On The Art of Reading eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 241 pages of information about On The Art of Reading.

  The eye—­it cannot choose but see;
  We cannot bid the ear be still;
  Our bodies feel, where’er they be,
  Against or with our will.

  Nor less I deem that there are Powers
  Which of themselves our minds impress;
  That we can feed this mind of ours
  In a wise passiveness.

  Think you, ’mid all this mighty sum
  Of things for ever speaking,
  That nothing of itself will come,
  But we must still be seeking?


I have been talking to-day about children; and find that most of the while I have been thinking, if but subconsciously, of poor children.  Now, at the end, you may ask ’Why, lecturing here at Cambridge, is he preoccupied with poor children who leave school at fourteen and under, and thereafter read no poetry?’...Oh, yes!  I know all about these children and the hopeless, wicked waste; these with a common living-room to read in, a father tired after his day’s work, and (for parental encouragement) just the two words ‘Get out!’ A Scots domine writes in his log: 

  I have discovered a girl with a sense of humour.  I asked my
  qualifying class to draw a graph of the attendance at a village
  kirk.  ‘And you must explain away any rise or fall,’ I said.

Margaret Steel had a huge drop one Sunday, and her explanation was ‘Special Collection for Missions.’  Next Sunday the Congregation was abnormally large:  Margaret wrote ’Change of Minister.’...  Poor Margaret!  When she is fourteen, she will go out into the fields, and in three years she will be an ignorant country bumpkin.

And again: 

Robert Campbell (a favourite pupil) left the school to-day.  He had reached the age-limit....  Truly it is like death:  I stand by a new made grave, and I have no hope of a resurrection.  Robert is dead.

Precisely because I have lived on close terms with this, and the wicked waste of it, I appeal to you who are so much more fortunate than this Robert or this Margaret and will have far more to say in the world, to think of them—­how many they are.  I am not sentimentalising.  When an Elementary Schoolmaster spreads himself and tells me he looks upon every child entering his school as a potential Lord Chancellor, I answer that, as I expect, so I should hope, to die before seeing the world a Woolsack.  Jack cannot ordinarily be as good as his master; if he were, he would be a great deal better.  You have given Robert a vote, however, and soon you will have to give it to Margaret.  Can you not give them also, in their short years at school, something to sustain their souls in the long Valley of Humiliation?

Do you remember this passage in “The Pilgrim’s Progress”—­as the pilgrims passed down that valley?

  Now as they were going along and talking, they espied a
  Boy feeding his Father’s Sheep.  The Boy was in very mean
  Cloaths, but of a very fresh and well-favoured
  Countenance, and as he sate by himself he Sung.  Hark, said
  Mr Greatheart, to what the Shepherd’s Boy saith.

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On The Art of Reading from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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