I.--The Choice of Books.
You are not to expect any stories this time. There will be very few words about Stephen, or Sybil, or Sarah. My business now is rather to answer, as well as I can, such questions as young people ask who are beginning to have their time at their own command, and can make their own selection of the books they are to read. I have before me, as I write, a handful of letters which have been written to the office of "The Young Folks," asking such questions. And all my intelligent young friends are asking each other such questions, and so ask them of me every day. I shall answer these questions by laying down some general rules, just as I have done before but I shall try to put you into the way of choosing your own books, rather than choosing for you a long, defined list of them.
I believe very thoroughly in courses of reading, because I believe in having one book lead to another. But, after the beginning, these courses for different persons will vary very much from each other. You all go out to a great picnic, and meet together in some pleasant place in the woods, and you put down the baskets there, and leave the pail with the ice in the shadiest place you can find, and cover it up with the blanket. Then you all set out in this great forest, which we call Literature. But it is only a few of the party, who choose to start hand in hand along a gravel-path there is, which leads straight to the Burgesses' well, and probably those few enjoy less and gain less from the day's excursion than any of the rest. The rest break up into different knots, and go some here and some there, as their occasion and their genius call them. Some go after flowers, some after berries, some after butterflies; some knock the rocks to pieces, some get up where there is a fine view, some sit down and copy the stumps, some go into water, some make a fire, some find a camp of Indians and learn how to make baskets. Then they all come back to the picnic in good spirits and with good appetites, each eager to tell the others what he has seen and heard, each having satisfied his own taste and genius, and each and all having made vastly more out of the day than if they had all held to the gravel-path and walked in column to the Burgesses' well and back again.
This, you see, is a long parable for the purpose of making you remember that there are but few books which it is necessary for every intelligent boy and girl, man and woman, to have read. Of those few, I had as lief give the list here.
First is the Bible, of which not only is an intelligent knowledge necessary for your healthy growth in religious life, but--which is of less consequence, indeed--it is as necessary for your tolerable understanding of the literature, or even science, of a world which for eighteen centuries has been under the steady influence of the Bible. Around the English version of it, as Mr. Marsh shows so well, the English language of the last three centuries has revolved, as the earth revolves around the sun. He means, that although the language of one time differs from that of another, it is always at about the same distance from the language of King James's Bible.
[Footnote: Marsh's Lectures on the English Language: very entertaining books.]
Second, every one ought to be quite well informed as to the history of the country in which he lives. All of you should know the general history of the United States well. You should know the history of your own State in more detail, and of your own town in the most detail of all.
Third, an American needs to have a clear knowledge of the general features of the history of England.
Now it does not make so much difference how you compass this general historical knowledge, if, in its main features, you do compass it. When Mr. Lincoln went down to Norfolk to see the rebel commissioners, Mr. Hunter, on their side, cited, as a precedent for the action which he wanted the President to pursue, the negotiations between Charles the First and his Parliament. Mr. Lincoln's eyes twinkled, and he said, "Upon questions of history I must refer you to Mr. Seward, for he is posted upon such things, and I do not profess to be. My only distinct recollection of the matter is, that Charles lost his head." Now you see it is of no sort of consequence how Mr. Lincoln got his thoroughly sound knowledge of the history of England,--in which, by the way, he was entirely at home,--and he had a perfect right to pay the compliment he did to Mr. Seward; but it was of great importance to him that he should not be haunted with the fear that the other man did know, really, of some important piece of negotiation of which he was ignorant. It was important to him to know that, so that he might be sure that his joke was--as it was--exactly the fitting answer.
Fourth, it is necessary that every intelligent American or Englishman should have read carefully most of Shakespeare's plays. Most people would have named them before the history, but I do not. I do not care, however, how early you read them in life, and, as we shall see, they will be among your best guides for the history of England.
Lastly, it is a disgrace to read even the newspaper, without knowing where the places are which are spoken of. You need, therefore, the very best atlas you can provide yourself with. The atlas you had when you studied geography at school is better than none. But if you can compass any more precise and full, so much the better. Colton's American Atlas is good. The large cheap maps, published two on one roller by Lloyd, are good; if you can give but five dollars for your maps, perhaps this is the best investment. Mr. Fay's beautiful atlas costs but three and a half dollars. For the other hemisphere, Black's Atlas is good. Rogers's, published in Edinburgh, is very complete in its American maps. Stieler's is cheap and reliable.
