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cialist or the chromo awarded to the preserver of ten soap wrappers. The stage, too, is an instrument of culture; but the stage has produced both Shakespeare and the Roger Brothers.
I can readily understand the state of mind that makes intelligent "solid” reading difficult, if not impossible. A girl who has stood all day behind the counter of a "stuffy" shop may lack the nervous vigor for philosophy or political economy or for any history not narrative and romantic. To such a girl relief and delight may justly come through fiction; and with them may come the beginning of culture. No intelligent girl can read The Newcomes or Pendennis or Henry Esmond or Vanity Fair without some share in the joys and sorrows and sympathies of that great mind and greater heart which conceived them all; without some inward sense, however rudimentary, of what it means to say things worth saying and to say them well; without some discrimination between gentle manners, in high life or in low, and vulgarity of peasant or of prince. To love Thackeray is almost a liberal education; yet this great and intensely lovable master, one of the greatest and most lovable in all fiction, lies uncalled for on the shelf, condemned without a hearing as a pessimist and a cynic. "Ah, my worthy friend," said he, “it is astonishing how softhearted these cynics are. I dare say, if we could have come upon Diogenes by surprise, we would have found him reading sentimental novels and whimpering in his tub." "He could not," says a critic, "have written Vanity Fair as he has unless Eden had been shining in his inner eye."
Again, no healthy-minded girl comes face to face with the courageous womanliness of Elizabeth Bennet, rising through sweetness and good sense above a mother of humiliating vulgarity, or the delicate conscience of Fanny Price, undervitalized but charming in her sensitive devotion, without learning much from the author of Pride and Prejudice and of Mansfield Park; without learning the efficiency of good sense and good humor in literature and in life; without discovering that a style with no ornament, a style which marches straight on, is, in the right hands, a wonderfully effective style, and that a book to be interesting need not leave the beaten track of everyday life. Still again, no girl with a touch of the romantic, such as every girl should have, can fail to be the happier and the more cultivated for knowing early and always the perennial king of English romance, the author of Quentin Durward and Ivanhoe. The mere mention of these three writers—all so great, yet each so different from either of the others—is enough to make us blush for the hours and the days that we have wasted on yellow newspapers and yellow novels and trivial magazines.
“But,” it may be said, "no matter how much education an untrained girl would get from such authors if she gave herself up to them, will she can she-give herself up to them? Can she read them with that zest which alone will make them memorable and inspiring?" With a little courage at the start, she can. Nothing about literature is more remarkable or more encouraging than the power of the greatest literature to reach all earnest hurnan beings. Not to speak of the Bible, Shakespeare is read in the chamber and heard on the stage by men and women whose education stopped with the grammar school; and as to Homer we remember how the snowbound outcasts of Poker Flat were absorbed in the fate of “Ash-heels." Homer and Shakespeare are almost in a class by themselves; yet other classics, not so great, may educate us and, while educating, may delight. I know that to some minds the very word classic is cold and repellent, suggesting something which people tell us we ought to like and which, in consequence, we like the less. It is well to remember a helpful word of Professor Barrett Wendell's, that a classic would not be a classic if it had not interested thousands of human beings, and that what has interested thousands of human beings cannot be without interest to 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 friends. 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
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
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 minutesone 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