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Title: Literary Taste: How to Form It
 - With Detailed Instructions for Collecting a Complete Library of English Literature
Author: Bennett, Arnold
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.
Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Literary Taste: How to Form It
 - With Detailed Instructions for Collecting a Complete Library of English Literature" ***

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Notes on the text.

Literary Taste was first published in August 1909. I have worked from
a copy of the "seventh edition" of February 1914. The text was
keyed in manually and then scanned; the two versions so produced were then
compared using ms word's "track changes" tool and brought into agreement.

Ambiguity arises concerning the intended hyphenation of six words
in the original printed text--hill-side, super-eminently, re-birth,
school-master, red-gauntlet, hood-winking--which in it are made to run
over two lines. I have attempted to hyphenate these words (or not to do so)
as I think Bennett would have done, guided in these judgments in part
by "A New English Dictionary" (1928), the most authoritative
English dictionary published up until Bennett's death in 1931.

Of the three occurrences of the name "Newnes's Thin-Paper Classics",
Bennett hyphenates only one; I have hyphenated all three.

In the list for poets of "Period I", the entry for Beaumont and Fletcher
contains an apparent typo, which I have corrected (or altered, at least).
For those interested, the original entry for these authors
contained no colon before the edition name (Canterbury Poets),
and italicised the word 'Plays' only, leaving the words 'a Selection'
in plain type.

The book's only footnote has been placed in brackets immediately after
the chapter title to which Bennett appended it.







Chapter I


At the beginning a misconception must be removed from the path.
Many people, if not most, look on literary taste as an elegant accomplishment,
by acquiring which they will complete themselves, and make themselves
finally fit as members of a correct society.  They are secretly ashamed
of their ignorance of literature, in the same way as they would be
ashamed of their ignorance of etiquette at a high entertainment,
or of their inability to ride a horse if suddenly called upon
to do so.  There are certain things that a man ought to know,
or to know about, and literature is one of them: such is their idea.
They have learnt to dress themselves with propriety,
and to behave with propriety on all occasions; they are fairly "up"
in the questions of the day; by industry and enterprise
they are succeeding in their vocations; it behoves them, then,
not to forget that an acquaintance with literature is an indispensable part
of a self-respecting man's personal baggage.  Painting doesn't matter;
music doesn't matter very much.  But "everyone is supposed to know"
about literature.  Then, literature is such a charming distraction!
Literary taste thus serves two purposes: as a certificate of correct culture
and as a private pastime.  A young professor of mathematics,
immense at mathematics and games, dangerous at chess, capable of Haydn
on the violin, once said to me, after listening to some chat on books,
"Yes, I must take up literature."  As though saying:
"I was rather forgetting literature.  However, I've polished off
all these other things.  I'll have a shy at literature now."

This attitude, or any attitude which resembles it, is wrong.
To him who really comprehends what literature is, and what the function
of literature is, this attitude is simply ludicrous.  It is also
fatal to the formation of literary taste.  People who regard
literary taste simply as an accomplishment, and literature
simply as a distraction, will never truly succeed either in acquiring
the accomplishment or in using it half-acquired as a distraction;
though the one is the most perfect of distractions, and though the other
is unsurpassed by any other accomplishment in elegance
or in power to impress the universal snobbery of civilised mankind.
Literature, instead of being an accessory, is the fundamental
*sine qua non* of complete living.  I am extremely anxious to avoid
rhetorical exaggerations.  I do not think I am guilty of one
in asserting that he who has not been "presented to the freedom"
of literature has not wakened up out of his prenatal sleep.
He is merely not born.  He can't see; he can't hear;
he can't feel, in any full sense.  He can only eat his dinner.
What more than anything else annoys people who know
the true function of literature, and have profited thereby,
is the spectacle of so many thousands of individuals going about
under the delusion that they are alive, when, as a fact,
they are no nearer being alive than a bear in winter.

I will tell you what literature is!  No--I only wish I could.
But I can't.  No one can.  Gleams can be thrown on the secret,
inklings given, but no more.  I will try to give you an inkling.
And, to do so, I will take you back into your own history,
or forward into it.  That evening when you went for a walk
with your faithful friend, the friend from whom you hid nothing--
or almost nothing...!  You were, in truth, somewhat inclined
to hide from him the particular matter which monopolised your mind
that evening, but somehow you contrived to get on to it,
drawn by an overpowering fascination.  And as your faithful friend
was sympathetic and discreet, and flattered you by a respectful curiosity,
you proceeded further and further into the said matter,
growing more and more confidential, until at last you cried out,
in a terrific whisper: "My boy, she is simply miraculous!"
At that moment you were in the domain of literature.

Let me explain.  Of course, in the ordinary acceptation of the word,
she was not miraculous.  Your faithful friend had never noticed
that she was miraculous, nor had about forty thousand other
fairly keen observers.  She was just a girl.  Troy had not been
burnt for her.  A girl cannot be called a miracle.  If a girl
is to be called a miracle, then you might call pretty nearly
anything a miracle....  That is just it: you might.  You can.  You ought.
Amid all the miracles of the universe you had just wakened up to one.
You were full of your discovery.  You were under a divine impulsion
to impart that discovery.  You had a strong sense of the marvellous
beauty of something, and you had to share it.  You were in a passion
about something, and you had to vent yourself on somebody.
You were drawn towards the whole of the rest of the human race.
Mark the effect of your mood and utterance on your faithful friend.
He knew that she was not a miracle.  No other person could have
made him believe that she was a miracle.  But you, by the force and
sincerity of your own vision of her, and by the fervour
of your desire to make him participate in your vision,
did for quite a long time cause him to feel that he had been blind
to the miracle of that girl.

You were producing literature.  You were alive.  Your eyes were unlidded,
your ears were unstopped, to some part of the beauty and the strangeness
of the world; and a strong instinct within you forced you
to tell someone.  It was not enough for you that you saw and heard.
Others had to see and hear.  Others had to be wakened up.
And they were!  It is quite possible--I am not quite sure--
that your faithful friend the very next day, or the next month,
looked at some other girl, and suddenly saw that she, too,
was miraculous!  The influence of literature!

