Page images


properly the record of the history of past men—what thoughts past men had in them, what actions past men did: the summary of all books whatsoever lies there. It is on this ground that the class of · books specifically named History can be safely recommended as the basis of all study of books. Past history, and especially the past history of one's own native country, everybody may be advised to begin with that. Let him study that faithfully; innumerable inquiries will branch out from it; he has a broad beaten highway, from which all the country is more or less visible; there traveling, let him choose where he will dwell. Neither let mistakes and wrong directions—of which every man in his studies and elsewhere, falls into many-discourage you. There is precious instruction to be got by finding we are wrong. Let a man try faithfully, manfully to be right, he will grow daily more and more right. It is at bottom the condition on which all men have to cultivate themselves. Our very walking is an incessant falling and catching of ourselves before we come actually to the pavement! It is emblematic of all things a man does.

In conclusion, I will remind you, it is not books alone, or by books chiefly, that a man becomes in all points a man. Study to do faithfully whatsoever thing in your actual situation, there and now, you find either expressly or tacitly laid to your charge; that is your post; stand in it like a true soldier. Silently devour the many chagrins of it, as all human situations have


aim not to quit it without being all that it at least required of you. A man perfects himself by work much more than by reading. They are a growing kind of men that can wisely combine the two thingswisely, valiantly, can do what is laid to their hand in their present sphere, and prepare themselves for doing other wider things, if such lie before them.

With many good wishes and encouragements, I remain, yours sincerely,

Thomas CARLYLE. Chelsea, 13th March, 1843

and see you

A loving heart is the beginning of all knowledge. This it is that opens the whole mind, quickens every faculty of the intellect to do its fit work, that of knowing; and therefore, by sure consequence of wisely uttering forth.

The courage we desire and prize is not the courage to die decently, but to live manfully. This, when by God's grace it has been given, lies deep in the soul; like genial heat, fosters all other virtues and gifts; without it they could not live.

Clearly connected with this quality of valor, partly as springing from it, partly as protected by it, are the more recognizable qualities of truthfulness and honesty in action. That mercy can dwell only with valor is an old sentiment.

CARLYLE-Review of Boswell's Life of Johnson.



VALUE OF GOOD BOOKS. LORD Bacon thus summarizes the advantages of knowledge, of which good books are the treasure-house:

We see then how far the monuments of wit and learning are more durable than the monuments of power or of the hands. For have not the verges of Homer continued twenty-five hundred years or more; during which time infi. nite palaces, temples, castles, cities, have been decayed and demolished, and the pictures and statues of kings and great personages have perished. But the images of man's wits and knowledges remain in books, exempted from the wrong of time, and capable of perpetual renovation. Neither are they fitly to be called images, because they generate still, and cast their seeds in the minds of others, provoking and causing infinite actions and opinions in succeeding ages, so that, if the invention of the ship was thought so noble, which carrieth riches and commodities from place to place, and consociateth the most remote regions in participations of their fruits, how much more are letters to be magnified, which, as ships, pass through the vast seas of time, and make ages so distant to participate of the wisdom, illuminations, and inventions, the one of the other.

Milton in his eloquent plea for the Liberty of the Press, thus characterizes a good book:

Books are not absolutely dead things, but do contain a progeny of life in them, to be as active as that soul was whose progeny they are; nay, they do preserve, as in a vial, the purest efficacy and extraction of that living intellect that bred them. I know they are as lively, and as vigorously productive as those fabulous dragon's teeth ; and being sown up and down, may chance to bring up armed men. And yet, on the other hand, unless wariness be used, as good almost kill a man as kill a book. Who kills a man, kills a reasonable creature-God's image, but he who destroys a good book, destroys reason itself, kills the image of God, as it were, in the eye. Many a man lives a burden to the earth: but a good book is the precious life-blood of a master spirit, embalmed and treasured up on purpose to a life beyond life.

SIR Joux HERSCHEL in an address to men whose education had been neglected or necessarily limited says:

