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reading, to bring it, like the innocent and happy face of childhood, in the presence of hard-thinking, self-occupied, care-worn, sullen men, a pensive cheerfulness to recreate despondency and dejection. It is, therefore, not only variety, but a cheerful variety, that should be cultivated. “No heart,” it has been well said, “would have been strong enough to hold the woe of Lear and Othello, except that which had the unquenchable elasticity of Falstaff and the • Midsummer Night's Dream."'* As in the author, so in the reader—it is the large culture which gives the more equal command of our faculties, whereas if we close up any of the natural resources to the mind, there follows feebleness or disproportioned power, or moodiness and fantastic melancholy, and, in extreme cases, the crazed brain. If the statistics be accurate, it is an appalling fact that in that region of the United States in which the intellect has been stimulated to most activity, insanity prevails to an extent double that in sections of the country less favourably situated. It would seem that the activity of the intellect had been too much tended, and its health too little. It is a common peril of humanity, with all its grades of danger, from the fitfulness of an ill-regulated mind up to the frenzy of the maniac.7
* Hare's Guesses at Truth. Part I., p. 319.
+ This theory was no doubt founded on the assumption that the census statistics of insanity were correct; but my friend, and my brother's friend, Doctor Thomas J. Kirkbride, the superintendent of the Pennsylvania Hospital for the Insane, to whom I showed this passage, says, in a letter now before me :
“It has been shown conclusively that there can be no dependence placed on the census returns, and, except Massachusetts, I know of no state that has instituted inquiries for the special purpose of ascer
There is a short poem of Southey's, which, in this connection, has a sad interest. Having written one of those humourous ballads drawn from his acquaintance with Spanish legendary history, he added an epilogue telling of its impressions on his household audience, especially the wondering and delighted faces of his children: he turns to his wife,
But when I looked at my mistress' face
It was all too grave the while;
Of reproof than of praise in her smile.
Reprovingly said she,
But give little content to me.
Some sober, sadder lay
Before those locks were gray.”
“The autumn hath its flowers,
Than in its wintry hours.
taining how many insane are to be found within her limits. Your brother's views correspond with those of most persons who have paid attention to the subject, and are probably correct; but it must also be remembered that there is apparently, at least, most insanity where the largest provision is made for the treatment; for large numbers of cases then come before the public notice which previously had been kept out of observation. New England being a pioneer in providing State Hospitals, the number of insane is better known than in those states which have just commenced the erection of institutions of that character.”
W. B. R.
“ That sense which held me back in youth
From all intemperate gladness,
A playful theme to sing :
Than summer or than spring;
Such hues hath nature thrown,
A sunshine of their own.
“Why should I seek to call forth tears?
The source from whence we weep
In age it lies too deep.
“Enough of foresight sad, too much
Of retrospect have I:
Can put these feelings by;
“From public ills, and thoughts that else
Might weigh me down to earth,
For healthful, hopeful mirth."*
This is a poet's wise pleading, and there is warning'in the fact that this wife's shrinking from her husband's healthful, hopeful mirth, was the precursor of insanity: and it is sad to know that the poet's own lofty and richly stored mind sank, not, as has been supposed, from the exhaustion of an over-tasked brain, but under the wasting watchings over the wanderings of the crazed mind of the wife. This deepens the pensive humour of the lesson he has left us to find joyous, or at least cheerful companionship, as well as serious, in books.
* Southey's Poetical Works, rol. vi. p. 282.
Assuming that this catholicity of taste, the value of which I have endeavoured to present, is acquired, it then becomes a matter of much moment to have some principles to guide one through the large spaces of which the mind has vision. The capacity for extended and various reading may lose much of its value, if undisciplined and desultory. Indeed, if a large and varied power of reading be indulged in a desultory and chance way, it is likely to be lost: there is no genuine and permanent catholicity of taste for books but what is guarded by principles, and has a discipline of its own. That discipline is twofold: it is guidance we get from other minds, and that which we get from our own; and as these are well and wisely combined, we may secure ample independence for our own thinking, and ample respect for the wisdom of others.
It is not unfrequently thought that the true guidance for habits of reading is to be looked for in prescribed courses of reading, pointing out the books to be read, and the order of proceeding with them. Now, while this external guidance may to a certain extent be useful, I do believe that an elaborately prescribed course of reading would be found neither desirable nor practicable. It does not leave freedom enough to the movements of the reader's own mind; it does not give free enough scope to choice. Our communion with books, to be intelligent, must be more or less spontaneous. It is not possible to anticipate how or when an interest may be awakened in some particular subject or author, and it would be far better to break away from the prescribed list of books, in order to follow out that interest while it is a thoughtful impulse. It would be a sorry tameness of intellect that would not, sooner or later, work its way out of the track of the best of
such prescribed courses. This is the reason, no doubt, why they are so seldom attempted, and why, when attempted, they are apt to fail.
It may be asked, however, whether every thing is to be left to chance or caprice, whether one is to read what accident puts in the way--what happens to be reviewed or talked about. No! far from it: there would in this be no more exercise of rational will than in the other process ; in truth, the slavery to chance is a worse evil than slavery to authority. So far as the origin of a taste for reading can be traced in the growth of the mind, it will be found, I think, mostly in the mind's own prompting; and the power thus engendered is, like all other powers in our being, to be looked to as something to be cultivated and chastened, and then its disciplined freedom will prove more and more its own safest guide. It will provide itself with more of philosophy than it is aware of in its choice of books, and will the better understand their relative virtues. On the other hand, I apprehend that often a taste for reading is quenched by rigid and injudicious prescription of books in which the mind takes no interest, can assimilate nothing to itself, and recognises no progress but what the eye takes count of in the reckoning of pages it has travelled over. It lies on the mind, unpalateable, heavy, undigested food. But reverse the process : observe or engender the interest as best you may, in the young mind, and then work with that-expanding, cultivating, chastening it.
It matters little from what point, or with what book a young reader begins his career, provided he brings along