The makers of literature are those who have seen and felt
the miraculous interestingness of the universe.  And the greatest
makers of literature are those whose vision has been the widest,
and whose feeling has been the most intense.  Your own fragment of insight
was accidental, and perhaps temporary.  *Their* lives are one long ecstasy
of denying that the world is a dull place.  Is it nothing to you
to learn to understand that the world is not a dull place?
Is it nothing to you to be led out of the tunnel on to the hill-side,
to have all your senses quickened, to be invigorated
by the true savour of life, to feel your heart beating
under that correct necktie of yours?  These makers of literature
render you their equals.

The aim of literary study is not to amuse the hours of leisure;
it is to awake oneself, it is to be alive, to intensify
one's capacity for pleasure, for sympathy, and for comprehension.
It is not to affect one hour, but twenty-four hours.
It is to change utterly one's relations with the world.
An understanding appreciation of literature means an understanding
appreciation of the world, and it means nothing else.  Not isolated
and unconnected parts of life, but all of life, brought together
and correlated in a synthetic map!  The spirit of literature
is unifying; it joins the candle and the star, and by the magic
of an image shows that the beauty of the greater is in the less.
And, not content with the disclosure of beauty and the bringing together
of all things whatever within its focus, it enforces a moral wisdom
by the tracing everywhere of cause and effect.  It consoles doubly--
by the revelation of unsuspected loveliness, and by the proof
that our lot is the common lot.  It is the supreme cry of the discoverer,
offering sympathy and asking for it in a single gesture.  In attending
a University Extension Lecture on the sources of Shakespeare's plots,
or in studying the researches of George Saintsbury into
the origins of English prosody, or in weighing the evidence for and against
the assertion that Rousseau was a scoundrel, one is apt to forget
what literature really is and is for.  It is well to remind ourselves
that literature is first and last a means of life, and that the enterprise
of forming one's literary taste is an enterprise of learning how best
to use this means of life.  People who don't want to live,
people who would sooner hibernate than feel intensely, will be wise
to eschew literature.  They had better, to quote from the finest passage
in a fine poem, "sit around and eat blackberries."
The sight of a "common bush afire with God" might upset their nerves.

Chapter II


The attitude of the average decent person towards the classics
of his own tongue is one of distrust--I had almost said, of fear.
I will not take the case of Shakespeare, for Shakespeare
is "taught" in schools; that is to say, the Board of Education
and all authorities pedagogic bind themselves together
in a determined effort to make every boy in the land a lifelong enemy
of Shakespeare.  (It is a mercy they don't "teach" Blake.)
I will take, for an example, Sir Thomas Browne, as to whom
the average person has no offensive juvenile memories.
He is bound to have read somewhere that the style of Sir Thomas Browne
is unsurpassed by anything in English literature.  One day he sees
the *Religio Medici* in a shop-window (or, rather, outside a shop-window,
for he would hesitate about entering a bookshop), and he buys it,
by way of a mild experiment.  He does not expect to be enchanted
by it; a profound instinct tells him that Sir Thomas Browne
is "not in his line"; and in the result he is even less enchanted
than he expected to be.  He reads the introduction, and he glances
at the first page or two of the work.  He sees nothing but words.
The work makes no appeal to him whatever.  He is surrounded by trees,
and cannot perceive the forest.  He puts the book away.
If Sir Thomas Browne is mentioned, he will say, "Yes, very fine!"
with a feeling of pride that he has at any rate bought and inspected
Sir Thomas Browne.  Deep  in his heart is a suspicion
that people who get enthusiastic about Sir Thomas Browne
are vain and conceited *poseurs*.  After a year or so,
when he has recovered from the discouragement caused
by Sir Thomas Browne, he may, if he is young and hopeful,
repeat the experiment with Congreve or Addison.  Same sequel!
And so on for perhaps a decade, until his commerce with the classics
finally expires!  That, magazines and newish fiction apart,
is the literary history of the average decent person.

And even your case, though you are genuinely preoccupied with thoughts
of literature, bears certain disturbing resemblances to the drab case
of the average person.  You do not approach the classics with gusto--
anyhow, not with the same gusto as you would approach a new novel
by a modern author who had taken your fancy.  You never murmured
to yourself, when reading Gibbon's *Decline and Fall* in bed:
"Well, I really must read one more chapter before I go to sleep!"
Speaking generally, the classics do not afford you a pleasure
commensurate with their renown.  You peruse them with a sense of duty,
a sense of doing the right thing, a sense of "improving yourself,"
rather than with a sense of gladness.  You do not smack your lips;
you  say: "That is good for me." You make little plans for reading,
and then you invent excuses for breaking the plans.  Something new,
something which is not a classic, will surely draw you away
from a classic.  It is all very well for you to pretend to agree
with the verdict of the elect that *Clarissa Harlowe* is
one of the greatest novels in the world--a new Kipling, or even
a new number of a magazine, will cause you to neglect
*Clarissa Harlowe*, just as though Kipling, etc., could not be kept
for a few days without turning sour!  So that you have to ordain
rules for yourself, as: "I will not read anything else
until I have read Richardson, or Gibbon, for an hour each day."
Thus proving that you regard a classic as a pill, the swallowing of which
merits jam!  And the more modern a classic is, the more it resembles
the stuff of the year and the less it resembles the classics
of the centuries, the more easy and enticing do you find that classic.
Hence you are glad that George Eliot, the Brontës, Thackeray,
are considered as classics, because you really *do* enjoy them.
Your sentiments concerning them approach your sentiments concerning
a "rattling good story" in a magazine.

