Bernardin de St. Pierre, Paul and Virginia (1771), pp. 13-14

Paul and Virginia's lack of formal education:

Their sole study was how they could please and assist one another; for of all other things they were ignorant, and indeed could neither read nor write. They were never disturbed by inquiries about past times, nor did their curiosity extend beyond the bounds of their mountains. They believed the world ended at the shores of their own island, and all their ideas and all their affections were confined within its limits. Their mutual tenderness, and that of their mothers, employed all the energies of their minds. Their tears had never been called forth by tedious application to useless sciences. Their minds had never been wearied by lessons of morality, superfluous to bosoms unconscious of ill. They had never been taught not to steal, because everything with them was in common; or not to be intemperate, because their simple food was left to their own discretion; or not to lie, because they had nothing to conceal. Their young imaginations had never been terrified by the idea that God had punishments in store for ungrateful children, since, with them, filial affection arose naturally from maternal tenderness. All they had been taught of religion was to love it; and if they did not offer up long prayers in the church, wherever they were--in the house, in the fields, in the woods--they raised toward heaven their innocent hands, and hearts purified by virtuous affections.

Note that not having a formal religious or secular education frees the young innocents to blossom into naturally virtuous beings. Not only is education not necessary, but it is potentially destructive. God needn't be feared--just loved. For another passage on Paul and Virginia's education, click here.

Related terms:

a dictionary of sensibility
term list
source bibliography
critical bibliography