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This deep window, with its settle, hath a very pleasant view
How that snowy dress becomes you with the lilies in your hair!
Oh! what pleasant, long excursions we will take while you are here!
Oh! 'twill be a happy season, calling up forgotten hours,
That the past is ever buried 'in the grave of long ago.'
L. L. 3.
Take any man, born, bred and educated in a large city, ten to one he is superficial, thoroughly superficial; superficial in his thoughts, in his cultivation, in his reverence, in his purpose. He looks at life as a moving panorama; enjoying what is immediately before him, careless of what has gone, indifferent as to what is coming, looking neither before nor after, but vividly appreciating the present. Precedent and prophecy are to him alike unmeaning and without weight or influence. Memory and Forecast are faculties used only as bases of calculating daily gainful speculations, or as ministers to his pleasures. They are no part of his mental being. They are not inwoven with its texture, as the warp,
but the mere selvage, to be torn from the cloth for homely use. They are not faculties spiritual, but helps practical only. They are not, as they should be, the links of a golden chain, connecting the present with the eternity of the past on one side, and the eternity of the future on the other. To the superficial, things temporal and things eternal are not thus allied.
Swift, in his . Tale of a Tub,' complains bitterly of this superficialness of the city-bred literary men of his day. “We of this age,' says he, ‘have discovered a shorter and more prudent method than the ancients to become scholars and wits, without the fatigue of reading or thinking. The most accomplished way of using books at present is two-fold. Either, first, to serve them as some men do lords, learn their titles exactly, and then brag of their acquaintance; or, secondly — which is, indeed, the choicer, the profounder, the politer method — to get a thorough insight into the index, by which the whole book is turned and governed, like fishes by the tail; for to enter at the palace of learning, by the great gate, requires an expense of time and forms; therefore, men of much taste and little ceremony are content to get in at the back door. Thus men catch knowledge by throwing their wit into the posteriors of a book, as boys do sparrows with flinging salt upon their tails.'
A graphic illustration, truly! and it seems to have jumped with the humor of Pope, when he afterward, striking at this same vice, exclaims, with more than a “coincidence :'
How index-learning turns no student pale,
Yet holds the eel of science by the tail.' And Hazlitt, too, has remarked, in his Essay on the Ignorance of the Learned, 'People in towns, indeed, are wofully deficient in a knowledge of character, which they see only in the bust, not as a whole length.'
It seems, at the outset, an odd proposition, that where there is the more food, there should be the less fat; that where the means of cultivation and the resources of thought are profusely scattered on every hand, to stimulate the curiosity, the ambition and the taste of the meanest or the most gifted, there should be less profundity of intellectual power. But I am not wholly certain an intellectual surfeit is not far worse than intellectual starvation.' In the city, one hears so much, sees so much, feels so much; such a variety of impressions seize hold of one, and in a moment are chased away by new ones, that while one's powers of apprehension are quickened to a marvellous degree, one's powers of reflection are proportionally weakened from want of exercise. The memory, too, suffers constantly from being overloaded with an ill-assorted burden it cannot carry. There is no time to classify or dispose of the miscellaneous treasure, and in the confusion, it all escapes together. The loss is not felt, any more than the stream runs dry, because all the water in it, at any fixed place and time, is passed away. A new supply of the ceaseless current fills the space before we are conscious of the loss. Thus the mind is ever busy, and serves as the dim reflex of the transient present.
See my friend there, sitting in his arm-chair after breakfast, smoking his segar. He is now upon his fourth newspaper. It is his constant habit, at an expense of four hours per day, to read six newspapers in the morning and six in the evening. He is a very clever man, as the word goes ; very shrewd in business, very sage in advice, very well informed, very firm in his opinions. When he has finished his sixth morning paper, I ask him, “What is the news?' Do you think he occupies two hours in telling me? Do you think he makes some profound observa. tion, showing he has grappled with, classified, and generalized upon the myriad facts that have passed, like images before the wizard's glass, in review before his mind ? You are much deceived if you do. His answer is always the same; short, pithy, and sincere : Nothing.' If he answered as a philosopher, I should perhaps blame his philosophy, censure him as a cynic, but praise his sagacity. But I can do neither. What! have you toiled two hours, and found nothing worthy of recollection ? Have you not been apprised of the astounding discovery made in a remote city, that government and law are useless and expensive encumbrances upon the soaring spirit of a free people; and that an impromptu . Vigilance Committee' do the work cheaper and better? Have you not, too, learned this, that, and another thing? Well, yes,' he does recollect something of the kind; but really it had escaped his memory.' And thus it is each day; and in wisdom the man grows feebler every day.