I may have exaggerated--or, on the other hand, I may have understated--
the unsatisfactory characteristics of your particular case,
but it is probable that in the mirror I hold up you recognise
the rough outlines of your likeness.  You do not care to admit it;
but it is so.  You are not content with yourself.  The desire to be
more truly literary persists in you.  You feel that there is something
wrong in you, but you cannot put your finger on the spot.
Further, you feel that you are a bit of a sham.  Something within you
continually forces you to exhibit for the classics an enthusiasm
which you do not sincerely feel.  You even try to persuade yourself
that you are enjoying a book, when the next moment you drop it
in the middle and forget to resume it.  You occasionally buy classical works,
and do not read them at all; you practically decide that it is enough
to possess them, and that the mere possession of them gives you a *cachet*.
The truth is, you are a sham.  And your soul is a sea of uneasy remorse.
You reflect: "According to what Matthew Arnold says, I ought to be
perfectly mad about Wordsworth's *Prelude*.  And I am not.  Why am I not?
Have I got to be learned, to undertake a vast course of study,
in order to be perfectly mad about Wordsworth's *Prelude*?
Or am I born without the faculty of pure taste in literature,
despite my vague longings?  I do wish I could smack my lips
over Wordsworth's *Prelude* as I did over that splendid story by H. G. Wells,
*The Country of the Blind*, in the *Strand Magazine*!"...
Yes, I am convinced that in your dissatisfied, your diviner moments,
you address yourself in these terms.  I am convinced that I have
diagnosed your symptoms.

Now the enterprise of forming one's literary taste is an agreeable one;
if it is not agreeable it cannot succeed.  But this does not imply
that it is an easy or a brief one.  The enterprise of beating Colonel Bogey
at golf is an agreeable one, but it means honest and regular work.
A fact to be borne in mind always!  You are certainly not going to realise
your ambition--and so great, so influential an ambition!--by spasmodic
and half-hearted effort.  You must begin by making up your mind adequately.
You must rise to the height of the affair.  You must approach
a grand undertaking in the grand manner.  You ought to mark the day
in the calendar as a solemnity.  Human nature is weak, and has need
of tricky aids, even in the pursuit of happiness.  Time will be
necessary to you, and time regularly and sacredly set apart.
Many people affirm that they cannot be regular, that regularity numbs them.
I think this is true of a very few people, and that in the rest
the objection to regularity is merely an attempt to excuse idleness.
I am inclined to think that you personally are capable of regularity.
And I am sure that if you firmly and constantly devote certain specific hours
on certain specific days of the week to this business of forming
your literary taste, you will arrive at the goal much sooner.
The simple act of resolution will help you.  This is the first preliminary.

The second preliminary is to surround yourself with books,
to create for yourself a bookish atmosphere.  The merely physical side
of books is important--more important than it may seem to the inexperienced.
Theoretically (save for works of reference), a student has need for
but one book at a time.  Theoretically, an amateur of literature
might develop his taste by expending sixpence a week, or a penny a day,
in one sixpenny edition of a classic after another sixpenny edition
of a classic, and he might store his library in a hat-box or a biscuit-tin.
But in practice he would have to be a monster of resolution to succeed
in such conditions.  The eye must be flattered; the hand must be flattered;
the sense of owning must be flattered.  Sacrifices must be made
for the acquisition of literature.  That which has cost a sacrifice
is always endeared.  A detailed scheme of buying books will come later,
in the light of further knowledge.  For the present, buy--buy whatever
has received the *imprimatur* of critical authority.  Buy without any
immediate reference to what you will read.  Buy!  Surround yourself
with volumes, as handsome as you can afford.  And for reading,
all that I will now particularly enjoin is a general and inclusive tasting,
in order to attain a sort of familiarity with the look
of "literature in all its branches."  A turning over of the pages
of a volume of Chambers's *Cyclopædia of English Literature*,
the third for preference, may be suggested as an admirable and
a diverting exercise.  You might mark the authors that flash
an appeal to you.

Chapter III


The large majority of our fellow-citizens care as much about literature
as they care about aeroplanes or the programme of the Legislature.
They do not ignore it; they are not quite indifferent to it.
But their interest in it is faint and perfunctory; or, if their interest
happens to be violent, it is spasmodic.  Ask the two hundred thousand persons
whose enthusiasm made the vogue of a popular novel ten years ago
what they think of that novel now, and you will gather
that they have utterly forgotten it, and that they would no more dream
of reading it again than of reading Bishop Stubbs's *Select Charters*.
Probably if they did read it again they would not enjoy it--not because
the said novel is a whit worse now than it was ten years ago;
not because their taste has improved--but because they have not had
sufficient practice to be able to rely on their taste as a means
of permanent pleasure.  They simply don't know from one day to the next
what will please them.

In the face of this one may ask: Why does the great and universal fame
of classical authors continue?  The answer is that the fame
of classical authors is entirely independent of the majority.
Do you suppose that if the fame of Shakespeare depended on
the man in the street it would survive a fortnight?
The fame of classical authors is originally made, and it is maintained,
by a passionate few.  Even when a first-class author has enjoyed
immense success during his lifetime, the majority have never
appreciated him so sincerely as they have appreciated second-rate men.
He has always been reinforced by the ardour of the passionate few.
And in the case of an author who has emerged into glory after his death
the happy sequel has been due solely to the obstinate perseverance
of the few.  They could not leave him alone; they would not.
They kept on savouring him, and talking about him, and buying him,
and they generally behaved with such eager zeal, and they were so
authoritative and sure of themselves, that at last the majority
grew accustomed to the sound of his name and placidly agreed
to the proposition that he was a genius; the majority really did not
care very much either way.

