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dient to omit in the present edition. To render the Discourse complete in itself, as well as to avoid the encumbrance of an Appendix, the publishers have incorporated with the text a considerable amount of matter which is given by the author in the form of Notes. These portions, however, have, - for the reader's convenience, been included within brackets, and may, without inconvenience, be omitted in reading. To enable them to adopt this course, and yet preserve the unity of the Discourse, the publishers have also found it necessary to place last in order that topic which, by the author, was placed first, viz., The Study of the Laws of Nature. With the exceptions thus specified, and the omission of a small part of the author's Appendix, this edition will be found to embrace the whole of this admirable discourse, in the author's own language.
It is also proper to add, that the Note of Professor Potter on the Advantages of Literature and Moral Science, was prepared and printed before the introduction of Professor Sedgwick's discourse had been decided on.
New-York, August, 1840.
"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 through life, and a shield against its ills, however things might go amiss, and the world frown against me, it would be a taste for reading."-SIR J. HERSCHEL.
A WISE and good man was accustomed, in his devotion, to thank God for books. He did well; good books, rightly used, are among our greatest blessings. How many solitary hours do they cheer! How many clouds of sadness do they dispel! He who loves the society of such constant though silent friends, is never less alone than when alone. They people his solitude; they refresh him when weary; animate him when dull. Rarely does he experience purer or higher pleasure than when, escaping, through their aid, from the sense of worldly care and bereavement, he gains, at the same time, an enlarged acquaintance with man and nature, and finds his good resolutions strengthened, his better affections warmed into life. If we court the company of the great, we can always enjoy it through books; for they introduce us to the noblest minds of our race, and permit us to commune intimately with them, even at those privileged hours when they obtain their brightest visions of truth, and pour forth their loftiest or most touching eloquence.
It must be remembered, however, that all books are not good books, and that even good books may be so read as to fail of their appropriate ends. Milton has said, that "a wise man can sooner gather gold out of the drossiest volume, than a fool wisdom out of Scripture." It is certain that the effect of reading depends nearly as much on the disposition and taste of the reader, as on the character of the writer. Hence the great importance of considering not only what we read, but also in what way and for what ends.
I. THE OBJECT OF READING.
Many persons take up a book merely that they may dispose of an idle hour, caring little what the book may be, so it enables them to escape from themselves, and never reverting to it when they have once laid it aside. Others read for the same reason that they listen to idle gossip or scandal, perfectly satisfied if they can learn something new. And then, again, there are those, and a very numerous class too, who seek, above all things, to be amused and excited by reading; who resort to a book in much the same spirit that they visit some entertaining spectacle, or as children listen to nursery tales about ghosts and murders. Useful information they are not in quest of, and, of course, do not find. They are averse to the exercise of severe thought. They do not care to have their virtuous sentiments and good resolutions confirmed, or they forget that good books are among the best and simplest means to that end. Anxious only that their passions should
be moved or their mirth awakened, they resort perhaps to Shakspeare, to dwell on his incidents, to trace out his catastrophes and enjoy his coarse humour, while they have scarce a thought for his profound reflections on man, his noble morality, his exquisite pathos, his unstudied but matchless beauty of language and sentiment.
It is not our purpose to recommend that, in selecting books, no regard should be paid to the interest which they are calculated to excite. It is not to be expected, nor indeed is it to be desired, that people should persevere in reading what awakens no curiosity or sympathy. A love for books can be acquired only by those who find pleasure in using them; and hence, whoever would cultivate in himself or others this most desirable taste, should select, especially at first, such works as can be read with sustained and quickened attention.
But let it not be forgotten, that such books, if read only to amuse and entertain, must, if good, fail of much of their effect, while if bad, their influence will be deplorable. The very fact that in this kind. of reading our reflective powers are suspended, and our minds surrendered to the guidance of feeling or imagination, only facilitates injury. We may read the noblest works of our language; but if we carry to them a vicious or idle taste, we may be sure that that taste will gather its appropriate aliment. By degrading them into instruments of momentary pleasure, we shall lose sight of their true worth, and learn to confound them with that herd of books usually known as "light reading;" books which seem
to have been written in order to be once read, and then forever forgotten. Soon, too, we shall disrelish all books that contain any serious matter, and be content only with those of the most frivolous or exciting kind. These last will claim every hour which can be allotted to reading; and happy shall we be if they do not steal hours that ought to have been given to duty; happy if, by surrounding us with a world of fancied beings, who engross our sympathies and thoughts, they do not destroy our interest in that other world where the Creator has placed us, and where he has assigned us an eventful part to act.
To this danger we are peculiarly exposed in our own day. Books can now be published at an expense so trifling, and are getting among all classes of people to be regarded so much as a source of amusement and recreation, that authors are sorely tempted to address themselves chiefly to such sentiments as are most prevalent and most easily moved. If this be the case with books, much more is it so with newspapers and magazines, of which too many are undertaken for the promotion of private or party interests, while others, instead of tending to make men wiser, better, or happier, are found pandering to their worst passions and their lowest appetites. He, then, who reads for amusement only, will now be more than ever likely to draw his pleasure from poisoned fountains. Nor let him ascribe the responsibility of all this to authors and publishers. They would hardly send forth impure streams if they had not found that the reading public thirsts for them. It is not to be expected that they will employ their