When people talk of the "books which no gentleman's library should be without," the list may be boiled down, I think--if in any stress we should be reduced to the bread-and-water diet--to such books as will cover these five fundamental necessities. If you cannot buy the Bible, the agent of the County Bible Society will give you one. You can buy the whole of Shakespeare for fifty cents in Dicks's edition. And, within two miles of the place where you live, there are books enough for all the historical study I have prescribed. So, in what I now go on to say, I shall take it for granted that we have all of us made thus much preparation, or can make it. These are the central stores of the picnic, which we can fall back upon, after our explorations in our various lines of literature.
Now for our several courses of reading. How am I to know what are your several tastes, or the several lines of your genius? Here are, as I learn from Mr. Osgood, some seventy-six thousand five hundred and forty-three Young Folks, be the same more or less, who are reading this paper. How am I to tell what are their seventy-six thousand five hundred and forty-three tastes, dispositions, or lines of genius? I cannot tell. Perhaps they could not tell themselves, not being skilled in self-analysis; and it is by no means necessary that they should be able to tell. Perhaps we can set down on paper what will be much better, the rules or the system by which each of them may read well in the line of his own genius, and so find out, before he has done with this life, what the line of that genius is, as far as there is any occasion.
Do Not Try To Read Everything.
That is the first rule. Do not think you must be a Universal Genius. Do not "read all Reviews," as an old code I had bade young men do. And give up, as early as you can, the passion, with which all young people naturally begin, of "keeping up with the literature of the time." As for the literature of the time, if one were to adopt any extreme rule, Mr. Emerson's would be the better of the two possible extremes. He says it is wise to read no book till it has been printed a year; that, before the year is well over, many of those books drift out of sight, which just now all the newspapers are telling you to read. But then, seriously, I do not suppose he acts on that rule himself. Nor need you and I. Only, we will not try to read them all.
Here I must warn my young friend Jamie not to go on talking about renouncing "nineteenth century trash."
It will not do to use such words about a century in which have written Goethe, Fichte, Cuvier, Schleiermacher, Martineau, Scott, Tennyson, Thackeray, Browning, and Dickens, not to mention a hundred others whom Jamie likes to read as much as I do.
No. We will trust to conversation with the others, who have had their different paths in this picnic party of ours, to learn from them just the brightest and best things that they have seen and heard. And we will try to be able to tell them, simply and truly, the best things we find on our own paths. Now, for selecting the path, what shall we do,--since one cannot in one little life attempt them all?
You can select for yourself, if you will only keep a cool head, and have your eyes open. First of all, remember that what you want from books is the information in them, and the stimulus they give to you, and the amusement for your recreation. You do not read for the poor pleasure of saying you have read them. You are reading for the subject, much more than for the particular book, and if you find that you have exhausted all the book has on your subject, then you are to leave that book, whether you have read it through or not. In some cases you read because the author's own mind is worth knowing; and then the more you read the better you know him. But these cases do not affect the rule. You read for what is in the books, not that you may mark such a book off from a "course of reading," or say at the next meeting of the "Philogabblian Society" that you "have just been reading Kant" or "Godwin." What is the subject, then, which you want to read upon?
Half the boys and girls who read this have been so well trained that they know. They know what they want to know. One is sure that she wants to know more about Mary Queen of Scots; another, that he wants to know more about fly-fishing; another, that she wants to know more about the Egyptian hieroglyphics; another, that he wants to know more about propagating new varieties of pansies; another, that she wants to know more about "The Ring and the Book"; another, that he wants to know more about the "Tenure of Office bill" Happy is this half. To know your ignorance is the great first step to its relief. To confess it, as has been said before, is the second. In a minute I will be ready to say what I can to this happy half; but one minute first for the less happy half, who know they want to read something because it is so nice to read a pleasant book, but who do not know what that something is. They come to us, as their ancestors came to a relative of mine who was librarian of a town library sixty years ago: "Please, sir, mother wants a sermon book, and another book."
To these undecided ones I simply say, now has the time come for decision. Your school studies have undoubtedly opened up so many subjects to you that you very naturally find it hard to select between them. Shall you keep up your drawing, or your music, or your history, or your botany, or your chemistry? Very well in the schools, my dear Alice, to have started you in these things, but now you are coming to be a woman, it is for you to decide which shall go forward; it is not for Miss Winstanley, far less for me, who never saw your face, and know nothing of what you can or cannot do.