And it is by the passionate few that the renown of genius
is kept alive from one generation to another.  These few are always at work.
They are always rediscovering genius.  Their curiosity and enthusiasm
are exhaustless, so that there is little chance of genius being ignored.
And, moreover, they are always working either for or against
the verdicts of the majority.  The majority can make a reputation,
but it is too careless to maintain it.  If, by accident, the passionate few
agree with the majority in a particular instance, they will frequently
remind the majority that such and such a reputation has been made,
and the majority will idly concur: "Ah, yes.  By the way,
we must not forget that such and such a reputation exists."
Without that persistent memory-jogging the reputation would quickly fall
into the oblivion which is death.  The passionate few only have their way
by reason of the fact that they are genuinely interested in literature,
that literature matters to them.  They conquer by their obstinacy alone,
by their eternal repetition of the same statements.  Do you suppose
they could prove to the man in the street that Shakespeare
was a great artist?  The said man would not even understand
the terms they employed.  But when he is told ten thousand times,
and generation after generation, that Shakespeare was a great artist,
the said man believes--not by reason, but by faith.  And he too repeats
that Shakespeare was a great artist, and he buys the complete works
of Shakespeare and puts them on his shelves, and he goes to see
the marvellous stage-effects which accompany *King Lear* or *Hamlet*,
and comes back religiously convinced that Shakespeare was a great artist.
All because the passionate few could not keep their admiration
of Shakespeare to themselves.  This is not cynicism; but truth.
And it is important that those who wish to form their literary taste
should grasp it.

What causes the passionate few to make such a fuss about literature?
There can be only one reply.  They find a keen and lasting pleasure
in literature.  They enjoy literature as some men enjoy beer.
The recurrence of this pleasure naturally keeps their interest in literature
very much alive.  They are for ever making new researches,
for ever practising on themselves.  They learn to understand themselves.
They learn to know what they want.  Their taste becomes surer and surer
as their experience lengthens.  They do not enjoy to-day
what will seem tedious to them to-morrow.  When they find a book tedious,
no amount of popular clatter will persuade them that it is pleasurable;
and when they find it pleasurable no chill silence of the street-crowds
will affect their conviction that the book is good and permanent.
They have faith in themselves.  What are the qualities in a book
which give keen and lasting pleasure to the passionate few?
This is a question so difficult that it has never yet
been completely answered.  You may talk lightly about truth, insight,
knowledge, wisdom, humour, and beauty.  But these comfortable words do not
really carry you very far, for each of them has to be defined,
especially the first and last.  It is all very well for Keats
in his airy manner to assert that beauty is truth, truth beauty,
and that that is all he knows or needs to know.  I, for one, need to know
a lot more.  And I never shall know.  Nobody, not even Hazlitt
nor Sainte-Beuve, has ever finally explained why he thought
a book beautiful.  I take the first fine lines that come to hand--

	The woods of Arcady are dead,
	And over is their antique joy--

and I say that those lines are beautiful, because they give me pleasure.
But why?  No answer!  I only know that the passionate few will, broadly,
agree with me in deriving this mysterious pleasure from those lines.
I am only convinced that the liveliness of our pleasure in those
and many other lines by the same author will ultimately cause
the majority to believe, by faith, that W. B. Yeats is a genius.
The one reassuring aspect of the literary affair is that the passionate few
are passionate about the same things.  A continuance of interest does,
in actual practice, lead ultimately to the same judgments.
There is only the difference in width of interest.  Some of the passionate few
lack catholicity, or, rather, the whole of their interest is confined
to one narrow channel; they have none left over.  These men help specially
to vitalise the reputations of the narrower geniuses: such as Crashaw.
But their active predilections never contradict the general verdict
of the passionate few; rather they reinforce it.

A classic is a work which gives pleasure to the minority
which is intensely and permanently interested in literature.
It lives on because the minority, eager to renew the sensation of pleasure,
is eternally curious and is therefore engaged in an eternal process
of rediscovery.  A classic does not survive for any ethical reason.
It does not survive because it conforms to certain canons,
or because neglect would not kill it.  It survives because it is
a source of pleasure, and because the passionate few can no more neglect it
than a bee can neglect a flower.  The passionate few do not read
"the right things" because they are right.  That is to put the cart
before the horse.  "The right things" are the right things solely because
the passionate few *like* reading them.  Hence--and I now arrive at my point--
the one primary essential to literary taste is a hot interest in literature.
If you have that, all the rest will come.  It matters nothing that at present
you fail to find pleasure in certain classics.  The driving impulse
of your interest will force you to acquire experience, and experience
will teach you the use of the means of pleasure.  You do not know
the secret ways of yourself: that is all.  A continuance of interest
must inevitably bring you to the keenest joys.  But, of course,
experience may be acquired judiciously or injudiciously,
just as Putney may be reached *via* Walham Green or *via* St. Petersburg.

Chapter IV


I wish particularly that my readers should not be intimidated
by the apparent vastness and complexity of this enterprise
of forming the literary taste.  It is not so vast nor so complex as it looks.
There is no need whatever for the inexperienced enthusiast to confuse
and frighten himself with thoughts of "literature in all its branches."
Experts and pedagogues (chiefly pedagogues) have, for the purpose
of convenience, split literature up into divisions and sub-divisions--
such as prose and poetry; or imaginative, philosophic, historical;
or elegiac, heroic, lyric; or religious and profane, etc., *ad infinitum*.
But the greater truth is that literature is all one--and indivisible.
The idea of the unity of literature should be well planted and fostered
in the head.  All literature is the expression of feeling, of passion,
of emotion, caused by a sensation of the interestingness of life.
What drives a historian to write history?  Nothing but the overwhelming
impression made upon him by the survey of past times.
He is forced into an attempt to reconstitute the picture for others.
If hitherto you have failed to perceive that a historian is a being
in strong emotion, trying to convey his emotion to others,
read the passage in the *Memoirs* of Gibbon, in which he describes
how he finished the *Decline and Fall*.  You will probably never again
look upon the *Decline and Fall* as a "dry" work.

What applies to history applies to the other "dry" branches.
Even Johnson's Dictionary is packed with emotion.  Read the last paragraph
of the preface to it: "In this work, when it shall be found
that much is omitted, let it not be forgotten that much
likewise is performed....  It may repress the triumph of malignant criticism
to observe that if our language is not here fully displayed,
I have only failed in an attempt which no human powers
have hitherto completed...."  And so on to the close:
"I have protracted my work till most of those whom I wish to please
have sunk into the grave, and success and miscarriage are empty sounds:
I therefore dismiss it with frigid tranquillity, having little
to fear or hope from censure or from praise."  Yes, tranquillity;
but not frigid!  The whole passage, one of the finest in English prose,
is marked by the heat of emotion.  You may discover the same quality
in such books as Spencer's *First Principles*.  You may discover it everywhere
in literature, from the cold fire of Pope's irony to the blasting temperatures
of Swinburne.  Literature does not begin till emotion has begun.

