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us. Writing of more than transient interest-if written in good literary form—becomes in some measure a classic. No classic will interest every reader; but every reader, with a little experimenting, can find some classic that interests him. Having thus discovered among books which have stood the test of time some one that pleases him, let him read others by the same author, whose charm he has begun to feel, and make that author's work a part of himself. Then—so rapid is the growth of taste -he will find that trashy writing no longer meets his needs; he will find, also, that a second interesting classic writer is easier to discover than a first; in time he will find that some authors whom he rejected in his early experiments have become his closest freinds. And after we have once intimately known great work and have felt the thrill of the growth that comes with such a knowledge, the process of cultivation advances fast. With it advances also, through the influence of what we read and through our unconscious or half-conscious absorption of it, our accuracy and power in the use of our own language. We have begun to live in the most interesting society—far more interesting than most of that society which frequents the houses of people whose good fortune we envy. At small cost we may have on our own table the best work of the greatest men and women of all time, may think their thoughts, dream their dreams, see their visions. All that we need is a little staying power; for, as some one has said, “Every great writer must in some measure create the atmosphere in which he is to be enjoyed”; we must give him a little time. I have mentioned Thackeray's Newcomes. Before the opening chapter of The Newcomes the stoutest heart may quail. Read the chapter or skip it, as you wish; but do not because of it abandon the book.
I have said little about poetry; yet poetry has, as an educator, a certain practical advantage which Professor Wendell pointed out when he observed that of all the fine arts it is the most portable. You can carry in your pocket more fine art (for less money) in poetry than in anything else. I said your pocket; I might have said your head. And love of poetry may be acquired by almost all. Girls as a rule are born with it and need only make sure that it is not stifled in them; yet it is a love that every year may be cultivated and increased. Most girls, with even a grammar school education, care for Longfellow; most girls care for Tennyson; from these they may pass to others, widening their appreciation every year and every day. Tennyson's "Crossing the Bar” is no more helpful—and no more intelligible —than Browning's “Prospice,” the inspiration of a man whom most girls reject unread. Such works as Professor Norton's "Heart of Oak Books," which bring together the best English poems for young people and introduce the reader to many authors at their best, are invaluable as starting-points. Indeed the girl who really knows the "Heart of Oak Books" (prose and verse) has no mean acquaintance with English literature. Such a girl, however, will not stop with such an acquaintance. She has tasted the delight of good reading and need no longer be bidden to the feast. She has already begun to commit to memory the short poems that she loves best and to learn how they can transform what once were dull and waiting hours. Short poems for odd minutes— one to read for every day in the year—here is a course in culture which nobody is too poor to take, which nobody should be too dull to enjoy. When once a girl has gained the love of literature for its own sake, such a book as Professor Winchester's Short Courses in English Reading, which names the characteristic works of each important period in our literature, will serve as an admirable guide. Books, such as I have mentioned, that bring the reader face to face with the great authors themselves are vastly better than books about books, except as these latter may lead us to great authors whom we should otherwise neglect.
I have barely mentioned the Bible, which few of us read as we should, none of us as we might, and whicheven apart from every religious consideration-if read little by little every day with an active mind, trains a girl's literary judgment as it can be trained by nothing else. The effect of the Bible on English style may be seen at its best in the work of John Bunyan—otherwise almost illiterate-or of Abraham Lincoln, into whose heart and speech the Bible early found its way. To this book almost alone our literature is indebted for these self-taught and universally acknowledged masters.
I am well aware that reading is only one means of culture. I have not forgotten the culture that comes of intimacy with Nature; and it were a nice question whether Emerson owed more to his Plato or to his pine tree. I have not forgotten that
“There's no one season such delight can bring
or that love of books is scarcely a blessing at all if it seals our eyes—which it should aid us in keeping open -to the sea, the mountains, and the stars. I take reading for what it is worth as one help only, but one which allies others to itself even as the five talents may become ten. For if the germ of culture once gets into the system, it propagates itself with marvelous speed. There are, it is true, individuals whom it affects in one part and not in others, lovers of literature who delight in vulgar vaudeville, lovers of music who devour detective stories and dime novels, lovers of the pure and high who by contrast enjoy-or try to think they enjoy-sporadic attacks of the impure and low; but, in general, culture in one art leads to taste in others, for it refines the intellect. And though she who has cultivated herself by reading may know little of painting or of music, she has put herself into that actively receptive condition which will make progress, even in those arts, rapid when the opportunity comes. She has learned that the greatest minds, like the sun and the stars, shine for all who have eyes and hearts to welcome their quickening rays. She may be a teacher of stubborn and stupid little children; she may write dull business letters at the dictation of vulgar men; she may sell hairpins all day behind a counter; she may make eyelets in a shoe factory; but when the minutes come that are her own, she steps instantly into a life from which no drudgery can divorce her-a life the breath of which inspires her daily work, however mean, with a kind of glory. For the work is her discipline, her part in the ceaseless renewal of that great and multifarious life which we call the world; and she can do it, for she has tasted the joy of the "unconquerable soul."
JOHN RUSSELL TAYLOR
A man's philosophy is borrowed; his art is his own. What a man thinks of things is doubtless interesting and characteristic; result of his breeding and education, it is his contemporary patent; he takes of the stream as engineers take of the power of wind and water. But what he does, what he makes, the use to which he puts his heritage, is the measure both of his value to us and of the man himself.
Yet our quaint habit is to look, almost exclusively, for philosophies, the ideas that are involved, in Sophocles and in Shakespeare. "If you've got the idea," said the
. famous German professor, whose name, unfortunately, I have forgotten, and whose subject was the madonna motive in painting, “if you've got the idea, you've got the whole thing." And he proceeded to prove this with lantern-slides in black and white. Think of that. Ruskin used to say that truths of color are the least important of all truths; and his ingenious and malapropos argument is made from the standpoint of a child who has achieved a drawing in outline, and who then by a happy afterthought proceeds to color it. Did Ruskin really believe that paintings are made in that way? Does anybody have to be told that paintings are color? Yet we
1 From Composition in Narration. Reprinted through the courtesy of John Russell Taylor and Henry Holt and Company.