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credit and success at dinner parties. Young men, too, acquire a high reputation for intelligence and mental activity if they are able to converse on the current books of the day ; but beyond this transient social advantage, it is very questionable how far the indiscriminating perusal of books de omni scibili is really advantageous : selected without method, and read without reference to anything else, or to one another, they flow out of the reader's mind as fast as they enter, and beyond a few isolated, and therefore for the most part useless, facts, leave no residuum behind.
I can scarcely do more than state barely, that the chief principle upon which we should devise a system of reading for ourselves is, to select books and subjects as different as possible in their nature and tendency from the ordinary conditions by which we are surrounded : that is to say, our aim being to maintain a balance of character, we should choose for our leisure hours pursuits calculated to modify the preponderance of the spirit of our business avocations. I
may illustrate this precept by a general example. The most prominent characteristic of these times is the increased slrength of the money-getting desire, and its spread to classes which have heretofore been free from its influences, and which constituted therefore a powerful barrier against the evil portion of those influences. That this particular desire is in itself calculated to promote human welfareaffording as it does the best possible incitement to labour, self-denial, and forethought, and the best possible guarantee for the diffusion in ever-widening circles of the material benefits of our present stage of civilisation—nothing but the blindest antipathy to the spirit of commerce would attempt to deny. The advantages, however, arising from the pursuit of wealth to all whom it affects, are not at all likely to be overlooked or understated. We are much more apt to lose sight of the evils which, as if by some curious law of malicious compensation, never fail to flow from every source of good, and from this among the rest. But though liable to escape our observation, these evils lie really upon the very surface. Selfishness, and a tendency to postpone purer and loftier considerations to those of the lowest private welfare, are the most immediate and obvious effects of an excessive desire to amass wealth. And wealth being in most cases amassed with the further object of ostentation and display, a disposition is begotten to measure worth by
the extent of this barbaric parade. Public spirit, or that which prompts private sacrifice for the sake of some large principle of human well-being, naturally degenerates and becomes enfeebled in a condition of society in which material development and material enjoyments of the vulgarest description, are the most striking phenomena that present themselves. That which we desiderate among the generality of people is, something which shall temper this inordinate lust after wealth and worldly advancement, and carry them above and beyond such objects. Men will continue-and it is in all respects desirable that they should to make success in the world the chief aim of existence. I say,
the maintenance of such an aim is desirable, because, in a general way, success is the stamp of some genuinely meritorious qualities in those whom it attends. As a rule, the merchant who, by his acuteness, industry, and self-denial, makes an annual income which may be counted by tens of thousands, possesses qualities that are more beneficial to the world, and more admirable in themselves, than the sluggish curate, or the timid trader, whose salary may be counted by tens. Exceptions there are, no doubt; but the fact that, in spite of all that philosophers and moralists have urged to the contrary, the majority of people do go through life with this as their chief object, is some sort of sign that nature prompts this as the best means for evoking human faculties. The day has long gone past since St. Simeon Stylites perched on his pillar, or the vermincovered hermit wearing life away in a cell, could be regarded as more adequately fulfilling the duties of his existence than a busy merchant or a worldly-minded politician.
But there are other things than worldly advancement which should enter into every man's conception of the real meaning of existence, and the real use of his manifold powers. Apart from religion and the duty of preparing for a future state, which it is not necessary for me here to insist on,—though I may express an opinion that the best preparation for the future is a sedulous attention to the manysided objects of interest and duty which seem to terminate in the present,-apart from these considerations, I believe that the main object of literary culture at the present time ought to be to counteract the dominant tendencies flowing from the money-getting pursuits of the age, and so, without lessening the energy and attention at present devoted to those pursuits, to check the evil consequences apt to result from them, by the cultivation of tastes and habits of thought of an opposite, or rather, perhaps I should say, of a wholly different kind. As the ardent longing after money inclines a man to be self-seeking to an excessive extent, he should, if he would preserve a proper mental balance, devote as much time as he can spare, after the performance of his money-getting labours, to the investigation of subjects which may teach him the worth of money, and the fact that there are gifts which mere wealth can never purchase, nor mere opulence ever enjoy ; that his interests as a human being are not confined to the narrow circle of his own business, but are co-extensive with those of the race to which he belongs ; and that such interests are only promoted by a careful adherence to generous principles and the purest rectitude.