Of all amusements that can possibly be imagined for a hard-working man after his toil, or in its intervals, there is nothing like reading an interesting newspaper or book. It calls for no bodily exertion, of which he has already had enough, or perhaps too much. It relieves his home of its dullness and sameness. It transports him into a livelier and gayer, and more diversified and interesting scene; and while he enjoys himself there, he may forget the evil of the present moment fully as much as if he were ever so drunk, -with the great advantage of finding himself next day with the money in his pocket, or at least laid out in real necessaries and comforts for himself and family,and without a headache. Nay, it accompanies him to his next day's work ; and if what he has been reading be any thing above the idlest and lightest,



gives him something to think of, besides the mere mechanical drudgery of his every-day occupation,-something he can enjoy while absent, and look forward to with pleasure. If I were to pray for a taste which should stand me in stead, under every variety of circumstances, and be a source of happiness and cheerfulness to me through life, and a shield against its ills, however things might go amiss, and the world frown upon me, it would be a taste for reading. I speak of it of course only as a worldly advantage, and not in the slightest degree as superseding or derogating from the higher office and surer and stronger panoply of religious principles—but as a taste, an instrument, and a mode of pleasurable gratitication. Give a man this taste, and the means of gratifying it, and you can hardly fail of making a happy man, unless, indeed, you put into his hands a most perverse selection of books. You place him in contact with the best society in every period of history-with the wisest, the wittiest—with the tenderest, the bravest, and the purest characters that have adorned humanity. You make him a denizen of all nations—a contemporary of all ages. The world has been created for him. It is hardly possible but the character should take a higher and better tone from the constant habit of associating in thought with a class of thinkers, to say the least of it, above the average of humanity. It is morally impossible but that the manners should take a tinge of good breeding and civilization from having constantly before one's eyes the way in which the best bred and the best informed men have talked and conducted themselves in their intercourse with each other. There is a gentle, but perfectly irresistible coercion in a habit of reading, well directed, over the whole tenor of a man's character and conduct, which is not the less effectual because it works insensibly, and because it is really the last thing he dreams of. It can not, in short, be better summed up than in the words of the Latin poetIt civilizes the conduct of men and suffers them not to remain barbarous.

• Emollit mores, nec sinit esse feros, T. B. MACAULAY, M. P. (since called Lord Macaulay], in an address before a Mechanics’ Institute, remarked :

There is, I may well say, no wealth, there is no power, there is no rank, which I would accept, if in exchange I were to be deprived of my books, of the privilege of conversing with the greatest minds of all past ages, of search. ing after the truth, of contemplating the beautiful, of living with the distant, che unreal, the past, and the future. Knowing, as I do, what it is to enjoy these pleasures myself, I do not grudge them to the laboring men, who, by their honorable, independent, and gallant efforts, have advanced themselves within their reach; and owing all that I owe to the soothing influences of literature, I should be ashamed of myself if I grudged the same advantages to them.

Hon. Rufus Choate in a speech in the Senate of the United States, pleading for the establishing of a great National Library out of the annual income of the Smithsonian Bequest, says:

Nobody can doubt that such a library comes within the terms and spirit of the trust. That directs us to increase and diffuse knowledge among men.' And does not the judgment of all the wise ; does not tbe experience of all en. lightened states; does not the whole history of civilization concur to declare that a various and ample library is one of the surest, most constant, most permanent, and most economical instrumentalities to increase, and diffuse knowledge? There it would be,-durable as liberty, durable as the union; a vast storehouse, a vast treasury, of all the facts which make up the history of man and of nature, so far as that history has been written; of all the truths which the inquiries and experiences of all the races and ages have found out; of all the opinions that have been promulgated; of all the emotions, images, sentiments, examples, of all the riches and most instructive literatures; the whole past speaking to the present and the future; a silent, yet wise and eloquent teacher; dead yet speaking-not deadl for Milton has told us that a good book is not absolutely a dead thing—the precious life-blood rather of a master spirit; a seasoned life of man embalmed and treasured up on purpose to a life beyond life.' Is not that an admirable instrumentality to increase and diffuse



knowledge among men? It would place within the reach of our minds, of our thinkers, and investigators, and scholars, all, or the chief, intellectual and literary materials, and food and instruments, now within the reach of the cultivated foreign mind, and the effect would be to increase the amount of individual acquisition, and multiply the number of the learned. It would raise the standard of our scholarship, improve our style of investigation, and communi. cate an impulse to our educated and to the general mind.

By such a library as you can collect here, something will be done, much will be done, to help every college, every school, every studious man, every writer and thinker in the country, to just what is wanted most. Inquirers after truth may come here and search for it. It will do them no harm at all to pass a few studious weeks among these scenes. Having pushed their investigations as far as they may at home, and ascertained just what, and how much more, of helps they require, let them come hither and find it. Let them replenish themselves, and then go back and make distribution among their pupils; ay, through the thousand channels, and by the thousand voices of the press, let them make distribution among the people! Let it be so, that,

“ Hither as to their fountains other stars
Repairing, in their golden urns draw light."

