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provided that every one be so attentive, and so free as to make their occasional remarks on such lines or sentences, such periods or paragraphs as in their opinion deserve it. Now all those paragraphs or sentiments deserve a remark, which are new and uncommon, are noble and excellent for the matter of them, are strong and convincing for the argument contained in them, are beautiful and elegant for the language or the manner, or any way worthy of a second rehearsal ; and at the request of any of the company let those paragraphs be read over again. Such parts also of these writings as may happen to be remarkably stupid or silly, false or mistaken, should become subjects of an occasional criticism, made by soine of the company, and this may give occasion to the repetition of them for confirmation of the censure, for amusement or diversion.
Still let it be remembered, that where the historical narration is of considerable moment, where the poesy, oratory, &c. shine with some degrees of perfection and glory, a single reading is neither sufficient to satisfy a mind that bas a true taste of this sort of writings ; nor can we make the fullest and best improveinent of them without proper reviews, and that in our retirement as well as in company. Who is there that has any gout for polite writings that would be sufficiently satisfied with hearing the beautiful pages of Steele or Addison, the admirable descriptions of Virgil or Milton, or some of the finest poems of Pope, Young, or Dryden, once read over to them, and then lay them by for ever?
XVI. Among these writings of the latter kind, we may justly reckon short miscellaneous essays on all manner of subjects : such as the Occasional Papers, the Tattlers, the Specta- * tors, and some other books that have been compiled out of the weekly or daily products of the press, wherein are contained a great nuinber of bright thoughts, ingenious remarks, and admi. rable observations, which have had a considerable share in furnishing the present age with knowledge and politeness.
I wish every paper among these writings could have been recommended both as innocent and useful. I wish every unseemly idea and wanton expression had been banished from amongst them, and every trifling page had been excluded from tbe company of the rest when they had been bound up in voJumes. But it is not to be expected, in so imperfect a state, that every page or piece of such mixed public papers should be entirely blameless and laudable. Yet in the main it must be confessed, there is so much virtue, prudence, ingenuity and gooduess in them, especially in eight voluwes of Spectators, there is such a reverence of things sacred, so many valuable remarks for our conduct in life, that they are not improper to lie in parlours, or summer-houses, or places of usual residence, to entertain our thoughts in any moinents of leisure, or vacant hours
jects: steckon short these writings
that occur. There is such a discovery of the follies, iniquities, and fashionable vices of mankind contained in them, that we may learn much of the humours and madnesses of the age, and the public world, in our own solitary retirement, without the danger of frequenting vicious company, or receiving the mortal infection.
XVII. Among other books which are proper and requisite, in order to improve our knowledge in general, or our acquaintance with any particular science, it is necessary that we should be furnished with Vocabularies and Dictionaries of several sorts, viz. Of common words, idioms and phrases, in order to explain tbeir sense; of technical words or the terms of art, to shew their use in arts and sciences ; of names of men, countries, towns, rivers, &c. which are called historical and geographical dictionaries, &c. These are to be consulted, and used upon every occasion ; and never let an unknown word pass in your reading, without seeking for its sense and meaning in some of these writers.
If such books are not at band, you must supply the want of them, as well as you can, by consulting such as can inform you : and it is useful to note down the matters of doubt and enquiry in some pocket-book, and take the first opportunity to get them resolved either by persons or books when we meet with them.
XVIII. Be not satisfied with the mere knowledge of the best autbors that treat of any subject, instead of acquainting yourselves thoroughly with the subject itself. There is many a young student that is fond of enlarging his knowledge of bocks, and he contents himself with the notice he has of their title-page, which is the attainment of a bookseller rather than a scholar. Such persons are under a great temptation to practise these two follies. (1.) To heap a great number of books at greater expence than most of them can bear, and to furnish their libraries infinitely better than their understandings. And (2.) when they have got such rich treasures of knowledge upon their shelves, they imagine themselves men of learning, and take a pride in talking of the names of famous authors, and the subjects of which they treat, without any real improvement of their own minds, in true science or wisdom. At best, their learning reaches no farther than the indexes and tables of contents, while they know not how to judge or reason concerning the matters contained in those authors.
And indeed how many volumes of learning soever a man possesses, he is still deplorably poor in his understanding, till he has made these several parts of learning his own property, by reading and reasoning, by judging for himself, and remembering what be bas read.
CHAP. V,-- Judgment of Books. I. If we would form a judgment of a Book which we have not seen before, the first thing that offers is the title-page, and we may sometimes guess a little at the import and design of a book thereby : though it must be confessed, that titles are often deceitful, and promise more than the book performs. The author's name if it be known in the world, may help us to conjecture at the performance a little more, and lead us to guess in what manner it is done. A perusal of the preface or introduction (which I before recommended) may farther assist our judg. ment; and if there be an iudex of the contents, it will give us still some advancing light.
If we have not leisure or inclination to read over the book itself regularly, than by the titles of chapters, we may be di: rected to peruse several particular chapters or sections, and observe wheiler there be any thing valuable or important in them. We shall find hereby whether the author explains his ideas clearly, whether he reasons strongly, whether he mothodizes well, whether his thoughts and sense be manly and his manner polite ; or, on the other hand, whether he be obscure, weak, trifling and confused: or, finally, whether the matter may not be solid and substantial, though the manner or style be rude and disagreeable.
