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About Hesperian student / (Lincoln [Neb.]) 1872-1885 | View Entire Issue (March 1, 1875)
THE HESPERIAN STUDENT.
lint, especially if it is doueon expensive
white paper with u wide margin. Men
who would detect and spurn a lie if spok
en, will read lies by the hundred, and
Bhould they Hud two books which llntly
contradict each other in respect to state
ments of facts, they wonder how it can bo
possible that both are worthy of credit,
and yet, us they are bovhs thuy must of
course be true, though thoy cannot see
A book, let it be remembered, is an indi
vidual's own expression of his thoughts
and b no magic cun it be any better than
the author makes it. The author may be
a wise man or -i fi'nl.an honest man or a
villlun.il man of good intentions or neon
ceiver of evil. He may be unassuming,
or lie may be slightly (or more than slight
ly) elevated in self-conceit. He may have
something woith while to say, and not
know how to say it But whatever he is
or knows or has the power to communi
catc, that will he write in his book, wheth
-er he thereby writes himself down a sage
or a fool. Whatever may bo the author's
prejudices and peculiarities of thinking,
his book will betray them.
These traces of personality are oftcner
to be discovered than we might imagine.
A Dictionary seems to be the least pos
sesscd of any savor or aspect of human
personality, but even in such a book we
may discover the feelings of the writer.
For example, Dr. Johnson is said to dc
tine excise and pension thus; "An excise,"
he says, "is a hateful tax levied on com
modities, and adjudged, not by the com
mon judges of property, but by wretches
hired by those to whom the excise is
paid." Pension he defines as "an allow
ance made to any one without an equiva
lent. In England it is generally under
blood to mean pay given to a state hire
ling for trcuson to his country."
A historian, at the first thought, may
seem to be an impersonal chronicler of his
torical events. Yet who can read Gibbon,
Ilulliun, Hume, and Arnold without gain
ing a transcript of the individual charac
ter and principles of each ? The poet, the
dramatist and the moralist may personate
as many characters us he will and put in
to tiic mouths of these fictitious person
ages words most appropriate to each;
words seemingly far remote from the au
thor's own sentiments and feelings, but
yet when it chances that their own private
opinions have to be spoken, or their indi
vidual feelings expressed, the words come
with an energy and intensity of expres
sion which betrays them as the author's
own. To read Paradise Lost carefully
one becomes again ami again impressed
with its author's own feelings upon the
political and ecclesiastical turmoils of his '
time. The genius of the dramatist lies in '
his power to forget himself wholly In his
churactor, or to traiibform himself into
the hero whom he personates. In dra
matic writing, Slnikespeaie, perhaps,
stands first in excellence. But in his
plays one frequently meets sentences
weighty with a double meaning. Not on
ly does the hero speak but the author
through his hero, utters sentiments and
emotions which ho could not repress.
A book not only represents its author
but it portrays either the best or the worst
part of him. By the act of writing, the
mind is ordinarily raised to its highest
energy both of thought and feeling. It
condenses and as it were intensifies itself;
whatever is good into doubly good
whatever is bad into doubly bad: " A book
therefore gives a picture of the author's
inner self in forms enlarged and Ideally
improved. The colors arc more Intense,
and more finely contrasted than seen in
tho man's ordinary life.
A good book, therefore, is sometimes
of more value to the world than a good
man, for it is the best part of a good man
the good without the evil. When a
man dies, while his spirit is living on In
one immortal world, he may also be liv
ing another immortality on earth. Milton
used more than a figure when he says,
"for books are not absolutely dead things,
but do contain a progeny of lfo in them
as active as the soul whose progeny they
are: nay, they do preserve as in a vial the
purest efllcacy and extraction of that liv
ing intellect that bred them. As good,
almost, kill a good man as kill a good
book ; who kills a man, kills a reasonable
creature, God's image; but he who dc
stroys a book kills reason itself; kills the
image of God as it were in the eye."