Now you can decide in this way. Tell me, or tell yourself, what is the passage in your reading or in your life for the last week which rests on your memory. Let us see if we thoroughly understand that passage. If we do not, we will see if we cannot learn to. That will give us a "course of reading" for the next twelve months, or if we choose, for the rest of our lives. There is no end, you will see, to a true course of reading; and, on the other hand, you may about as well begin at one place as another. Remember that you have infinite lives before you, so you need not hurry in the details for fear the work should be never done.
Now I must show you how to go to work, by supposing you have been interested in some particular passage. Let us take a passage from Macaulay, which I marked in the Edinburgh Review for Sydney to speak, twenty-nine years ago,--I think before I had ever heard Macaulay's name. A great many of you boys have spoken it at school since then, and many of you girls have heard scraps from it. It is a brilliant passage, rather too ornate for daily food, but not amiss for a luxury, more than candied orange is after a state dinner. He is speaking of the worldly wisdom and skilful human policy of the method of organization of the Roman Catholic Church. He says:--
"The history of that Church joins together the two great ages of human civilization. No other institution is left standing which carries the mind back to the times when the smoke of sacrifice rose from the Pantheon, when camelopards and tigers bounded in the Flavian amphitheatre. The proudest royal houses are but of yesterday, when compared with the line of the Supreme Pontiffs. That line we trace back in an unbroken series, from the Pope who crowned Napoleon in the nineteenth century, to the Pope who crowned Pepin in the eighth; and far beyond the time of Pepin the august dynasty extends, till it is lost in the twilight of fable. The Republic of Venice came next in antiquity. But the Republic of Venice was modern when compared to the Papacy; and the Republic of Venice is gone, and the Papacy remains. The Papacy remains, not in decay, not a mere antique, but full of life and youthful vigor. The Catholic Church is still sending forth to the farthest ends of the world missionaries as zealous as those who landed in Kent with Augustine; and still confronting hostile kings with the same spirit with which she confronted Attila....
"She was great and respected before the Saxon had set foot on Britain, before the Frank had passed the Rhine, when Grecian eloquence still flourished at Antioch, when idols were still worshipped in the temple of Mecca. And she may still exist in undiminished vigor, when some traveller from New Zealand shall, in the midst of a vast solitude, take his stand on a broken arch of London Bridge to sketch the ruins of St. Paul's."
I. We will not begin by considering the wisdom or the mistake of the general opinion here laid down. We will begin by trying to make out what is the real meaning of the leading words employed. Look carefully along the sentence, and see if you are quite sure of what is meant by such terms as "The Roman Catholic Church," "the Pantheon," "the Flavian amphitheatre," "the Supreme Pontiffs," "the Pope who crowned Napoleon," "the Pope who crowned Pepin," "the Republic of Venice," "the missionaries who landed in Kent," "Augustine," "the Saxon had set foot in Britain," "the Frank had passed the Rhine," "Grecian eloquence still flourished at Antioch," "idols in Mecca," "New Zealand," "London Bridge," "St. Paul's."
For really working up a subject--and this sentence now is to be our subject--I advise a blank book, and, for my part, I like to write down the key words or questions, in a vertical line, quite far apart from each other, on the first pages. You will see why, if you will read on.
II. Now go to work on this list. What do you really know about the organization of the Roman Catholic Church? If you find you are vague about it, that such knowledge as you have is only half knowledge, which is no knowledge, read till you are clear. Much information is not necessary, but good, as far as it goes, is necessary on any subject. This is a controverted subject. You ought to try, therefore, to read some statement by a Catholic author, and some statement by a Protestant. To find out what to read on this or any subject, there are different clews.