II. By having run through several chapters and sections in this manner, we may generally judge whether the treatise be worth a complete perusal or no. But if by such an occasional survey of soine chapters, our expectation be utterly discouraged, we way well lay aside that book ; for there is great probability he can be but an indifferent writer on that subject, if he affords but one prize to divers blanks, and it may be some downright blots too. The piece can hardly be valuable if in seven or eight chapters which we peruse, there be but little truth, evidence, force of reasoning, beauty, and ingenuity of thought, &c. mingJed with much error, ignorance, iinpcrtinence, dulness, mean and coinmon thoughts, inaccuracy, sophistry, railing, &c. Life is too short, and time is too precious, to read every new book quite over, in order to find that it is not worth the reading.
III. There are some general mistakes which persons are frequently guilty of in passing a judgment on the books which they
One is this; when a treatise is written but tolerably well, we are ready to pass a favourable judginent of it, and sometimes to exalt its character far beyond its merit, if it agree with our own principles, and support the opinions of our party. On the other hand, if the author be of different sentiments, and espouse coutrary principles, we can find neither wit nor reason,
goed sense nor good language in it. Whereas, alas, if our' opinions of things were certain and infallible truth, yet a silly author may draw his pen in the defence of them, and he may attack even gross errors with feeble and ridiculous arguments, Truth in this world is not always attended and supported by the wisest and safest methods; and error, though it can never be maintained by just reasoning, yet may be artfully covered and defended : an ingenious writer may put excellent colours upon his own mistakes. Some Socinians, who deny the atonement of Christ, have written well, and with much appearance of argument for their own unscriptural sentiments, and some writers for the Trinity and satisfaction of Christ have exposed them. selves and the sacred doctrine, by their feeble and foolish manner of handling it. Books are never to be judged of merely by their subject, or the opinion they represent, but by the jusiness of their sentiments, the beauty of their manner, the force of their expression, or the strength of reason, and the weight of just and proper argument which appears in them. . But this folly and weakness of trilling instead of arguing, does not happen to fall only to the share of Christian writers : there are some who have taken the pen in hand to support the deistical or antichristian scheme of our days, who make big pretences to reason upon all occasions, but seem to have left it quite behind them when they are jesting with the bible, and grioping at the books which we call sacred. Some of these performances would scarcely have been thought tolerable, if they bad not assaulted the christian faith, though they are now grown up to a place among the admired pens. I much question whether several of the rhapsodies called the churacteristics, would ever have survived the first edition, if they had not discovered so strong a tincture of infidelity, and now and then cast out a profane sneer at our holy relgion. I have someti:nes indeed been ready to wonder, how a book in the main so loosely written, should ever obtain so many readers amongst men of sense. Surely they must be conscious in the perusal, that sometimes a patrician may write as idly as a man of plebeian rank, and trifle às much as an old school-man, though it is in another form. I am forced to say, there are few books that ever I read, which made any pretences to a great genius, from which I derived so little valuable knowledge as from these treatises. "There is ille deed amongst them a lively pcrtness, a parade of literature, and much of what some folks now-a-days call politeness; but it is hard that we should be bound to admire all the reveries of this author, under the penalty of being unfashionable.
IV. Another mistake which some persons fall into is this. When they read a treatise on a subject with which they have but little acquaintance, they find almost every thing new and
strange to them, their understandings are greatly entertained and improved by the occurrence of many things which were unknown to them before, they admire the treatise, apd commend the author at once; whereas, if they had but attained a good degree of skill in that science, perhaps they would find that the author bad written very poorly, that neither his sense nor his method was just and proper, and that he had nothing in hiin but wbat was very common or trivial in his discourses on that subject.
Hence it comes to pass, that Cairo and Faber who were both bred up to labour and unacquainted with the sciences, shall admire one of the weekly papers, or a little pamphlet that talks pertly on some critical or learned theme, because the matter is all strange and new to them, and they join to extol the writer to the skies; and for the same reason a young academic shall dwell upon a Journal or an observator that treats of trade and politics in a dictatorial style, and shall be lavish in praise of the author. Wbile at the same time, persons well skilled in those different subjects hear the impertinent tattle with a just contempt; for they know how weak and aukward many of those little diminutive discourses are ; and that those very papers of science, politics, or trade, whicli were so much admired by the ignorant, are perhaps, but very mean performances ; though it must be also confessed, there are some excellent essays in those papers, and that upon science as well as trade.
V. But there is a danger of mistake in our judgments of books on the other hand also : for when we have made ourselves masters of any particular theme of knowledge, and surveyed it long on all sides, there is perhaps scarce any writer on that subject who mucb entertains and pleases ris afterwards, because we find little or nothing new in lim; and yet in a true judgment perhaps, his sentiments are most proper and just, bis explications clear, and his reasonings strong, and all the parts of the discourse are well connected and set in a bappy light; but we knew most of those things before, and therefore they strike us not, and we are in danger of discommending them.
Thus the learned and the unlearned, have their several distinct dangers and prejudices ready to attend them in their judgment of the writings of men. These which I have mentioned are a specimen of them, and indeed but a mere specimen; for the prejudices that warp our judgment aside from truth, are almost nfinite and endless.
Yet I cannot forbear to point out two or three more of these follies, that I may attempt something toward the correction of them, or at least, to guard others against them.
There are some persons of a forward and lively temper, and who are fond to intermeddle with all appearances of knowledge,