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fected with the folly of fancying that a system of foreign University education, in any of its forms, could or ought to be transplanted here; but, I have no doubt, that observation of thorough training and accurate scholarship, the combination of moral and intellectual discipline such as is seen abroad, and especially in Great Britain, would have raised still higher in his mind the aims at which American students and American institutions of learning should be directed. By his early death—for he was but forty-six years of age —all these hopes were doomed to disappointment. The most that can now be done is to give to the world these fragmentary memorials of his studious life; and for them. I
began indulgent and candid criticism. WILLIAM B. REED.
PHILADELPHIA, February 1st, 1855.
Tor many days our eyes have seaward wander'd,
Object, to assist and guide students—Necessity of systematic study— Judicious criticism—True aims and principles of literature—Choice of books—Its difficulties—Aim of this course of lectures to remove them—All books not literature—Accurate definition of literature— Its universality—Izaak Walton—Addison—Charles Lamb–Ilord Bacon—Clarendon—Arnold—Spenser and Shakspeare—Southey and Wordsworth—Belles-lettres not literature—Literature not an easy, patrician pleasure—Its danger as to practical life—Its influence on character—De Quincey’s definition—Knowledge and Power —Influence on female character—True position of woman—Tennyson's Princess—Novel-reading—Taste, an incorrect term—Henry Taylor—Cowper—Miss Wordsworth—Coleridge's philosophy.
THIS course of lectures is prepared in the hope of doing some service in connection with the abundant and precious literature which lies about us in our English speech. The plan has been, in some measure, prompted to my thoughts by applications not unfrequently made to me for advice and guidance in English reading. There is a stage
* Delivered in the Chapel Hall of the University, January 3, 1850.
in mental culture when counsel seems to be intended to take the place of exact tuition, and when, looking altogether beyond the period and the province of what is usually called “education,” hints and suggestions, criticism, literary sympathies, and even literary antagonism, become the more expanded and freer discipline, which lasts through life. We cannot tell how much of good we may thus do to one another. We cannot measure the value of unstudied and almost casual influences. A random word of genuine admiration may prove a guide into some region of literature where the mind shall dwell with satisfaction and delight for years to come. But there is a demand for something more systematic than such chance culture as I have alluded to; and the mind that craves such knowledge of the literature of his own language as will make it part of his thoughts and feelings, has a claim for guidance and counsel upon those whose duty it is-to-fit themselves to bestow it. It is a claim that well may win a quick and kindly response, for the sense of delight is deepened the wider it is spread, or when it opens the souls of others to share in its own enjoyment. There is perhaps no one, to whom the intercourse with books has grown to be happy and habitual, who cannot recall the time when, needing other counsel than his own mind could give, he felt some guidance that was strength to him. One can recall, in after years, how it was, that an interest was first awakened in some book—how sympathy with an author’s mind was earliest stirred—how sentiments of admiration and of love had their first motion in our souls toward the souls of the great poets. We may perhaps remember, too, how the chastening influence of wise and genial criticism may have won our spirits away from some malignant fascination that fastened on the unripe intellect only to abuse it. But these kindly and healthful agencies exist not alone in the memory—gratefully retained as benefits received in the period of intellectual immaturity and inexperience. Even the student of literature whose range of reading is most comprehensive—whose habit of reading is most confirmed —whose culture is most complete—will tell you that it is still in his daily experience to find his choice of books not an arbitrary and lawless choosing, but a process open to the influences of sound and congenial criticism ; he will tell how, by such influences, the activity of his thoughts is quickened—how his judgment of books is often the joint product of his own reflections, and the contact of the wisdom and experience of others. To him who wanders at will through the vast spaces of literature, with the sorry guidance of good intentions and inexperience, most needful are the helping hand and the pointing finger; to him who has travelled long in that same domain, pursuing his way with purposes better defined, and who has gained a wider prospect and farther-reaching views—even by him, guidance, if not so needful, still may be welcomed from some fellow-traveller. We marvel often at finding how, under the light of wise criticism, new powers and new beauties are made visible to our minds in books the most familiar. I have thus alluded, at the outset, to the importance of the guidance which we may receive in our intercourse with the world of books, assuming at the same time that there is no call upon me to dwell upon the value of that intercourse itself. I take for granted that there is no one, even among those least conversant with books, who