I continue my quotations:

'You put the question of unselfishness in parents or children as being a difficult one, but I have always felt that to help each person to be as they ought to be, in the best and highest way for their own characters, is the only right love and influence that each can have for the other, no matter in what relations of life. If you either spoil a child or a parent or husband or wife, so that you make them behave wrongly, you are sure to be distressed by their not doing right, and other people feel the same.' Everyone must agree that to make those we love behave well is the object to be attained. The difficulty is the best method of bringing it about. Is it by unselfish example or by exacting unselfishness on the part of others? Who can say?

Here is a severe condemnation from a father of several children: 'I don't agree one bit with your theoretical subordination of old to young. I think it innately ridiculous, essentially false, and at once morbid, superficial, and mischievous.'

Nobody actually wrote it to me, but I heard it from several people, that the advice about giving the latch-key to very young boys harassed and worried a great number of mothers. Why, I do not quite understand; as showing confidence in the boy seems to me the beginning of all true relations between a mother and a growing-up son. I still think that if boys are unfit to have a key at seventeen, or the recommended allowance at an earlier age, it shows that their education has been somewhat defective in fitting them, not for doing well at school, but for the general struggle of life as they get older, which is learnt so well by children in a lower class of life. There might, of course, be an exception in a family, but that merely means that he is more deficient in common-sense than his brothers, and should be gradually strengthened by some method fitted to his peculiar case. It is a delightful feeling of comfort to me to think that, whatever I suggest, nobody need follow it unless it seems to them good; but I wrote nothing without deliberate thought and practical experience.

As a rule the book seemed to please the old and the young, rather than the middle-aged. Occasionally, however, some few parents wrote appreciating my hints about the modern danger of children growing up more and more apart from their parents. In our grandmothers' days this only happened among what have been called the 'upper ten thousand.' Now it pervades all classes, down to the labourer who has to send his children to the infant and Board school. Not that schools of any sort are necessarily bad in themselves, but it is a new position which has to be faced with courage and thoughtfulness by the parents.

A young mother wrote full of faith in her own excellent principles of how to bring up children, and how easy she had found it to gain an influence on their lives. This cocksureness, natural and even wholesome in the young, often brings about a good deal of disappointment. You may make a soil ever so good, and you may plant ever so good a seed, but even then there can be no security as to results. The very child who is most impressionable and easy to form in youth is also most affected by others as time goes on. The result of a powerful influence which we cannot even trace is what often makes children, as they grow up, almost unrecognisable to their parents. The forming of character, however, is totally different from moulding the impressionable clay, and, like casting bread upon the waters, it may return to us after many days.

Here are some pathetic groans from an intensely anxious mother of an only daughter: 'Needless to say that the chapter of your book which chiefly interested me is "Daughters," the education of my own being the burning question with me just now. You are certainly very comforting in what you say of "casual and superficial education," but I fear that would not satisfy the professed and professing educationalist. In our case, want of robustness on M.'s part has obliged us to put up with home education, and of course it is then a mere chance whether you happen to get a governess who can really teach; for the teacher is born, not made. When, however, I read the "Parents' Review" or the educational literature it recommends, I suffer agonies of remorse from the consciousness of not having made enough of these early years. My ambition is humble. I only wish my child to be average, but not to be at a disadvantage if, later on, she is prompted to take some part in the real work of the world. And yet how can I with my own old-fashioned defective education train her in the right way? This fiend of education sits like a nightmare on me almost day and night - "Almost thou persuadest me it is impossible to be a parent." When I get up from the perusal of these books, I feel castigated to such an extent that my mind feels sore all over, and into those wounds you pour the oil and wine of consolation. My husband, highly educated as he is himself, is very much inclined to take your view, and has, if anything, kept me back rather than urged me on, always fearing that, instead of arousing an interest in a subject, one should simply cause a lasting distaste, if it is offered too early to the immature mind. We cannot, however, put off this "training of faculty" indefinitely, and I am becoming more and more awake to the fact that my child in her cosy, comfortable home does not know as much as I, immured in a boarding-school, knew at her age. The most tantalising part of the matter is that when I can shake off this incubus of duty, she and I are so happy together. I suppose there is some similarity in our minds and tastes that makes her very responsive to me. I cannot bring myself, owing doubtless to my own defective bringing-up, to stand at a distance, as it were, and criticise severely. As M. has no classes this afternoon, we are off to the British Museum - a sort of treat we both thoroughly enjoy. But, as you know, I am given to misgivings; the question arises sometimes whether the companionship of my mature mind is the best. "Childhood ought to be with childhood" is constantly being repeated to me.'