There are, then, two subjects particularly fitted for general readers in this age :-- Politics, on the one hand, in the broadest sense of the term, including history and political economy; and on the other, the various branches of literature concerned in the cultivation of Refinement and Taste, in which poetry and the better sort of fiction will be naturally the principal agents. I cannot enter into further detail ; but I have said enough to illustrate what I mean by systematic general reading. It is reading which, though not conducted after any red-tape model, is regulated by a principle.
I may remind you, finally, that the important element is not the amount that a man reads, but the anount that he remembers. People may read a book with no more effect than when water is passed through a sieve. It does not leave the least particle of residuum ; and in this case, of course, it is a matter of indifference whether the books are selected systematically, or taken just as accident presents them : the object being simply to drench the mind in a certain quantity of words, which, with the ideas they express, disappear as fast as they enter, it is of no moment out of which particular vessel the drenching medium is drawn. There is no more benefit for this sort of reader to be derived from Bacon or Shakespere, than from Martin Tupper or Ralph Waldo Emerson ; and Mrs. S. C. Hall's writings will do him as much good as,
and prove not less agreeable than, “Vanity Fair" or "Pickwick." Where.
persons read not to learn nor to remember, it cannot be a matter of any concern whether they are fed on good literature or on that of inferior quality. The present is always viewed, and not unjustly, as a great reading age; but there is no proportionate increase of learning. read, but fewer read with effect.
V. In conclusion, let me remark that the consolation of reading is not futile nor imaginary. It is no chimera of the recluse or the bookworm, but a potent reality. stimulus to flagging energies, as an inspirer of lofty aim, literature stands unrivalled. In the life of all, blank days come when we are inclined to envy those who say, “Let us eat and drink, for to-morrow we die ;" when the spirit of our youtlıful enthusiasm, like the ghost of some betrayed love, rises up and stands reproachfully before us, recalling the resolutions and aspirations of the past; reminding us how base and unworthy we should in those times have deemed the indolence and want of faith of these ; and mutely asking if age, instead of ripening our wisdom and strengthening our will, has drawn a thick film over the eyes of our faith, and paralysed the right hand of our purpose. In moments like these, the lofty themes of poetry, the grandeur of history, and the noble examples of biography, kindle in those who will have recourse to them, a new energy and a fresh heart. This powerful quality of literature is not sufficiently recognised nor employed. Men know not the great agent of restoration which lies so near their hand. Other resources are not available in every circumstance, at all times, and at all ages ; but literature--the song of the poet, the meditations of the philosopher, the records of the historian, and the lives of men who have left great names upon the earth-this is at once the instructor and guide of youth, and the comfort and grace of our riper years ; it is an adornment to prosperity, a refuge and a solace in adversity; in private it is our delight, in public our help; and whether at home or abroad, whether in town or country, by day or by night, it remains an abiding joy and employment.
“Nam ceteræ neque temporum sunt neque ætatum omnium neque locorum ; at hæc studia adolescentiam acuunt, senectutem oblectant, secundas res ornant, adversis perfugium ac solatium prebent; delectant domi, non impediunt foris, pernoctant nobiscum, peregrenantur, rusticantur."---CICERO, Pro. Archid.
was towards the end of summer. The day was calm
and lovely. The sun had passed its zenith, and was hastening down the steep: A student, driven by the plague from the seats of learning on the banks of the Cam, was sitting in an orchard at Woolsthorpe, Lincolnshire, enjoying the fragrance of the flowers, and reflecting upon certain propositions in the Cartesian philosophy, by which the elements of Euclid were then for a season thrown into the shade. Upon his pallid brow deep lines of thought were gathering, when suddenly an apple fell from a lofty branch upon the earth. The wrinkles of that student's brow soon changed their position, and his eye was lit with an unusual fire. What brought that apple straight upon the earth, when the earth looked sideways towards the orb of day? The student rises ; he walks a few paces, stops, and walks again. His humble heart was bursting with emotion. Speechless he sank upon his knees, and breathed an inaudible thanksgiving in His ears who made and who controls the forces of the universe. The mighty secret was discovered. In all its glorious magnificence, with all its wide and wonderful results, the vision of a universal law had burst on NEWTON's soul.
Since that day rapid had been the advance of discovery in a right direction; all things were proved to be converging towards a centre, or revolving round one, under the same great law of gravitation. Thought had been compelled to take a wider range, and not only had discovered satellites revolving round their planets, and planets with their satellites around their suns, but had spread her invigorating wings for a bolder flight, and had watched those suns with their attendant systems revolving round another and a mightier centre--the centre of a constellation or a galaxy ; yea, and had even conceived of those galaxies revolving round another central point--the dazzling throne