This brings us to the second question
What is it to read? What' has already
been said may perhaps suggest now the
answer to thia query. To read a book is
to place ourselves in communication with
a living man when every word is chosen
before spoken. We must imagine our
selves for the time being in company with
the author. The man who would read in
the true significance of that term, must be
able as he holds the book before his eyes
to go with Chaucer to Canterbury, with
Homer to the plains of Troy, with Dick
ens through the smoky streets of London,
withTyndall over the glaciers in the Alps,
with the naturalist over caves and streams,
with the journalist or reviewer into his
study, as he sits surrounded by his books.
We must take our seats by the side of
Bacon, and receive his fragrant observa
tious, which come to us like so many
pearls, as they fell from the lip3 of the
living man. If the author has given vent
to his imagination, we must allow ours to
follow his. To read Shakespeare intelli
gently one must re create in his own fan
cy those wonderful beings conceived in J
the mind of the great dramatist. To read
that great poem of Milton's, we must go,
with its author to the very gates of heaven
and look into the eternal city, till like)
him we become dazzled by the magnill-j
cence or tlie scene, overwhelmed by the
splendid array of the angelic host, or con
founded by the glimpses of the infinite
glories of the "Uncreated and Eternal Je
hovah," and then turn our eyes to where
'On a Midden, open fly.
With Impetuous r i .-ul Jarring sound.
Thu Infernal doors. '
and the Archangel ruined stands before
us with Ills' compeers sublime in intel
lect, degraded by sin, scarred and seared
by suffering, yet proud and unsubdued in
their relentless wills.
After the reader has thus placed him.
self in the attitude described and has
caught the words as if he really heard
them fall from the lips of the writer, ho
must deal with the thoughts as with any
others spoken in his hearing. Not neccs
surily believe unless he lias some reason
for believing. If two books make con
trary statements, one is probably wrong,
and both may be wrong. If a man writes
great and beautiful truths it is well that
we rcac' them nil, nnd then re-read and
again, or in other words have the author
repeat his wise sayings. If the book con.
tains blasphemy and falsehood a very lit.
tie will suffice. It would be folly to sit
and listen by the hour to a man telling
lies, if wc knew he was lying. Bacon
couched much truth In a few word when
he said, "Some books are made to be tast
ed, others to be swallowed, and some few
to be chewed and digested."
Many people may be th 'ii'i! i read a
great deal, who really ieu' but little, in
the true sense of the term. They read as
many people hear, such as go from Sab
bath to Sabbath and sit in the sanctuary ;
but were they asked what was the text, or
what the general strain of the minister's
discourse, they are lost. So, many people
have a habit of perusing books and pa
pers in a pasivo way, which is far from
It is said of Edmund Burke that he
read every book as if lie were never to
see it a second time, and thus made it his
own, a possession for life. Were his ex
ample imitated more closely much time
would certainly be saved that Is now spent
in recalling things half remembered
taking up the stitches of lost thought. It
is not necessary in reading every book
that we commence at the first page and
pass the eye over every word from top to
bottom of each successive page. Some
books require tills, others do not. The
best readers are those who can take a
book, and, turning first to the table of
contents, and to this page and then to that,
grasp the great thought of the author:
who can select the valuable as a magnet
takes and holds the iron filings, scattered
ina handful of sand: who when they
have found these choice morsels read
(hem, as if they never expected to see the
hooka second time. Such Individuals
can do a vast amount of reading in a life
time. The so-called readers are divided
by Coleridge Into four classes. "The
first," says he, "may be compared to an
hour glass, their reading being as sand
which runs in and runs out, and leaves no
vestige behind. A second class resem
bles a sponge, which imbibes everything,
and returns it nearly in the same state on
ly a little dirtier. A third class is like a
jelly-bag which allows all that is pure to
paxs away and retains the refuse and
dregs. The fourth class may be com
pared to the slave of Uolconda who, cast
ing aside all that is worthless, preserves
only the pure gems." Tho last indeed
conforms to my ideal of a reader. In
this age of the world when thousands and
tens of thousands of books are printed, it
is highly im portaiu that every person who
wishes to read should form a clear con
ceptlon of what a book Is: that it is an
individual's own expression of his
thoughts in his strongest and most studied
language; thul it presents as true an im
age of the author's mind as any photo-
grnpu (iocs 01 ins external lorm. it is a
true picture because lie has painted it
himself. Every shade, every stroke every
touch, Is his own.
