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An Autobiography

"Evenings at Home" and Miss Edgeworth's "Tales for Young and Old!" The only cloud
on my young life was the gloomy religion, which made me doubt of my own salvation
and despair of the salvation of any but a very small proportion of the people in the world.
Thus the character of God appeared unlovely, and it was wicked not to love God; and this
was my condemnation. I had learned the shorter catechism with the proofs from
Scripture, and I understood the meaning of the dogmatic theology. Watts's hymns were
much more easy to learn, but the doctrine was the same. There was no getting away from
the feeling that the world was under a curse ever since that unlucky appleeating in the
garden of Eden. Why, oh! why had not the sentence of death been carried out at once, and
a new start made with more prudent people? The school in which as a day scholar I
passed nine years of my life was more literary than many which were more pretentious.
Needlework was of supreme importance, certainly, but during the hour and a half every
day, Saturday's half-holiday not excepted, which was given to it by the whole school at
once (odd half-hours were also put in), the best readers took turns about to read. some
book selected by Miss Phin. We were thus trained to pay attention. History, biography,
adventures, descriptions, and story books were read. Any questions or criticisms about
our sewing, knitting, netting, &c., were carried on in a low voice, and we learned to work
well and quickly, and good reading aloud was cultivated. First one brother and then
another had gone to Edinburgh for higher education than could be had at Melrose Parish
School, and I wanted to go to a certain institution, the first of the kind, for advanced
teaching for girls, which had a high reputation. I was a very ambitious girl at 13. I wanted
to be a teacher first, and a great writer afterwards. The qualifications for a teacher would
help me to rise to literary fame, so I obtained from my father a promise that I should go to
Edinburgh next year; but he could not keep it. He was a ruined man.
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