There is even no essential, definable difference between
those two great branches, prose and poetry.  For prose may have rhythm.
All that can be said is that verse will scan, while prose will not.
The difference is purely formal.  Very few poets have succeeded in being
so poetical as Isaiah, Sir Thomas Browne, and Ruskin have been in prose.
It can only be stated that, as a rule, writers have shown
an instinctive tendency to choose verse for the expression
of the very highest emotion.  The supreme literature is in verse,
but the finest achievements in prose approach so nearly
to the finest achievements in verse that it is ill work deciding between them.
In the sense in which poetry is best understood, all literature is poetry--
or is, at any rate, poetical in quality.  Macaulay's ill-informed
and unjust denunciations live because his genuine emotion
made them into poetry, while his *Lays of Ancient Rome* are dead
because they are not the expression of a genuine emotion.
As the literary taste develops, this quality of emotion,
restrained or loosed, will be more and more widely perceived
at large in literature.  It is the quality that must be looked for.
It is the quality that unifies literature (and all the arts).

It is not merely useless, it is harmful, for you to map out literature
into divisions and branches, with different laws, rules, or canons.
The first thing is to obtain some possession of literature.
When you have actually felt some of the emotion which great writers
have striven to impart to you, and when your emotions become so numerous
and puzzling that you feel the need of arranging them and calling them
by names, then--and not before--you can begin to study what has been
attempted in the way of classifying and ticketing literature.
Manuals and treatises are excellent things in their kind,
but they are simply dead weight at the start.  You can only acquire
really useful general ideas by first acquiring particular ideas,
and putting those particular ideas together.  You cannot make bricks
without straw.  Do not worry about literature in the abstract,
about theories as to literature.  Get at it.  Get hold of literature
in the concrete as a dog gets hold of a bone.  If you ask me
where you ought to begin, I shall gaze at you as I might gaze
at the faithful animal if he inquired which end of the bone
he ought to attack.  It doesn't matter in the slightest degree
where you begin.  Begin wherever the fancy takes you to begin.
Literature is a whole.

There is only one restriction for you.  You must begin with an
acknowledged classic; you must eschew modern works.  The reason for this
does not imply any depreciation of the present age at the expense
of past ages.  Indeed, it is important, if you wish ultimately to have
a wide, catholic taste, to guard against the too common assumption
that nothing modern will stand comparison with the classics.
In every age there have been people to sigh: "Ah, yes.  Fifty years ago
we had a few great writers.  But they are all dead, and no young ones
are arising to take their place."  This attitude of mind is deplorable,
if not silly, and is a certain proof of narrow taste.  It is a surety
that in 1959 gloomy and egregious persons will be saying:
"Ah, yes.  At the beginning of the century there were great poets
like Swinburne, Meredith, Francis Thompson, and Yeats.
Great novelists like Hardy and Conrad.  Great historians
like Stubbs and Maitland, etc., etc.  But they are all dead now,
and whom have we to take their place?"  It is not until an age has receded
into history, and all its mediocrity has dropped away from it,
that we can see it as it is--as a group of men of genius.
We forget the immense amount of twaddle that the great epochs produced.
The total amount of fine literature created in a given period of time
differs from epoch to epoch, but it does not differ much.
And we may be perfectly sure that our own age will make
a favourable impression upon that excellent judge, posterity.
Therefore, beware of disparaging the present in your own mind.
While temporarily ignoring it, dwell upon the idea that its chaff
contains about as much wheat as any similar quantity of chaff
has contained wheat.

The reason why you must avoid modern works at the beginning
is simply that you are not in a position to choose among modern works.
Nobody at all is quite in a position to choose with certainty
among modern works.  To sift the wheat from the chaff is a process
that takes an exceedingly long time.  Modern works have to pass before
the bar of the taste of successive generations.  Whereas, with classics,
which have been through the ordeal, almost the reverse is the case.
*Your taste has to pass before the bar of the classics.*  That is the point.
If you differ with a classic, it is you who are wrong, and not the book.
If you differ with a modern work, you may be wrong or you may be right,
but no judge is authoritative enough to decide.  Your taste is unformed.
It needs guidance, and it needs authoritative guidance.
Into the business of forming literary taste faith enters.
You probably will not specially care for a particular classic at first.
If you did care for it at first, your taste, so far as that classic
is concerned, would be formed, and our hypothesis is that your taste
is not formed.  How are you to arrive at the stage of caring for it?
Chiefly, of course, by examining it and honestly trying to understand it.
But this process is materially helped by an act of faith,
by the frame of mind which says: "I know on the highest authority
that this thing is fine, that it is capable of giving me pleasure.
Hence I am determined to find pleasure in it."  Believe me
that faith counts enormously in the development of that wide taste
which is the instrument of wide pleasures.  But it must be faith
founded on unassailable authority.

Chapter V


Let us begin experimental reading with Charles Lamb.  I choose Lamb
for various reasons: He is a great writer, wide in his appeal,
of a highly sympathetic temperament; and his finest achievements
are simple and very short.  Moreover, he may usefully lead to other
and more complex matters, as will appear later.  Now, your natural tendency
will be to think of Charles Lamb as a book, because he has arrived
at the stage of being a classic.  Charles Lamb was a man, not a book.
It is extremely important that the beginner in literary study
should always form an idea of the man behind the book.
The book is nothing but the expression of the man.  The book is nothing but
the man trying to talk to you, trying to impart to you some of his feelings.
An experienced student will divine the man from the book,
will understand the man by the book, as is, of course,
logically proper.  But the beginner will do well to aid himself
in understanding the book by means of independent information about the man.
He will thus at once relate the book to something human,
and strengthen in his mind the essential notion of the connection
between literature and life.  The earliest literature was delivered
orally direct by the artist to the recipient.  In some respects
this arrangement was ideal.  Changes in the constitution of society
have rendered it impossible.  Nevertheless, we can still, by the exercise
of the imagination, hear mentally the accents of the artist speaking to us.
We must so exercise our imagination as to feel the man behind the book.

