On The Art of Reading eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 188 pages of information about On The Art of Reading.

That is Bunyan, of course; and I am far from saying that the labouring men among whom I grew up, at the fishery or in the hayfield, talked with Bunyan’s magic.  But I do assert that they had something of the accent; enough to be like, in a child’s mind, the fishermen and labourers among whom Christ found his first disciples.  They had the large simplicity of speech, the cadence, the accent.  But let me turn to Ireland, where, though not directly derived from our English Bible, a similar scriptural accent survives among the peasantry and is, I hope, ineradicable.  I choose two sentences from a book of ‘Memories’ recently written by the survivor of the two ladies who together wrote the incomparable ‘Irish R.M.’  The first was uttered by a small cultivator who was asked why his potato-crop had failed: 

‘I couldn’t hardly say’ was the answer.  ’Whatever it was, God spurned them in a boggy place.’

Is that not the accent of Isaiah?

He will surely violently turn and toss thee like a ball into a large country.

The other is the benediction bestowed upon the late Miss Violet Martin by a beggar-woman in Skibbereen: 

Sure ye’re always laughing!  That ye may laugh in the sight of the Glory of Heaven!

VI

But one now sees, or seems to see, that we children did, in our time, read the Bible a great deal, if perforce we were taught to read it in sundry bad ways:  of which perhaps the worst was that our elders hammered in all the books, all the parts of it, as equally inspired and therefore equivalent.  Of course this meant among other things that they hammered it all in literally:  but let us not sentimentalise over that.  It really did no child any harm to believe that the universe was created in a working week of six days, and that God sat down and looked at it on Sunday, and behold it was very good.  A week is quite a long while to a child, yet a definite division rounding off a square job.  The bath-taps at home usually, for some unexplained reason, went wrong during the week-end:  the plumber came in on Monday and carried out his tools on Saturday at mid-day.  These little analogies really do (I believe) help the infant mind, and not at all to its later detriment.  Nor shall I ask you to sentimentalise overmuch upon the harm done to a child by teaching him that the bloodthirsty jealous Jehovah of the Book of Joshua is as venerable (being one and the same unalterably, ’with whom is no variableness, neither shadow of turning’) as the Father ’the same Lord, whose property is always to have mercy,’ revealed to us in the Gospel, invoked for us at the Eucharist.  I do most seriously hold it to be fatal if we grow up and are fossilised in any such belief. (Where have we better proof than in the invocations which the family of the Hohenzollerns have been putting up, any time since August 1914—­and for years before—­to this bloody identification of the Christian man’s

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