1. Any encyclopA|dia, good or bad, will set you on the trail. Most of you have or can have an encyclopA|dia at command. There are one-volume encyclopA|dias better than nothing, which are very cheap. You can pick up an edition of the old EncyclopA|dia Americana, in twelve volumes, for ten or twelve dollars. Or you can buy Appleton's, which is really quite good, for sixty dollars a set. I do not mean to have you rest on any encyclopA|dia, but you will find one at the start an excellent guide-post. Suppose you have the old EncyclopA|dia Americana. You will find there that the "Roman Catholic Church" is treated by two writers,--one a Protestant, and one a Catholic. Read both, and note in your book such allusions as interest you, which you want more light upon. Do not note everything which you do not know, for then you cannot get forward. But note all that specially interests you. For instance, it seems that the Roman Catholic Church is not so called by that church itself. The officers of that church might call it the Roman church, or the Catholic church, but would not call it the Roman Catholic church. At the Congress of Vienna, Cardinal Consalvi objected to the joint use of the words Roman Catholic church. Do you know what the Congress of Vienna was? No? then make a memorandum, if you want to know. We might put in another for Cardinal Consalvi. He was a man, who had a father and mother, perhaps brothers and sisters. He will give us a little human interest, if we stop to look him up. But do not stop for him now. Work through "Roman Catholic Church," and keep these memoranda in your book for another day.
2. Quite different from the encyclopA|dia is another book of reference, "Poole's Index." This is a general index to seventy-three magazines and reviews, which were published between the years 1802 and 1852. Now a great deal of the best work of this century has been put into such journals. A reference, then, to "Poole's Index" is a reference to some of the best separate papers on the subjects which for fifty years had most interest for the world of reading men and women. Let us try "Poole's Index" on "The Republic of Venice." There are references to articles on Venice in the New England Magazine, in the Pamphleteer, in the Monthly Review, Edinburgh, Quarterly, Westminster, and De Bow's Reviews. Copy all these references carefully, if you have any chance at any time of access to any of these journals. It is not, you know, at all necessary to have them in the house. Probably there is some friend's collection or public library where you can find one or more of them. If you live in or near Boston, or New York, or Philadelphia, or Charleston, or New Orleans, or Cincinnati, or Chicago, or St. Louis, or Ithaca, you can find every one.
When you have carefully gone down this original list, and made your memoranda for it, you are prepared to work out these memoranda. You begin now to see how many there are. You must be guided, of course, in your reading, by the time you have, and by the opportunity for getting the books. But, aside from that, you may choose what you like best, for a beginning. To make this simple by an illustration, I will suppose you have been using the old EncyclopA|dia Americana, or Appleton's CyclopA|dia and Poole's Index only, for your first list. As I should draw it up, it would look like this:--
CYCLOPADIA. POOLE'S INDEX.
ROMAN CATHOLIC CHURCH.
See (for instance) Eclectic Rev., 4th S. 13, 485. Council of Trent. Quart. Rev., 71, 108. Chrysostom. For. Quart. Rev., 27, 184. Congress of Vienna. Brownson's Rev., 2d S. 1, 413; 3, 309. Cardinal Consalvi. N. Brit. Rev., 10, 21.
Built by Agrippa. Consecrated, 607, to St. Mary ad Martyros. Called Rotunda.
THE FLAVIAN AMPHITHEATRE.
The Coliseum, b. by T. Flavius Vespasian.
Popes. The line begins with New-Englander, 7, 169. St. Peter, A. D. 42. Ends N. Brit. Rev., 11, 135. with Pius IX., 1846.
POPE WHO CROWNED NAPOLEON.
Pius VII., at Notre Dame, in For. Quart. Rev., 20, 54. Paris, Dec. 2, 1804.
POPE WHO CROWNED PEPIN.
Probably Pepin le Bref is meant. But he was not crowned by a Pope. Crowned by Archbishop Boniface of Mayence, at the advice of Pope Zachary. b. @ 715. d. 768.
REPUBLIC OF VENICE.
452 to 1815. St. Real's History. Quart. Rev. 31, 420. Otway's Tragedy, Venice Preserved. Month. Rev., 90, 525. Hazlitt's Hist, of Venice. West. Rev., 23, 38. Ruskin's Stones of Venice.
MISSIONARIES IN KENT.
Dublin Univ. Mag., 21, 212.
There are two Augustines. This is St. Austin, b. in 5th century, d. 604-614. Southey's Book of Church. Sharon Turner's Anglo-Saxons. Wm. of Malmesbury. Bede's Ecc. History.
SAXON IN BRITAIN.
Turner as above. Edin. Rev., 89, 79. Ang.-Saxon Chronicle. Quart. Rev., 7, 92. Six old Eng. Chronicles. Eclect. Rev., 25, 669.
