« ZurückWeiter »
“ love is blind." The daughter bas preserved the lesson in lines worthy of herself, her sire, and the precious truth embodied in them :
“Passion is blind, not love; her wondrous might
Informs with three-fold power man's inward sight;
X I have in this introductory lecture attempted nothing beyond the exposition of a few broad and simple principles of literature, the importance of which will perhaps best be seen in the practical application of them to the guidance and formation of our habits of reading. It
* Biographia Literaria, of S. T. C. Vol. i. Part. 1. p. clxxxiv. Ed. 1847. This daughter was Mrs. Sara Coleridge, who died in 1852. I do not know where I can more appositely note the fact, that, when after years of constant literary correspondence with different members of the Coleridge family, Mr. Reed visited England in 1854, the welcome he received from them was most cordial and affectionate. He was greeted as an old friend and taken home to their very hearts. Since his death, no more earnest and affectionate tributes to his momory, no more accurate appreciation of his character, have been paid than by this circle of his kind English friends. Especially I will venture to refer to Mr. Justice Coleridge and his kinsman, the Rev. Derwent Coleridge of St. Mark's Colle Chelsea. W. B. R,
was my intention to have worked those principles out co their application, but I have already consumed more of your time than I desire to do during one evening. It seemed necessary to show, in the first place, that I appreciated the difficulties which are caused by the multiplicity of books; and then to set forth these essential principles of literature, as distinguished from mere books, that it is addressed to our universal human nature, and that it gives power not to the intellect alone, but to our whole spiritual being; and that if it be true to its high purpose, it gives power of wisdom and happi
I felt it to be important also, with a view to some applications to be made in subsequent lectures--to consider the reciprocal relations of the manly and womanly mind.
I propose in the next lecture to consider the application of these principles to habits and courses of reading; reserving for the third lecture the subject of the English language, to which I am anxious to devote an entire lecture.
Application of Literary Principles.*
Narrow and exclusive iines of reading to be avoided—Catholicity of
taste-Charles Lamb's idea of books—Ruskin-Habits of reading comprehensive-Ancient Literature-Foreign languages—Differ. ent eras of letters-English essay writing-Macaulay-SoutheyScott and Washington Irving-Archdeacon Hare-Lord Bacon's Essays—Poetic taste-Influence of individual pursuits-Friends in Council--Serious and gay books—English humour--Southey's ballad-Necessity of intellectual discipline-Disadvantage of courses of, reading--Books not insulated things--Authors who guideSouthey's Doctor-Elia--Coleridge—Divisions of Prose and Poetry -Henry Taylor's Notes from Books--Poetry not a mere luxury of the mind--Arnold's habits of study and taste-The practical and poetical element of Anglo-Saxon character—The Bible—Mosaic Poetry-Inadequacy of language-Lockhart's character of ScottArnold's charaeter of Scipio— Tragic Poetry-Poetry for childrenRobinson Crusoe and the Arabian Nights-Wordsworth's Ode to Duty-Character of Washington.
last lecture I sought to show how, amid the multitude of books, we must in the first place seek guidance for our choice by laying down in our minds certain general principles respecting the essential properties and uses of literature. I endeavoured to show that nothing but what is addressed to man as man is literature, and that that is more appropriately and eminently literature which gives power rather than knowledge, and that that is worthy literature which gives power for good, healthful strength
of mind, wisdom, and happiness. Now let us see how we can follow the principles out to practical uses. It might be thought that such a definition of literature was too narrow a one; that it was too high and serious a view of the subject; and that it would exclude much inoffensive and agreeable reading. When I speak of a book giving moral
power and health, or even if I should use words of graver import, spiritual strength and health, I employ these expressions in their largest sense, as comprehending the whole range of our inner life, from the lonely and loftiest meditations down to casual, colloquial cheerfulness, so that literature, in its large compass, shall furnish sympathy and an answer to every human emotion, and to all moods of thought and feeling. It is important, in the first place, having settled in one's mind an idea of the general properties of literature, to give to it a large and liberal application : in other words, to avoid narrow and exclusive lines in reading, to cultivate a true catholicity of taste. In so doing, you enlarge your capacities of enjoyment; you expand the discipline as well as the delights of the mind. It is with books as with nature, travel widely, and while at one time, you may behold the glories of the mountains, or the sublimities of the sea, you shall at another take delight as genial in the valley and the brook. We must needs be watchful of our habits of reading in this respect, for favourite lines of reading may come to be too exclusive. A favourite author may have too large an occupation. Women should remember that in all that is essentially literature, they have a right in common with men, because the very essence of it is, that it addresses itself to no distinctive property of sex, but to human nature. They wrong themselves in shrinking from any portion of the literature of their race, and they wrong man by not fulfilling in this respect the duty of companionship. For man and woman, alike, liberal communion with books is needed. I have known a person acquire late in life a hearty and healthful enjoyment of books, by this simple principle of opening the mind to docile and varied intercourse with them. I have known, on the other hand, that power of enjoyment lost, after years of intelligent and habitual reading, by giving way to a narrow bigotry in the choice of books. Daintiness, let it be always remembered, is disease, and fastidiousness is weakness. The healthy appetite of mind or body is strength for all healthful food. There was wisdom under the humour when Charles Lamb said, “I have no repugnances. Shaftesbury is not too genteel for me, nor Jonathan Wild too low. I can read anything which I call a book.”* And a living writer, who
' has, with high power and eloquence, treated man's sense of enjoyment of nature and art, remarks: “Our purity of taste is best tested by its universality, for if we can only admire this thing or that, we may be sure that our cause for liking is of a finite and false nature. But if we can perceive beauty in every thing of God's doing, we may agree that we have reached the true ception of its universal laws. Hence false taste may be known by its fastidiousness, by its demands of pomp, splendour, and unusual combination, by its enjoyment only of particular styles and modes of things, and by its pride also, for it is forever meddling, mending, accumulating, and self-exulting; its eye is always upon itself, and it tests all things
“ Detached Thoughts on
* Lamb's Prose Works, vol. 3, p. 45. Books and Reading."