Some biographical information about Lamb should be acquired.
There are excellent short biographies of him by Canon Ainger
in the *Dictionary of National Biography*, in Chambers's *Encyclopædia*,
and in Chambers's *Cyclopædia of English Literature*.
If you have none of these (but you ought to have the last),
there are Mr. E. V. Lucas's exhaustive *Life* (Methuen, 7s. 6d.),
and, cheaper, Mr. Walter Jerrold's *Lamb* (Bell and Sons, 1s.);
also introductory studies prefixed to various editions of Lamb's works.
Indeed, the facilities for collecting materials for a picture of Charles Lamb
as a human being are prodigious.  When you have made for yourself
such a picture, read the *Essays of Elia* by the light of it.
I will choose one of the most celebrated, *Dream Children: A Reverie*.
At this point, kindly put my book down, and read *Dream Children*.
Do not say to yourself that you will read it later, but read it now.
When you have read it, you may proceed to my next paragraph.

You are to consider *Dream Children* as a human document.
Lamb was nearing fifty when he wrote it.  You can see, especially from
the last line, that the death of his elder brother, John Lamb,
was fresh and heavy on his mind.  You will recollect that in youth
he had had a disappointing love-affair with a girl named Ann Simmons,
who afterwards married a man named Bartrum.  You will know
that one of the influences of his childhood was his grandmother Field,
housekeeper of Blakesware House, in Hertfordshire, at which mansion
he sometimes spent his holidays.  You will know that he was a bachelor,
living with his sister Mary, who was subject to homicidal mania.
And you will see in this essay, primarily, a supreme expression
of the increasing loneliness of his life.  He constructed all that
preliminary tableau of paternal pleasure in order to bring home to you
in the most poignant way his feeling of the solitude of his existence,
his sense of all that he had missed and lost in the world.
The key of the essay is one of profound sadness.  But note
that he makes his sadness beautiful; or, rather, he shows the beauty
that resides in sadness.  You watch him sitting there
in his "bachelor arm-chair," and you say to yourself:
"Yes, it was sad, but it was somehow beautiful."  When you have said that
to yourself, Charles Lamb, so far as you are concerned, has accomplished
his chief aim in writing the essay.  How exactly he produces his effect
can never be fully explained.  But one reason of his success
is certainly his regard for truth.  He does not falsely idealise his brother,
nor the relations between them.  He does not say, as a sentimentalist
would have said, "Not the slightest cloud ever darkened our relations;"
nor does he exaggerate his solitude.  Being a sane man, he has too much
common-sense to assemble all his woes at once.  He might have told you
that Bridget was a homicidal maniac; what he does tell you is
that she was faithful.  Another reason of his success is his continual regard
for beautiful things and fine actions, as illustrated in
the major characteristics of his grandmother and his brother,
and in the detailed description of Blakesware House and the gardens thereof.

Then, subordinate to the main purpose, part of the machinery
of the main purpose, is the picture of the children--real children
until the moment when they fade away.  The traits of childhood are accurately
and humorously put in again and again: "Here John smiled, as much as to say,
'That would be foolish indeed.' "  "Here little Alice spread her hands."
"Here Alice's little right foot played an involuntary movement, till,
upon my looking grave, it desisted."  "Here John expanded all his eyebrows,
and tried to look courageous."  "Here John slily deposited back upon the plate
a bunch of grapes."  "Here the children fell a-crying...and prayed me
to tell them some stories about their pretty dead mother."  And the exquisite:
"Here Alice put out one of her dear mother's looks, too tender
to be upbraiding."  Incidentally, while preparing his ultimate solemn effect,
Lamb has inspired you with a new, intensified vision of the wistful beauty
of children--their imitativeness, their facile and generous emotions,
their anxiety to be correct, their ingenuous haste to escape
from grief into joy.  You can see these children almost as clearly
and as tenderly as Lamb saw them.  For days afterwards you will not be able
to look upon a child without recalling Lamb's portrayal of the grace
of childhood.  He will have shared with you his perception of beauty.
If you possess children, he will have renewed for you the charm
which custom does very decidedly stale.  It is further to be noticed
that the measure of his success in picturing the children is the measure
of his success in his main effect.  The more real they seem,
the more touching is the revelation of the fact that they do not exist,
and never have existed.  And if you were moved by the reference
to their "pretty dead mother," you will be still more moved
when you learn that the girl who would have been their mother
is not dead and is not Lamb's.

As, having read the essay, you reflect upon it, you will see
how its emotional power over you has sprung from the sincere
and unexaggerated expression of actual emotions exactly remembered
by someone who had an eye always open for beauty, who was, indeed,
obsessed by beauty.  The beauty of old houses and gardens
and aged virtuous characters, the beauty of children,
the beauty of companionships, the softening beauty of dreams
in an arm-chair--all these are brought together and mingled
with the grief and regret which were the origin of the mood.
Why is *Dream Children* a classic?  It is a classic because
it transmits to you, as to generations before you, distinguished emotion,
because it makes you respond to the throb of life more intensely,
more justly, and more nobly.  And it is capable of doing this
because Charles Lamb had a very distinguished, a very sensitive,
and a very honest mind.  His emotions were noble.  He felt so keenly
that he was obliged to find relief in imparting his emotions.
And his mental processes were so sincere that he could
neither exaggerate nor diminish the truth.  If he had lacked
any one of these three qualities, his appeal would have been narrowed
and weakened, and he would not have become a classic.  Either his feelings
would have been deficient in supreme beauty, and therefore less worthy
to be imparted, or he would not have had sufficient force to impart them;
or his honesty would not have been equal to the strain
of imparting them accurately.  In any case, he would not have
set up in you that vibration which we call pleasure, and which is
supereminently caused by vitalising participation in high emotion.
As Lamb sat in his bachelor arm-chair, with his brother in the grave,
and the faithful homicidal maniac by his side, he really did
think to himself, "This is beautiful.  Sorrow is beautiful.
Disappointment is beautiful.  Life is beautiful.  *I must tell them.*
I must make them understand."  Because he still makes you understand
he is a classic.  And now I seem to hear you say, "But what about
Lamb's famous literary style?  Where does that come in?"

