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.
of men became literature by the simple but difficult process of being recorded in memorable speech; but in that process neither the real thing recorded nor the author is evacuated. Belles lettres, Fine Art are odious terms, for which no clean-thinking man has any use.  There is no such thing in the world as belles lettres; if there were, it would deserve the name.  As for Fine Art, the late Professor Butcher bequeathed to us a translation of Aristotle’s “Poetics” with some admirable appendixes—­the whole entitled “Aristotle’s Theory of Poetry and Fine Art.”  Aristotle never in his life had a theory of Fine Art as distinct from other art:  nor (I wager) can you find in his discovered works a word for any such thing.  Now if Aristotle had a concept of `fine’ art as distinguished from other art, he was man enough to find a name for it.  His omission to do anything of the sort speaks for itself.

So you should beware of any teacher who would treat the Bible or any part of it as ‘fine writing,’ mere literature.


Let me, having said this, at once enter a caveat, a qualification.  Although men do not go to the stake for the cadences, the phrases of our Authorised Version, it remains true that these cadences, these phrases, have for three hundred years exercised a most powerful effect upon their emotions.  They do so by association of ideas by the accreted memories of our race enwrapping connotation around a word, a name—­say the name Jerusalem, or the name Sion

  And they that wasted us required of us mirth, saying,
  Sing us one of the songs of Sion. 
  How shall we sing the Lord’s song in a strange land? 
  If I forget thee, O Jerusalem, let my right hand forget
     her cunning.

It must be known to you, Gentlemen, that these words can affect men to tears who never connect them in thought with the actual geographical Jerusalem; who connect it in thought merely with a quite different native home from which they are exiles.  Here and there some one man may feel a similar emotion over Landor’s

     Tanagra, think not I forget....

But the word Jerusalem will strike twenty men twentyfold more poignantly:  for to each it names the city familiar in spirit to his parents when they knelt, and to their fathers before them:  not only the city which was his nursery and yet lay just beyond the landscape seen from its window; its connotation includes not only what the word ‘Rome’ has meant, and ever must mean, to thousands on thousands setting eyes for the first time on The City:  but it holds, too, some hint of the New Jerusalem, the city of twelve gates before the vision of which St John fell prone: 

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