Books and Culture eBook

Hamilton Wright Mabie
This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 105 pages of information about Books and Culture.
life.  It is for this reason that the drama must always hold the first place among those forms which the art of literature has perfected; it is for this reason that Homer, Dante, Shakespeare, and Goethe, consciously or unconsciously, chose those forms of expression which are specially adapted to represent and illustrate life in action; it is for this reason, among others, that these writers must always play so great a part in the work of educating the race.  Culture is, above all things, real and vital; knowledge may deal with abstractions and unrelated bits of fact, but culture must always fasten upon those things which are significant in a spiritual order.  It has to do with the knowledge which may become incorporate in a man’s nature, and with that knowledge especially which has come to humanity through action.  It is this deeper knowledge which holds a lighted torch aloft in the deepest recesses of the soul, or over those abysses of possible experience which open on all sides about every man, which is to be found in the pages of Homer, Dante, Shakespeare, and Goethe, and of all those great artists who have seen men in those decisive and significant moments when they strike into the movement of history, or, through their deeds and sufferings, the order of life suddenly shines forth.

Chapter XXII.

The Interpretation of Idealism.

Idealism has so often been associated in recent years with vagueness of thought, slovenly construction, and a weak sentimentalism, that it has been discredited, even among those who have recognised the reality behind it and the great place it must hold in all rich and noble living.  It is the misfortune of what is called Idealism, that, like other spiritual principles, it attracts those who mistake the longings of unintelligent discontent for aspiration, or the changing outlines of vapory fancies for the firm and consistent form and shape of real conceptions deeply realised in the imagination.  Idealism has suffered much at the hands of feeble practitioners who have substituted irrational dreams for those far-reaching visions and those penetrating insights which are characteristic of its true use and illustration in the arts.  The height of the reaction so vigorously and impressively illustrated in a great group of modern realistic works is due largely to the weakness and extravagance of the idealistic movement.  When sentiment is exchanged for its corrupting counterfeit, sentimentalism, and clear and definite thinking gives place to vague and elusive emotions and fancies, reaction is not only inevitable but wholesome; the instinct for sanity in men will always prevent them from becoming mere dreamers and star-gazers.

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Books and Culture from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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