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that the variety must be a healthful variety, and not that mere love of change, which, owning no law, is capricious, restless and morbid—at once a symptom and a cause of weakness, and not of health. To the mind that cultivates a thoughtful and well-regulated variety in its reading, this reward will come, that, where before, things seemed separate and insulated, beautiful affinities will reveal themselves; you will feel the brotherhood, as it were, that exists among all true books, and a deeper sense of the unity of all real literature, with its infinite variety. In adjusting a diversified course of reading, we must keep in mind that it is not alone the serious Hiterature which gives us power and wisdom, for Truth is often earnest in its joyousness as in its gravity : and it is a beautiful characteristic of our English literature, that it has never been wanting in the happy compound of pathos and playfulness, which we style by that untranslateable term “ Humour”—that kindly perception of the ridiculous which is full of gentleness and sympathy. It is a healthful element: it chastens the dangerous faculty of Wit, turning its envenomed shafts into instruments of healing: it comes from the full heart, and it dwells with charity and love of the pure and the lofty; it holds no fellowship with sarcasm or scoffing or ribaldry, which are issues from the hollow or the sickly heart, and are fatal to the sense of reverence and of many of the humanizing affections. A sound humourous literature may be found throughout English language, in prose and verse, from its earliest periods down to our own times, from Chaucer to Southey and Charles Lamb; and it behooves us to blend it with graver 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, injanity prevails to an extent double 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.i.
* Hare’s Guesses at Truth. Part I., p. 319.
f This theory was no doubt founded on the assumption that the census statistics of insamity 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 ascercharacter.” W. B. R.
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
And when I ceased, methought there was more
That smile I read aright, for thus
“Such tales are meet for youthful ears,
“From thee far rather would I hear
Such as I oft have heard, well pleased,
“Nay, mistress mine,” I made reply,
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
which have just commenced the erection of institutions of that
“That sense which held me back in youth
That same good instinct bids me shun
“Nor marvel you if I prefer
The October grove hath brighter tints
“For o'er the leaves before they fall
That the woods wear in sunless days
“Why should I seek to call forth tears?
Too near the surface lies in youth,
“Enough of foresight sad, too much
And well for me that I sometimes
“From public ills, and thoughts that else
That I can gain some intervals
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. 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
* Southey’s Poetical Works, vol. vi. p. 282,