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.

     Thus they in mutual accusation spent
     The fruitless hours, but neither self-condemning;
     And of their vain contest appear’d no end.

A parent afterwards told me (my schoolmaster adds) that his son went home and so buried himself in the book that food and sleep that day had no attraction for him.  Next morning, I need hardly say, the difference in his appearance was remarkable:  he had outgrown all his intellectual clothes.

The end of this story strikes me, I confess, as rapid, and may be compared with that of the growth of Delian Apollo in the Homeric hymn; but we may agree that, in reading, it is not quantity so much that tells, as quality and thoroughness of digestion.


What Does—­What Knows—­What Is....

I am not likely to depreciate to you the value of What Does, after spending my first twelve lectures up here, on the art and practice of Writing, encouraging you to do this thing which I daily delight in trying to do:  as God forbid that anyone should hint a slightening word of what our sons and brothers are doing just now, and doing for us!  But Peace being the normal condition of man’s activity, I look around me for a vindication of what is noblest in What Does and am content with a passage from George Eliot’s poem “Stradivarius”, the gist of which is that God himself might conceivably make better fiddles than Stradivari’s, but by no means certainly; since, as a fact, God orders his best fiddles of Stradivari.  Says the great workman,

     ’God be praised,
  Antonio Stradivari has an eye
  That winces at false work and loves the true,
  With hand and arm that play upon the tool
  As willingly as any singing bird
  Sets him to sing his morning roundelay,
  Because he likes to sing and likes the song.’ 
  Then Naldo:  ’’Tis a pretty kind of fame
  At best, that comes of making violins;
  And saves no masses, either.  Thou wilt go
  To purgatory none the less.’ 
     But he: 
  ’’Twere purgatory here to make them ill;
  And for my fame—­when any master holds
  ’Twixt chin and hand a violin of mine,
  He will be glad that Stradivari lived,
  Made violins, and made them of the best. 
  The masters only know whose work is good: 
  They will choose mine, and while God gives them skill
  I give them instruments to play upon,
  God choosing me to help Him.’ 
     ’What!  Were God
  At fault for violins, thou absent?’
  He were at fault for Stradivari’s work.’ 
  ’Why, many hold Giuseppe’s
  violins As good as thine.’ 
     ’May be:  they are different. 
  His quality declines:  he spoils his hand
  With over-drinking.  But were his the best,
  He could not work for two.  My work is mine,
  And heresy or not, if my hand slacked
  I should rob God—­since He is

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