Practical Essays eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 299 pages of information about Practical Essays.
which ranks so high among human motives.  It is a wholesome change of attitude; relieving the fatigue of book-study, while adding to its fruitfulness.  Even beginners in study are mutually helpful, by exchanging the results of their several book acquirements; while it is possible to raise conversation to the rank of a high art, both for intellectual improvement and for mutual delectation.  I cannot say that the ideal is often realized; since two or more must combine to conversation, and it is not often that the mutual action and re-action is perfectly adjusted for the highest effect.

The last great adjunct of study is original Composition, which also would need to be formulated distinct from the theory of book-study.  Viewed in the same way as we have viewed the other collateral exercises, one can pronounce it too an invaluable adjunct to book-reading, as well as an end in itself; it is a variation of effort that diverts the mental strain, and re-acts powerfully upon the extraction of nutriment from books.  Besides the pride of achievement, it evokes the social stimulus with the highest effect; our compositions being usually intended for some listeners.  But, when to begin the work of original composition, as distinct from the written exercises upon books, in the way of abstracting, amending, and the rest; what forms it should assume at the outset, and by what steps it should gradually ascend to the culminating effects of the art,—­would all admit of expansion and discussion as an altogether separate theme.  Enough to remark here, that a course of book-reading without attempts at original composition is as faulty an extreme, as to begin and carry on writing upon a stinted basis of reading.  The thorough student, as concerned in my present essay, carrying on book-study in the manner I have sketched, will almost infallibly end, at the proper time, in a self-thinker, and a self-originator.  An adequate familiarity with the great writers of the past both checks presumptuous or hasty efforts of reproduction, and encourages modest attempts of our own as we feel ourselves becoming gradually invigorated through the combined influence of all the various modes of well-directed study.


[Footnote 16:  Milton had charge of pupils in 1644, when Locke was twelve.]

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Every man has an interest in arriving at truth for himself.  However useful it may be to mislead other people, however sweet to look down from a height on the erring throng beneath, it is neither useful nor sweet to be ourselves at sea without a compass.  We may not care to walk by the light we have, but we do not choose to exchange it for darkness.

This reflection is most obvious with reference to the order of Nature.  Our life depends on adapting means to ends; which supposes that we know cause and effect in the world around us.  A long story is cut short by the adage, “Knowledge is power”; otherwise rendered, “Truth is bliss”.

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Practical Essays from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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