Having learned what a book is we next
wish to know how to make It serviceable
to us, in other words, what it is to read, bo
that amid the vast amount of literary mat
ter wc may read the jrreatcst possible
amount in tho least possible time, and be
best remunerated for the time thus spent.
II W. Stkwaht Black.
C'mi you Forget mo?
Can yoa forgot niu I who hnvu ho cherished
Thu varies! trillo Hint was memory's link.
Tho roses Unit yon gave me, although perished,
With piocloiis In my sight; they ituulo im thluk
You took Ilium In their scentless bounty stoon.
brum tho warm shelter of the gnrden Willi.
Autumn, Into languid winter drooping,
Oao Km last blosoms. opening hut In fall
Can ,ou forget met 1 am not relying
On plighted ows -ala"! 1 know their worth
Man's faith to woman In a trifle, dying
rpon the very breath that gave It birth.
Hut I remember bourn of quiet gladneiH.
When, If the heart had truth It spoke It then.
When thoughts would 'oinotliues take a tone of
And then unconsciously grow glad again.
Can j on forget them?
Canyon forget mo? My whole soul wan blinded:
At least it fought to blend Itself In thine,
My whole life's purpose, winning thee, seemed
Thou wert my heart's sweet home - m cplrlt'j
Can you forget iimr when thu llrelight burning,
Threw Midden gleams around the quiet room.
How would thy word, to long pant memories
Trust me with thoughts soft ax the shadowy
Can you forgot them!
Can you forget met Thle Is vainly tasking
Tho faithless heart where I, alasl am not.
Too well I know the idleness of asking
Tho misery of why I am forgot.
The happy hours that I have panned while kneel
ing Half slave, half child, to gare upon thy face.
Hut what to thee this passionate appealing
Let my heart break It is a common case.
You have forgotten inc.
L. K. Landox.
Scclected by "Mikiax Wki.teh."
We have received a we'1-written and
spicy communication from "Zay" in re
ply to an editorial in the Febiunry num.
ber of the JIkspkiuan entitled "Soctarl
anism in the University." We have con
eluded, however, not to publish it, as it
seems hardly judicious to continue the
discussion, begun several months ago,
anj further In the columns of the Stu-dent.
We see on every hand an endless sea of
literature. Literature of all kinds and dc-
scriptioiiH,andon every subject Imaginable.
There is scarcely a topic but has a thous
and and one distinct sides, nnd upon each
particular side, no two authors can precise
ly agree; hence the infinite variety and
Hood of ideas afloat. Fifty years ago, a
hundred volumes were considered as quite
a large library; to-day, two thousand are a
comparatively small one. As pcopk dc
velop In common sense, our world of lit
erature increases proportionately, and as
gradually ebb away nonsensical lalhitiw.
We will admit that two or three hundred
years ago, certain classes of literature were
originated which have never been mui pass
ed; but their progenitors seemed to have
been brilliant meteors, thrown by the hand
of the Almighty into the midst of Igno
rance to check the faltering itnd unsteady
step of the musses, as they surged on in
their superstitious lethargy.
It is true that we occasionally collide
with human beings who are ten, fifty, or
perhaps a hundred years behind the times;
but then they are xo odd that they are class
ed with walking mummies by Young
America, and allowed to pass on their way
rejoicing. Such are some of our religious
fanatics, who still ellng with a deathly
grip to the old dogmas, and Insist that vil
lnins of tho lowest caste, Including bandits
and murderers, are placed on tJiewime foot
ing in eternity with honest and righteous
men, and all rejoice together in the king
dom of Heaven; or, perchance, they go to
the other extreme and sav that three-fourths
of humanity together with all infants who
nave not been baptised are doomed to a
seething, fiery hell of unutterable torment,
to writhe in their agony forever. All of
these extreme fallacies are advocated with
a great deal of euercry bv those nrofcsfllnff
them, and well may they be, for people are
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