Chapter VI


In discussing the value of particular books, I have heard people say--
people who were timid about expressing their views of literature
in the presence of literary men: "It may be bad from a literary
point of view, but there are very good things in it."
Or: "I dare say the style is very bad, but really the book is
very interesting and suggestive."  Or: "I'm not an expert,
and so I never bother my head about good style.  All I ask for
is good matter.  And when I have got it, critics may say what they like
about the book."  And many other similar remarks, all showing
that in the minds of the speakers there existed a notion
that style is something supplementary to, and distinguishable from, matter;
a sort of notion that a writer who wanted to be classical had first
to find and arrange his matter, and then dress it up elegantly
in a costume of style, in order to please beings called literary critics.

This is a misapprehension.  Style cannot be distinguished from matter.
When a writer conceives an idea he conceives it in a form of words.
That form of words constitutes his style, and it is absolutely governed
by the idea.  The idea can only exist in words, and it can only exist
in one form of words.  You cannot say exactly the same thing
in two different ways.  Slightly alter the expression,
and you slightly alter the idea.  Surely it is obvious
that the expression cannot be altered without altering the thing expressed!
A writer, having conceived and expressed an idea, may, and probably will,
"polish it up."  But what does he polish up?  To say that he polishes up
his style is merely to say that he is polishing up his idea,
that he has discovered faults or imperfections in his idea,
and is perfecting it.  An idea exists in proportion as it is expressed;
it exists when it is expressed, and not before.  It expresses itself.
A clear idea is expressed clearly, and a vague idea vaguely.
You need but take your own case and your own speech.  For just as
science is the development of common-sense, so is literature
the development of common daily speech.  The difference between
science and common-sense is simply one of degree; similarly with
speech and literature.  Well, when you "know what you think,"
you succeed in saying what you think, in making yourself understood.
When you "don't know what to think," your expressive tongue halts.
And note how in daily life the characteristics of your style
follow your mood; how tender it is when you are tender,
how violent when you are violent.  You have said to yourself
in moments of emotion: "If only I could write--," etc.
You were wrong.  You ought to have said: "If only I could *think*--
on this high plane."  When you have thought clearly you have never had
any difficulty in saying what you thought, though you may occasionally
have had some difficulty in keeping it to yourself.  And when you cannot
express yourself, depend upon it that you have nothing precise to express,
and that what incommodes you is not the vain desire to express,
but the vain desire to *think* more clearly.  All this
just to illustrate how style and matter are co-existent, and inseparable,
and alike.

You cannot have good matter with bad style.  Examine the point
more closely.  A man wishes to convey a fine idea to you.
He employs a form of words.  That form of words is his style.
Having read, you say: "Yes, this idea is fine."  The writer has
therefore achieved his end.  But in what imaginable circumstances
can you say: "Yes, this idea is fine, but the style is not fine"?
The sole medium of communication between you and the author has been
the form of words.  The fine idea has reached you.  How?
In the words, by the words.  Hence the fineness must be in the words.
You may say, superiorly: "He has expressed himself clumsily,
but I can *see* what he means."  By what light?  By something
in the words, in the style.  That something is fine.  Moreover, if the style
is clumsy, are you sure that you can see what he means?
You cannot be quite sure.  And at any rate, you cannot see distinctly.
The "matter" is what actually reaches you, and it must necessarily
be affected by the style.

Still further to comprehend what style is, let me ask you
to think of a writer's style exactly as you would think
of the gestures and manners of an acquaintance.  You know the man whose
demeanour is "always calm," but whose passions are strong.  How do you know
that his passions are strong?  Because he "gives them away"
by some small, but important, part of his demeanour, such as
the twitching of a lip or the whitening of the knuckles caused by
clenching the hand.  In other words, his demeanour, fundamentally,
is not calm.  You know the man who is always "smoothly polite
and agreeable," but who affects you unpleasantly.  Why does he
affect you unpleasantly?  Because he is tedious, and therefore disagreeable,
and because his politeness is not real politeness.  You know the man
who is awkward, shy, clumsy, but who, nevertheless, impresses you
with a sense of dignity and force.  Why?  Because mingled with
that awkwardness and so forth *is* dignity.  You know the blunt,
rough fellow whom you instinctively guess to be affectionate--
because there is "something in his tone" or "something in his eyes."
In every instance the demeanour, while perhaps seeming to be contrary
to the character, is really in accord with it.  The demeanour never
contradicts the character.  It is one part of the character
that contradicts another part of the character.  For, after all,
the blunt man *is* blunt, and the awkward man *is* awkward,
and these characteristics are defects.  The demeanour merely expresses them.
The two men would be better if, while conserving their good qualities,
they had the superficial attributes of smoothness and agreeableness
possessed by the gentleman who is unpleasant to you.
And as regards this latter, it is not his superficial attributes
which are unpleasant to you; but his other qualities.  In the end
the character is shown in the demeanour; and the demeanour
is a consequence of the character and resembles the character.
So with style and matter.  You may argue that the blunt,
rough man's demeanour is unfair to his tenderness.  I do not think so.
For his churlishness is really very trying and painful,
even to the man's wife, though a moment's tenderness will make her
and you forget it.  The man really is churlish, and much more often
than he is tender.  His demeanour is merely just to his character.
So, when a writer annoys you for ten pages and then enchants you
for ten lines, you must not explode against his style.
You must not say that his style won't let his matter "come out."
You must remember the churlish, tender man.  The more you reflect,
the more clearly you will see that faults and excellences of style
are faults and excellences of matter itself.