FRANK PASSED THE RHINE.
Well established on west side, For. Quart. Rev., 17, 139. at the beginning of 5th century.
GREEK ELOQUENCE AT ANTIOCH.
Muller's Antiquitates AntiochianA| Greek Orators. Ed. Rev., 36, 62.
IDOLS IN MECCA.
Burckhardt's Travels. Burton's Travels.
3 islands, as large as Italy. N. Am. Rev., 18, 328. Discovered, 1642; taken by Cook for England, 1769. Gov. sent out, 1838. West. Rev., 45, 133. Thomson's story of N. Z. Edin. Rev., 91, 231; 56, 333. Cook's Voyages. N. Brit. Rev., 16, 176. Sir G. Gray's Poems, &c. of Living Age. Maoris.
5 elliptical arches. "Presents an aspect unequalled for interest and animation."
Built in thirty years between 1675 and 1705, by Christ. Wren.
Now I am by no means going to leave you to the reading of cyclopA|dias. The vice of cyclopA|dias is that they are dull. What is done for this passage of Macaulay in the lists above is only preliminary. It could be easily done in three hours' time, if you went carefully to work. And when you have done it, you have taught yourself a good deal about your own knowledge and your own ignorance,--about what you should read and what you should not attempt. So far it fits you for selecting your own course of reading.
I have arranged this only by way of illustration. I do not mean that I think these a particularly interesting or particularly important series of subjects. I do mean, however, to show you that the moment you will sift any book or any series of subjects, you will be finding out where your ignorance is, and what you want to know.
Supposing you belong to the fortunate half of people who know what they need, I should advise you to begin in just the same way.
For instance, Walter, to whom I alluded above, wants to know about Fly-Fishing. This is the way his list looks.
CYCLOPEDIA. POOLE'S INDEX.
(For instance) Quart. Rev., 69, 121; 37, 345. W. Scott, Redgauntlet. Edin. Rev., 78, 46, or 87; 93, 174, or 340.
Dr. Davy's Researches, 1839. Am. Whig Rev., 6, 490. Cuvier and Valenciennes, Hist. N. Brit. Rev., 11, 32, or 95; I, Naturelle des Poissons, Vol. 326; 8, 160; or Liv. Age, 2, XXI. 291; 17, I. Blackwood, 51, 296. Richardson's Fauna Bor. Amer. Quart. Rev., 67, 98, or 332; 69, 226. Blackwood, 10, 249; 49, 302; De Kay, ZoAlogy of N. Y. 21, 815; 24, 248; 35, 775; Agassiz, Lake Superior. 38, 119; 63, 673; 5, 123; 5, 281; 7, 137. Fraser, 42, 136.
Izaak Walton, Compleat Angler. (Walton and Cotton first appeared, 1750.) Humphrey Day's Salmonia, or The Days of Fly-Fishing, Blakey, History of Angling Literature. Oppianus, De Venatione, Piscatione et Aucupio. (Halieutica translated.) Jones's English translation was published in Oxford, 1722. Bronner, Fischergedichte und Erzahlungen (Fishermen's Songs and Stories). Norris, T., American Angler's Book. Zouch, Life of Iz. Walton. Salmon Fisheries. Parliamentary Reports. Annual. "Blackwood's Magazine, an important landmark in English angling literature." See Noctes AmbrosianA|. H. W. Beecher, N. Y. Independent, 1853. In the New York edition of Walton and Cotton is a list of books on Angling, which Blakey enlarges. His list contains four hundred and fifty titles. American Angler's Guide, 1849. Storer, D. H., Fishes of Massachusetts. Storer, D. H., Fishes of N. America. Girard, Fresh-Water Fishes of N. America (Smithsonian Contributions, Vol. III.). Richard Penn, Maxims and Hints for an Angler, and Miseries of Fishing, 1839. James Wilson, The Rod and the Gun, 1840. Herbert, Frank Forester's Fish of N. America. Yarrel's British Fishes. The same, on the Growth of Salmon. Boy's Own Book.
Please to observe, now, that nobody is obliged to read up all the authorities that we have lighted on. What the lists mean is this;--that you have made the inquiry for "a sermon book and another book," and you are now thus far on your way toward an answer. These are the first answers that come to hand. Work on and you will have more. I cannot pretend to give that answer for any one of you,--far less for all those who would be likely to be interested in all the subjects which are named here. But with such clews as are given above, you will soon find your ways into the different parts that interest you of our great picnic grove.