Think of the large absolute numbers of those who, in the suecession of years, will come and partake directly of these stores of truth and knowledge! Think of the numbers without number, who, through them, who, by them directly, will partake of the same stores! Studious men will come to learn to speak and write to and for the growing millions of a generally edu. cated community. They will learn that they may communicate. They can not board if they would, and they would not if they could. They take in trust to distribute; and every motive of ambition, of interest, of duty, will compel them to distribute. They buy in gross, to sell by retail. The lights which they kindle here will not be set under a bushel, but will burn on a thousand hills. No, sir; a rich and public library is no anti-republican monopoly. Who was the old Egyptian king that inscribed on his library the words, the dispensary of the soul? You might quite as well inscribe on it, armory, and light, and fountain of liberty!

Dr. Channing in his Address to Young Men generally, and to Workingmen in particular, thus speaks of books as the powerful means of Self-Culture:

In the best books, great men talk to us, give us their most precious thoughts, and pour their souls into ours. God be thanked for books. They are the voices of the distant and the dead, and make us heirs of the spiritual life of past ages. Books are the true levelers. They give to all, who will faithfully use them, the society, the spiritual presence, of the best and greatest of our race. No matter how poor I am. No matter though the prosperous of my own time will not enter my obscure dwelling. If the Sacred Writers will enter and take up their abode under my roof, if Milton will cross my threshold to sing to me of Paradise, and Shakspeare to open to me the worlds of imagination and the workings of the human heart, and Franklin to enrich me with his practical wisdom, I shall not pine for want of intellectual companionship, and I may become a cultivated man though excluded from what is called the best society in the place where I live.

To make this means of culture effectual, a man must select good books, such as have been written by right-minded and strong-minded men, real thinkers, who instead of diluting by repetition, what others say, have something to say for themselves, write to give relief to full, earnest souls; and these works must not be skimmered over for amusement, but read with fixed attention and a reverential love of truth. In selecting books, we may be aided much by those who have studied more than ourselves. But, after all, it is best to be determined in this particular a good deal by our own tastes. The best books for a man are not always those which the wise recommend, but often those which meet the peculiar wants, the natural thirst of his mind, and therefore awaken interest and rivet thought.

Nothing can supply the place of books. They are cheering or soothing companions in solitude, illness, affliction. The wealth of both continents would not compensate for the good they impart. Let every man, if possible, gather some good books under his roof, and obtain access for himself and family to some social library. Almost any luxury should be sacrificed to this.

CHANNING.-On Self Culture.

A GREAT LIBRARY-THE TREASURE-HOUSE OF LITERATURE. There, is collected the accumulated experience of ages—the volume of the historian, like lamps, to guide our feet:—there stands the heroic patterns of courage, magnanimity, and self-denying virtue:—there are embodied the gen. tler attributes, which soften and purify, while they charm, the heart:—there lie the charts of those who have explored the deeps and shallows of the soul:there the dear-bought testimony, which reveals to us the ends of the earth, and shows that the girdle of the waters is nothing but their Maker's will:—there stands the Poet's harp, of mighty compass, and many strings:—there hang the deep-toned instruments through which patriotic eloquence has poured its inspiring echoes over oppressed nations:-there, in the sanctity of their own self-emitted light, repose the Heavenly oracles. This glorious fane, vast, and full of wonders, has been reared and stored by the labors of Lettered Men; and could it be destroyed, mankind might relapse to the state of savages.

James. A. HILLHOUSE.- Relations of Literature to a Republican Government.

Hail, Learning's Pantheon! Hail, the sacred ark,
Where all the world of science doth embark,
Which ever shall withstand, as it hath long withstood,

Insatiate Time's devouring flood I
Hail, Bank of all past ages, where they lie
T enrich with interest all posterity!
Where thousand lights into one brightness spread,
Hail, Living university of the Dead!

COWLEY.-University Library of Oxford, 1650.

TEMPLE OF THE ENGLISH LANGUAGE. I can believe that the English language is destined to be that in which shall arise, as in one universal temple, the utterance of the worship of all hearts. Broad and deep have the foundations been laid; and so vast is the area which they cover, that it is co-extensive with the great globe itself. For centuries past, proud intellectual giants have labored at this mighty fabric; and still it rises, and will rise for generations to come: and on its massive stones will be inscribed the names of the profoundest thinkers, and on its springing arches the records of the most daring flights of the master minds of genius, whose fame was made enduring by their love of the Beautiful and their adoration of the All Good. In this temple the Anglo-Saxon mosaic of the sacred words of truth will be the solid and enduring pavement; the dreams of poets will fill the rich tracery of its windows with the many-colored hues of thought; and the works of lofty philosophic minds will be the stately columns supporting its fretted roof, whence shall hang, sculptured, the rich fruits of the tree of knowledge, precious as “apples of gold,"-"the words of the wise."

G. W. Moon.—Dean's English.

« EelmineJätka »