Now that may be put a trifle too vivaciously, but the moral is true. Bacon tells us that reading maketh a full man. Yes, and too much of it makes him too full. The two words of the Greek upon knowledge remain true, that the last triumph of Knowledge is Know Thyself. So Don Quixote repeats it to Sancho Panza, counselling him how to govern his Island:
First, O son, thou hast to fear God, for
in fearing Him is
wisdom, and being wise thou canst not err.
But secondly thou hast to set thine eyes
on what thou art,
endeavouring to know thyself—which is the most difficult
knowledge that can be conceived.
But to know oneself is to know that which alone can know What Is. So the hierarchy runs up.
What Does, What Knows, What Is.... I have happily left myself no time to-day to speak of What Is: happily, because I would not have you even approach it towards the end of an hour when your attention must be languishing. But I leave you with two promises, and with two sayings from which as this lecture took its start its successors will proceed.
The first promise is, that What Is, being the spiritual element in man, is the highest object of his study.
The second promise is that, nine-tenths of what is worthy to be called Literature being concerned with this spiritual element, for that it should be studied, from firstly up to ninthly, before anything else.
And my two quotations are for you to ponder:
(1) This, first:
That all spirit is mutually attractive, as all matter is mutually attractive, is an ultimate fact beyond which we cannot go.... Spirit to spirit—as in water face answereth to face, so the heart of man to man.
(2) And this other, from the writings of an obscure Welsh clergyman of the 17th century:
You will never enjoy the world aright
till the sea itself
floweth in your veins, till you are clothed with the heavens
and crowned with the stars.
[Footnote 1: The reader will kindly turn back to p.1, and observe the date at the head of this lecture. At that time I was engaged against a system of English teaching which I believed to be thoroughly bad. That system has since given place to another, which I am prepared to defend as a better.]
APPREHENSION VERSUS COMPREHENSION
Let us attempt to-day, Gentlemen, picking up the scent where we left at the conclusion of my first lecture, to hunt the Art of Reading (as I shall call it), a little further on the line of common-sense; then to cast back and chase on a line somewhat more philosophical. If these lines run wide and refuse to unite, we shall have made a false cast: if they converge and meet, we shall have caught our hare and may proceed, in subsequent lectures, to cook him.