice in the unfolding of the 
higher human lineaments, he cannot altogether suppress a 
pang at the disappearance of what was so delightfully fresh 
and lovely. 

I will close these extracts, following the father's own fashion, 
with a word of apology. C.'s doings and sayings have seemed 
to me worth recording, not because their author was in any 
sense a remarkable child, but solely because he was a true 
child. In spite of his habitual association with grown-up 
people he retained with childish independence his own ways 
of looking at things. No doubt something of the intellectual 
fop, of the assertive prig, peeps out now and again. Yet 
if we consider how much attention was given to his utter- 
ances, this is not surprising. For the greater part the sayings 
appear to me the direct naive utterance of genuine childish 
conviction. And it is possible that the inevitable impulse of 
the parent to show off his child has done C. injustice by 

1 Compare above, p. 283. 



making too much, especially in the last chapter of the diary, of 
what looks smart. Heaven grant that our observations of the 
little ones may never destroy the delightful simplicity and 
unconsciousness of their ways, and turn them into disagreeable 
little performers, all conscious of their role, and greedy of ad- 

4 8 9 


The First Years. 

MUCH has been written about George Sand, but singularly 
little about her childhood. Yet she herself, when she set to 
work, between forty and fifty, to write the Histoire de ma Vie, 
thought it worth while to fill the best part of two volumes of 
that work with early reminiscences; and herein surely she 
judged wisely. Good descriptions of childish experience are rare 
enough. George Sand gives us a singularly full story of child- 
hood ; and, allowing for the fact of its author being a novelist, 
one may say that this story reads on the whole like a record of 
memory. That a narrative at once so charming and so pathetic 
should have been neglected, by English writers at least, can 
only be set down to the circumstance that it is not clearly 
marked off from the tediously full account of ancestors which 
precedes it. 1 

The early reminiscences of a great man or woman have a 
special interest. Schopenhauer has ingeniously traced out the 
essential similarity of the man of genius and the child. What- 
ever the value of this analogy, it is certain that the gifted child 
seems not less but more of a child because of his gifts. This 
is emphatically true of the little lady with whom we are now 
concerned, and of whom, since we are interested in her on her 
own account and not merely as the precursor of the great 
novelist, we shall speak by her rightful name, Aurore Dupin. 

1 A selection of scenes from the story, with notes, has been pre- 
pared for young English students by M. Eugene Joel, under the title, 
UEnfance de George Sand (Rivingtons). 


The reader need not be told that the child who was to be- 
come the representative among modern women of the daring 
irregularities of genius was an uncommon child. She would 
certainly have been set down as strange and as deficient in 
childish traits by a commonplace observer. Yet close inspec- 
tion shows that the untamed and untamable * oddities ' were, 
after all, only certain common childish impulses and tendencies 
exalted, or, if the reader prefers, exaggerated. Herein lies the 
chief value of the story. To this it may be added that this 
exaggeration of childish sensibility was set in a milieu admir- 
ably fitted to stir and strain it to the utmost. It was a motley 
turbulent world into which little Aurore was unceremoniously 
pitched, and makes the chronicle of her experience a thrilling 
romance. And all this experience, it may be said finally, is 
set down with the untroubled regard and the patient hand of 
one of the old chroniclers. The forty years had left the memory 
tenacious and clear to a remarkable degree in this respect the 
story will bear comparison with the childish recallings of 
Goethe and the other famous self-historians ; at the same time 
these years had brought the woman's power of quiet retro- 
spect and the artist's habit of calm complacent envisagement. 
Herein lies a further element of value. The writer feels her 
identity with the subject of her memoir : she lives over again 
the passion-storms and ennuis, the reveries and hoydenish 
freaks of little Aurore ; yet she can detach herself from her 
heroine too, and discuss her and her surroundings with perfect 
artistic aloofness. 

Aurore or, to give her her full appellation, Amandine 
Lucile Aurore Dupin was born in 1804. Her father, a dis- 
tinguished officer of the Empire, was grandson of Maurice de 
Saxe, natural son of Augustus II., King of Poland. Her 
mother was a daughter of a Parisian bird : seller, and a true 
child of the people. The student of heredity may, perhaps, 
find in this commingling of noble and humble blood a key to 
much of the wild and bizarre in the child as well as in the 
later woman. However this may be, it is certain that the 
disparate alliance gave the sombre and almost tragic hue to 
the child's destiny. Through the precious years that should 


be given over to happy play and dreams, she was to hear the 
harsh and dismal contention of classes, and hear it, too, in the 
shape of a bawling strife for the possession of herself. 

The first home was a humble lodging in Paris. The father 
was away. The mother, disdained by the father's family, had 
to be hard at work, and the baby had its irregular career fore- 
shadowed by being often handed over to a male nurse, one Pierret, 
an ugly and quarrelsome though really good-natured creature, 
whom an accident suddenly made a devoted friend of the small 
family, faithfully dividing his time between the estaminet and 
the Dupin menage. 

Beyond a recollection of an accident, a fall against the 
corner of the chimney-piece, which shock, she tells us, ' opened 
my mind to the sense of life,' the first three years yield no re- 
miniscences. From that date onwards, however, her memory 
moves without a hitch, and gives us a series of delightful 
vignette-like pictures of child-life. 

Her mother had a fresh, sweet voice, and the first song she 
sang to Aurore was the nursery rhyme : 

Aliens dans la grange 
Voir la poule blanche 
Qui pond un belceul d'argent 
Pour ce cher petit enfant. 

I was vividly impressed [she writes] with that white hen and that 
silver egg which was promised me every evening, and for which I 
never thought of asking the next morning. The promise returned 
always, and the na'ive hope returned with it. 

The legend of little Father Christmas, a good old man with 
a white beard, who came down the chimney exactly at midnight 
and placed a simple present, a red apple or an orange, in her