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.
fullest good—­
  Leaving a blank instead of violins. 
  I say, not God Himself can make man’s best
  Without best men to help him.... 
     ’Tis God gives skill,
  But not without men’s hands:  He could not make
  Antonio Stradivari’s violins
  Without Antonio.  Get thee to thy easel.’

So much then for What Does:  I do not depreciate it.

X

Neither do I depreciate—­in Cambridge, save the mark!—­What Knows. All knowledge is venerable; and I suppose you will find the last vindication of the scholar’s life at its baldest in Browning’s “A Grammarian’s Funeral”: 

  Others mistrust and say, ’But time escapes: 
     Live now or never!’
  He said, ’What’s time?  Leave Now for dog and apes! 
     Man has Forever.’ 
  Back to his book then; deeper drooped his head: 
     Calculus racked him: 
  Leaden before, his eyes grew dross of lead: 
     Tussis attacked him.... 
  So, with the throttling hands of death at strife,
     Ground he at grammar;
  Still, thro’ the rattle, parts of speech were rife: 
     While he could stammer
  He settled Hoti’s business—­let it be!—­
     Properly based Oun—­
  Gave us the doctrine of the enclitic De,
     Dead from the waist down. 
  Well, here’s the platform, here’s the proper place: 
     Hail to your purlieus,
  All ye highfliers of the feathered race,
     Swallows and curlews! 
  Here’s the top-peak; the multitude below
     Live, for they can, there: 
  This man decided not to Live but Know—­
     Bury this man there.

Nevertheless Knowledge is not, cannot be, everything; and indeed, as a matter of experience, cannot even be counted upon to educate.  Some of us have known men of extreme learning who yet are, some of them, uncouth in conduct, others violent and overbearing in converse, others unfair in controversy, others even unscrupulous in action—­men of whom the sophist Thrasymachus in Plato’s “Republic” may stand for the general type.  Nay, some of us will subscribe with the old schoolmaster whom I will quote again, when he writes: 

To myself personally, as an exception to the rule that opposites attract, a very well-informed person is an object of terror.  His mind seems to be so full of facts that you cannot, as it were, see the wood for the trees; there is no room for perspective, no lawns and glades for pleasure and repose, no vistas through which to view some towering hill or elevated temple; everything in that crowded space seems of the same value:  he speaks with no more awe of “King Lear” than of the last Cobden prize essay; he has swallowed them both with the same ease, and got the facts safe in his pouch; but he has no time to ruminate because he must still be swallowing; nor does he seem to know what even Macbeth, with Banquo’s murderers then at work, found leisure
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On The Art of Reading from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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