THE MOST EXTENSIVE
ON THE INTERNET
A book becomes a mirror, with the author's face shining over it. Talent only gives an imperfect image,--the broken glimmer of a countenance. But the features of genius remain unruffled. Time guards the shadow. Beauty, the spiritual, Venus,--whose children are the Tassos, the Spensers, the Bacons,--breathes, the magic of her love, and fixes the face forever.
A cultivated reader of history is domesticated in all families; he dines with Pericles, and sups with Titian.
A discursive student is almost certain to fall into bad company. Ten minutes with a French novel or a German rationalist have sent a reader away with a fever for life.
A first book has some of the sweetness of a first love.
A good reader is nearly as rare as a good writer. People bring their prejudices, whether friendly or adverse. They are lamp and spectacles, lighting and magnifying the page.
Addison acknowledged that he would rather inform than divert his reader; but he recollected that a man must be familiar with wisdom before he willingly enters on Seneca and Epictetus. Fiction allures him to the severe task by a gayer preface. Embellished truths are the illuminated alphabet of larger children.
Art, not less eloquently than literature, teaches her children to venerate the single eye. Remember Matsys. His representations of miser-life are breathing. A forfeited bond twinkles in the hard smile. But follow him to an altar-piece. His Apostle has caught a stray tint from his usurer. Features of exquisite beauty are seen and loved; but the old nature of avarice frets under the glow of devotion. Pathos staggers on the edge of farce.
Association is the delight of the heart, not less than of poetry. Alison observes that an autumn sunset, with its crimson clouds, glimmering trunks of trees, and wavering tints upon the grass, seems scarcely capable of embellishment. But if in this calm and beautiful glow the chime of a distant bell steal over the fields, the bosom heaves with the sensation that Dante so tenderly describes.
Attention makes the genius; all learning, fancy, and science depend upon it. Newton traced back his discoveries to its unwearied employment. It builds bridges, opens new worlds, and heals diseases; without it taste is useless, and the beauties of literature are unobserved.
Books, of which the principles are diseased or deformed, must be kept on the shelf of the scholar, as the man of science preserves monsters in glasses. They belong to the study of the mind's morbid anatomy, and ought to be accurately labelled. Voltaire will still be a wit, notwithstanding he is a scoffer; and we may admire the brilliant spots and eyes of the viper, if we acknowledge its venom and call it a reptile.
Criticism must never be sharpened into anatomy. The delicate veins of fancy may be traced, and the rich blood that gives bloom and health to the complexion of thought be resolved into its elements. Stop there. The life of the imagination, as of the body, disappears when we pursue it.
Education is the apprenticeship of life.
Every fresh acquirement is another remedy against affliction and time.
Few footprints of the great remain in the sand before the ever-flowing tide. Long ago it washed out Homer's. Curiosity follows him in vain; Greece and Asia perplex us with a rival Stratford-upon-Avon. The rank of Aristophanes is only conjectured from his gift to two poor players in Athens. The age made no sign when Shakespeare, its noblest son, passed away.
From numberless books the fluttering reader, idle and inconstant, bears away the bloom that only clings to the outer leaf; but genius has its nectaries, delicate glands, and secrecies of sweetness, and upon these the thoughtful mind must settle in its labor, before the choice perfume of fancy and wisdom is drawn forth.
Genius finds its own road and carries its own lamp.
History is a great painter, with the world for canvas, and life for a figure. It exhibits man in his pride, and nature in her magnificence,--Jerusalem bleeding under the Roman, or Lisbon vanishing in flame and earthquake. History must be splendid. Bacon called it the pomp of business. Its march is in high places, and along the pinnacles and points of great affairs.
History presents the pleasantest features of poetry and fiction,--the majesty of the epic, the moving accidents of the drama, the surprises and moral of the romance. Wallace is a ruder Hector; Robinson Crusoe is not stranger that Croesus; the Knights of Ashby never burnish the page of Scott with richer lights of lance and armor than the Carthaginians, winding down the Alps, cast upon Livy.
Honest fiction may be made to supplement the pulpit.
How deep is the magic of sound may be learned by breaking some sweet verses into prose. The operation has been compared to gathering dew-drops, which shine like jewels upon the flower, but run into water in the hand. The elements remain, but the sparkle is gone.
Humor is the pensiveness of wit.
In literature and art memory is a synonyme for invention. It is the life-blood of imagination, which faints and dies when the veins are empty.
It is only dislocated minds whose movements are spasmodic.
It is supposable that, in the eyes of angels, a struggle down a dark lane and a battle of Leipsic differ in nothing but excess of wickedness.
It is that faculty by which we discover and enjoy the beautiful, the picturesque, and the sublime in literature, art, and nature; which recognizes a noble thought, as a virtuous mind welcomes a pure sentiment by a involuntary glow of satisfaction. But while the principle of perception is inherent in the soul, it requires a certain amount of knowledge to draw out and direct it.
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