Wednesday, November 11, 2015
The Value of Books by John Millar 1897
THE VALUE OF BOOKS by John Millar 1897
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"Books are the immortal sons deifying their sires." —Plato
"Books are the legacies that genius leaves to mankind." —Addison
"Books are the ever-burning lamps of accumulated wisdom." -Curtis
"All the known world, excepting only savage nations, is governed by books." —Voltaire
"A good book is the precious life-blood of a masterspirit." —Milton
"How contemptible is the lust of wealth when compared with the noble thirst for learning." —Petrarch
"Love of reading enables a man to exchange the weary hours which come to everyone for hours of delight." —Montesquieu
"Books are the wings to the soul; their faithful thoughts, their high and noble aspirations, their refreshing meditations, are wings to bear us upward—onward." —Paxton Hood
"If the crowns of all the kingdoms of the empire were laid down at my feet in exchange for my books and my love of reading, I would spurn them all." —Fenelon
"Books are a guide in youth, and an entertainment for age. They support us under solitude, and keep us from being a burden to ourselves. They help us to forget the crossness of men and things, compose our cares and our passions, and lay our disappointments asleep. When we are weary of the living, we may repair to the dead, who have nothing of peevishness, pride or design in their conversation." —Jeremy Collier.
The age in which we live calls for men and women of education. The attainments that sufficed in former times will not answer for the present day. Failures are due in every walk of life to the want of education. Knowledge, it should be remembered, is not necessarily education. No person can be considered educated unless his character is properly formed. It is the function of the school to form character. It is with this object discipline is maintained, knowledge is imparted and the tastes and habits are cultivated. In spite of its defects, the school is one of the most potent agencies in promoting good citizenship. It is absurd to suppose that the country can expend too much for education. A surplus of properly educated persons is no more to be feared than a surplus of good men and women.
The years of school life are, however, few for most persons. Fifty per cent, of all children who enter school leave before the age of twelve. Only a small proportion of the population ever attend a High School. Very few can hope to gain a college or university training. To get on in the world a good education is, nevertheless, becoming more and more requisite. Is the child whose parents are unable to send him to a High School to give up hope? Are the avenues to usefulness or distinction closed to the poor boy who is obliged to earn his living before completing the Public School course? Is the period of education ended for those who work on the farm, in the shop, or behind the counter? A negative reply may be given to each of these questions. Many a person who left school at an early age achieved success by making good use of all his subsequent opportunities. The benefits of reading, observation, and reflection are open to all.
The person who reads good books is not likely to remain uneducated. The proper study of books puts people in possession of that knowledge which promotes human happiness and progress. Knowledge will give skill in discharging the duties of life, and increased power in executing its purposes. Men who have received the inspiration which comes from books have become factors in the world's advancement. There is no more potent stimulus to a higher life than the words of good men recorded in the pages of their writings. Men who make their mark in the realm of thought are readers. Books make people think. It is the power to think that distinguishes the educated from the uneducated. Books are a means of culture and refinement. A clear head, a well-stored mind, a sympathetic heart, and a vivid imagination, are often the results of judicious reading. To the unlettered person the grandeur of the distant and the past, which books reveal, is a complete void. Books enable a person to realize the beauties of distant lands, and to enter heartily into the struggles of the past for civil and religious liberty. The man who can read with appreciation the books of eminent writers places himself in contact with a spirit far larger than his own. His mind grasps nobler ideas, his heart is filled with glowing sentiments, and he becomes refined in manner, enlarged in powers of usefulness and inspired to a higher aim in the battle of life.
Every man who makes a name for himself is in a sense self-made. Education can not be inherited or purchased. Neither the talent to acquire knowledge nor the facilities to obtain it will avail without self-effort. Application will often make up for defective natural ability or lack of helpful surroundings. To gain knowledge and to develop the intellect are aspirations that seldom bring disappointment. The child that loves books has acquired the source of intellectual power. To read with industry and discretion is to increase the intelligence and to rise in the social scale. "When a boy," said Horace Greeley, "I would go reading to the wood-pile, reading to the neighbors. My father was poor and needed my services through the day, but it was a mighty struggle for him to get me to bed at night. I would take a pine knot, put it on the back-log, pile my books around me and lie down and read all through the long winter evenings, silent, motionless and dead to all the world around me, alive only to the world to which I was transported by my books."
The experience of the late editor of the New York Tribune, as here related, is not far different from that of many persons around us. It is a fair illustration of what is being continually accomplished by boys who are struggling amidst difficulties to gain an education. In every calling are to be found men who have come to the front in spite of the drawbacks of early life. The hope of becoming educated may be entertained by every child that will read. Many a young person has been started in a useful career by reading a good book. The inspiration of good books has made preachers, teachers, philosophers and statesmen. Men of power have been readers of the masterpieces of literature. Napoleon was never weary of sounding the praises of Homer. Cotton Mather's "Essay to Do Good," influenced the whole of Franklin's life. The entire career of Tyndall was affected by Emerson's book on Nature Henry Ward Beecher said no man could read Ruskin's works and be the same again. The "Lives" of Washington and Henry Clay, which Lincoln borrowed from neighbors in the wilderness, and devoured by the light of the cabin fire, inspired his entire career. "The Voyages of Captain Cook," led William Carey to go on a mission to the heathen. "Shakespeare and the Bible," said the Rev. John Sharp, "made me Archbishop of York." It is said "The Vicar of Wakefield" awakened the poetic genius of Goethe, and a book entitled "Clarkson on the Slave Trade," stirred those impulses of Joseph Lancaster which created a movement in England that gave rise to a national system of education.
It is not necessary in these days of good books that a person should remain illiterate because he has not money enough to go to college. The poor, as well as the rich, may hold converse with philosophers and scientists. A little self-denial may be needed, but without it little progress of any kind can be expected. There is little hope for intellectual improvement if a love for good reading is not cultivated. A taste for poetry, biography, and history is more to be desired than gold. Better to love literature than idle gossip. More commendable to wear threadbare clothes and patched shoes than to economize on books. Money expended for works of science, history and literature will prove a better investment than what is used to purchase articles of personal adornment.