Remember, however, that there are no royal roads. The difference between a well-educated person and one not well educated is, that the first knows how to find what he needs, and the other does not. It is not so much that the first is better informed on details than the second, though he probably is. But his power to collect the details at short notice is vastly greater than is that of the uneducated or unlearned man.
In different homes, the resources at command are so different that I must not try to advise much as to your next step beyond the lists above. There are many good catalogues of books, with indexes to subjects. In the Congressional Library, my friend Mr. Vinton is preparing a magnificent "Index of Subjects," which will be of great use to the whole nation. In Harvard College Library they have a manuscript catalogue referring to the subjects described in the books of that collection. The "Cross-References" of the Astor Catalogue, and of the Boston Library Catalogue, are invaluable to all readers, young or old. Your teacher at school can help you in nothing more than in directing you to the books you need on any subject. Do not go and say, "Miss Winstanley, or Miss Parsons, I want a nice book"; but have sense enough to know what you want it to be about. Be able to say,--"Miss Parsons, I should like to know about heraldry," or "about butterflies," or "about water-color painting," or "about Robert Browning," or "about the Mysteries of Udolpho." Miss Parsons will tell you what to read. And she will be very glad to tell you. Or if you are not at school, this very thing among others is what the minister is for. Do not be frightened. He will be very glad to see you. Go round to his house, not on Saturday, but at the time he receives guests, and say to him: "Mr. Ingham, we girls have made quite a collection of old porcelain, and we want to know more about it. Will you be kind enough to tell us where we can find anything about porcelain. We have read Miss Edgeworth's 'Prussian Vase' and we have read 'Palissy the Potter,' and we should like to know more about SAvres, and Dresden, and Palissy." Ingham will be delighted, and in a fortnight, if you will go to work, you will know more about what you ask for than any one person knows in America.
And I do not mean that all your reading is to be digging or hard work. I can show that I do not, by supposing that we carry out the plan of the list above,--on any one of its details, and write down the books which that detail suggests to us. Perhaps VENICE has seemed to you the most interesting head of these which we have named. If we follow that up only in the references given above, we shall find our book list for Venice, just as it comes, in no order but that of accident, is:--
St. Real, Relation des Espagnols contre Venise. Otway's Venice Preserved. Shakespeare's Merchant of Venice. Howells's Venetian Life. Blondus. De Origine Venetorum. Muratori's Annals. Ruskin's Stones of Venice. D'Israeli's Contarini Fleming. Contarina, Della Republica di Venetia. Flagg, Venice from 1797 to 1849. Crassus, De Republica Veneta. Jarmot, De Republica Veneta. Voltaire's General History. Sismondi's History of Italy. Lord Byron's Letters. Sketches of Venetian History, Fam. Library, 26, 27. Venetian History, Hazlitt. Dandolo, G. La Caduta della Republica di Venezia (The Fall of the Republic of Venice). Ridolfi, C., Lives of the Venetian Painters. Monagas, J. T., Late Events in Venice. Delavigne, Marino Faliero, a Historical Drama. Lord Byron, The same. Smedley's Sketches from Venetian History. Daru, Hist. de la Republique de Venise.
So much for the way in which to choose your books. As to the choice, you will make it, not I. If you are a goose, cackling a great deal, silly at heart and wholly indifferent about to-morrow, you will choose just what you call the interesting titles. If you are a girl of sense, or a boy of sense, you will choose, when you have made your list, at least two books, determined to master them. You will choose one on the side of information, and one for the purpose of amusement, on the side of fancy. If you choose in "Venice" the "Merchant of Venice," you will not add to it "Venice Preserved," but you will add to it, say the Venetian chapters of "Sismondi's Italy." You will read every day; and you will divide your reading time into the two departments,--you will read for fact and you will read for fancy. Roots must have leaves, you know, and leaves must have roots. Bodies must have spirits, and, for this world at least, spirits must have bodies. Fact must be lighted by fancy, and fancy must be balanced by fact. Making this the principle of your selection, you may, nay, you must, select for yourselves your books. And in my next chapter I will do my best to teach you
HOW TO READ THEM.