· Beware of the man who reads but one book !' is the ore of an old proverb of the cloister, eliminated and refined from the dross of a mediæval Latin etymology, too barbarous to be intrusted abroad without an interpreter. Å mint of wisdom lies imbedded in those profound old words; wisdom hard to learn ; learned only after lapse of much time and melancholy experience; often learned too late, frequently not at all; humiliating to the pride of intellect, mortifying to ambition, even when learned in timely season. Two truths must sink deeply into the mind of a man before he can begin to know any thing. He must be satisfied that it is impossible in one short life to learn every thing. He must be satisfied that it is possible for him to know only very little. A bitter conviction it is, when it overtakes the ambitious student, that he cannot know every thing worth knowing; that his life would be exhausted in the acquisition of a tithe of it, and no time would be left to use it. Diligence may enable him to extend his researches to very distant boundaries; untiring patience and persevering labor, coupled with good natural powers, will do wonders in the way of acquirement. But knowledge is neither research of distant boundaries, nor wonderful acquirement. They are merely the implements of knowledge. They are the source and materials. Learning supplies the mingled ingredients of the alembic of the mind; knowledge is the new form, after the process of distillation and crystallization is complete. Intellectual knowledge, like practical sagacity, is usually the acquisition of experience. The first is an ultimate growth of the mind's experience, dealing with the great recorded thoughts of men and events of the world, and nurtured amid the myriad vicissitudes that mark its own career, as the other is taught by the common events of every-day life. Knowledge is a secondary result, for which the mind is fitted to seek after and comprehend only when research and acquirement are accomplished. Until this is done, a man has neither the intellectual stores, nor the intellectual habits, nor the intellectual discipline, necessary to enable him to detect the discrepancies in seeming analogies; to discriminate between primary and secondary causes; finally, to distinguish betwixt truth and error.
Perhaps I may seem to labor the point unnecessarily. But I think not. This is a fearful mistake, this confounding acquirement with knowledge, and has occasioned the shipwreck of many a noble mind, proudly launched in an ocean of fact. All the facts in the world do not constitute the minutest infinitesimal of truth; and a man might possess his memory with all the facts in the world, and be not a whit the wiser with it all. Fact is the foundation of truth, but the superstructure scarcely betrays what sustains it. To go back to my metaphor: truth is a distillation from fact. The change is chemical, not mechanical. Fact is multiform — prismatic; truth is single and hueless. Truth is a centre from which fact radiates in endless and countless rays. Truth is fixed and immutable; fact revolves about it as a common centre, and often, like the kaleidoscope, changes with every revolution, and yet is the same thing first and last. What we know of truth is, that it is the clue of all the labyrinths of nature, time, and history, and that what we can possess of it, though positively much, is comparatively nothing. Human knowledge is fragmentary; here a manifest certainty, there a probability, and elsewhere a conjecture. Perfect knowledge is the highest attribute of Deity. So far as we progress in the pursuit of pure knowledge of truth, so far we approach Divinity.
If a pre-requisite to the mastery of any subject were the perusal of every thing written upon it, well might the student despair. The recorded ideas of centuries upon the simplest topics would exhaust an ordinary life-time in the perusal. The old adage, • Non multa sed multum,' is in point, and is the true rule. Reading furnishes the oil to
the lamp of thought. The lamp must be lighted and burn, or there is no light. There are,' says Sheridan, 'on every subject but a few leading and fixed ideas; their tracks may be traced by your own genius as well as by reading. A man of deep thought who shall have accustomed himself to support or attack all he has read, will soon find nothing new.' Much thinking, little reading, makes the sound reasoner. The proportion should be vastly in favor of the first
, and the appetite for the latter, though stronger, will still demand and relish only substantial and nutritious food. Reading for amusement is like any other amusement, of little importance mentally, provided it amuses; the mind having an instinct in this respect, and seeking that amusement which is most beneficial as such. Reading for knowledge is hard work; it is a severe task, and inclination is not to be consulted. No rule can be laid down. One will read ten times as much as another, and each derive equal profit. It seems idle to read, except to furnish the mind food for thought, to keep it occupied ; more than this not only is wasted, but overloads and incapacitates the mind for thinking. This begets inattention to facts, and inattention is followed by loss of memory, and then the very materials of thinking are gone.
Intellectual power is the offspring, result; and acquisition of close, connected, and protracted thought. Natural powers being equal, it will
vary in men in proportion to this discipline of them. Thinking the severest labor of man, yet it is the most compensating. If the mind is immortal, the laborer is working in a garden he shall always till. Labor is a 'curse;' but whosoever . dares do all that does become a man,' will literally work out his own salvation.'
Few men, however, in cities can be led to believe themselves capable of any continuous, sustained mental effort; fewer still have the inclination to exercise the capacity; of those who feel themselves capable and inclined, few have the energy, and fewer still find the opportunity. Amid the toil
, and bustle, and noise, and confusion, and multiplicity of facts and events, passions and purposes, each succeeding the other so rapidly that before the mind can grasp one, it is gone, and another fills its place, what chance for thought? what Herculean powers of inind can hold them ? what Argus eyes can discriminate which is worthy of being picked from the miscellaneous heap ?
The mind fares better in the country. There are fewer subjects of contemplation. God and nature are ever present. Every thing is suggestive of man's littleness and brevity of existence, of nature's permanence. The timid grass bristles stoutly on the very graves of our forefathers. It is only by connecting oneself with the great human family that the aching sense of insignificance is lulled. The thoughts move thus, if they move at all, in a larger compass. There is cheerful solitude, the nurse of thought. There are fewer books and fewer men to make opinions, and so comes self-reliance, the parent of thought. If this is doubted by any citizen who fancies himself a student and a thinker, let him spend a month in the country, and, my word for it, he returns a 'wiser and a sadder man ;' • wiser' for the hours consumed in reflecting upon what would have escaped his attention in the city; sadder,' that he was not my convert sooner.
Perhaps the chief advantages of education as a mere accomplishment