One of the most striking illustrations of this neglected truth
is Thomas Carlyle.  How often has it been said that Carlyle's matter
is marred by the harshness and the eccentricities of his style?
But Carlyle's matter is harsh and eccentric to precisely the same degree
as his style is harsh and eccentric.  Carlyle was harsh and eccentric.
His behaviour was frequently ridiculous, if it were not abominable.
His judgments were often extremely bizarre.  When you read
one of Carlyle's fierce diatribes, you say to yourself:
"This is splendid.  The man's enthusiasm for justice and truth
is glorious."  But you also say: "He is a little unjust
and a little untruthful.  He goes too far.  He lashes too hard."
These things are not the style; they are the matter.
And when, as in his greatest moments, he is emotional and restrained
at once, you say: "This is the real Carlyle."  Kindly notice
how perfect the style has become!  No harshnesses or eccentricities now!
And if that particular matter is the "real" Carlyle,
then that particular style is Carlyle's "real" style.
But when you say "real" you would more properly say "best."
"This is the best Carlyle."  If Carlyle had always been at his best
he would have counted among the supreme geniuses of the world.
But he was a mixture.  His style is the expression of the mixture.
The faults are only in the style because they are in the matter.

You will find that, in classical literature, the style always follows
the mood of the matter.  Thus, Charles Lamb's essay on *Dream Children*
begins quite simply, in a calm, narrative manner, enlivened by
a certain quippishness concerning the children.  The style is grave
when great-grandmother Field is the subject, and when the author passes
to a rather elaborate impression of the picturesque old mansion
it becomes as it were consciously beautiful.  This beauty is intensified
in the description of the still more beautiful garden.
But the real dividing point of the essay occurs when Lamb approaches
his elder brother.  He unmistakably marks the point with the phrase:
"*Then, in somewhat a more heightened tone*, I told how," etc.
Henceforward the style increases in fervour and in solemnity
until the culmination of the essay is reached: "And while I stood gazing,
both the children gradually grew fainter to my view,
receding and still receding till nothing at last but two mournful features
were seen in the uttermost distance, which, without speech,
strangely impressed upon me the effects of speech...."
Throughout, the style is governed by the matter.  "Well," you say,
"of course it is.  It couldn't be otherwise.  If it were otherwise
it would be ridiculous.  A man who made love as though he were preaching
a sermon, or a man who preached a sermon as though he were
teasing schoolboys, or a man who described a death as though
he were describing a practical joke, must necessarily be either an ass
or a lunatic."  Just so.  You have put it in a nutshell.  You have
disposed of the problem of style so far as it can be disposed of.

But what do those people mean who say: "I read such and such an author
for the beauty of his style alone"?  Personally, I do not clearly know
what they mean (and I have never been able to get them to explain),
unless they mean that they read for the beauty of sound alone.
When you read a book there are only three things of which
you may be conscious: (1) The significance of the words,
which is inseparably bound up with the thought.  (2) The look
of the printed words on the page--I do not suppose that anybody reads
any author for the visual beauty of the words on the page.
(3) The sound of the words, either actually uttered or imagined
by the brain to be uttered.  Now it is indubitable that words differ
in beauty of sound.  To my mind one of the most beautiful words
in the English language is "pavement."  Enunciate it, study its sound,
and see what you think.  It is also indubitable that certain
combinations of words have a more beautiful sound than certain
other combinations.  Thus Tennyson held that the most beautiful line
he ever wrote was:

	The mellow ouzel fluting in the elm.

Perhaps, as sound, it was.  Assuredly it makes a beautiful
succession of sounds, and recalls the bird-sounds which it is
intended to describe.  But does it live in the memory
as one of the rare great Tennysonian lines?  It does not.
It has charm, but the charm is merely curious or pretty.
A whole poem composed of lines with no better recommendation
than that line has would remain merely curious or pretty.
It would not permanently interest.  It would be as insipid
as a pretty woman who had nothing behind her prettiness.
It would not live.  One may remark in this connection how the merely
verbal felicities of Tennyson have lost our esteem.  Who will
now proclaim the *Idylls of the King* as a masterpiece?
Of the thousands of lines written by him which please the ear,
only those survive of which the matter is charged with emotion.
No!  As regards the man who professes to read an author
"for his style alone," I am inclined to think either that he will
soon get sick of that author, or that he is deceiving himself
and means the author's general temperament--not the author's
verbal style, but a peculiar quality which runs through
all the matter written by the author.  Just as one may like
a man for something which is always coming out of him,
which one cannot define, and which is of the very essence of the man.

In judging the style of an author, you must employ the same canons
as you use in judging men.  If you do this you will not be tempted
to attach importance to trifles that are negligible.  There can be
no lasting friendship without respect.  If an author's style is such
that you cannot *respect* it, then you may be sure that,
despite any present pleasure which you may obtain from that author,
there is something wrong with his matter, and that the pleasure
will soon cloy.  You must examine your sentiments towards an author.
If when you have read an author you are pleased, without being conscious
of aught but his mellifluousness, just conceive what your feelings would be
after spending a month's holiday with a merely mellifluous man.
If an author's style has pleased you, but done nothing except
make you giggle, then reflect upon the ultimate tediousness
of the man who can do nothing but jest.  On the other hand,
if you are impressed by what an author has said to you,
but are aware of verbal clumsinesses in his work, you need worry about
his "bad style" exactly as much and exactly as little as
you would worry about the manners of a kindhearted, keen-brained friend
who was dangerous to carpets with a tea-cup in his hand.
The friend's antics in a drawing-room are somewhat regrettable,
but you would not say of him that his manners were bad.
Again, if an author's style dazzles you instantly and blinds you to
everything except its brilliant self, ask your soul, before you begin
to admire his matter, what would be your final opinion of a man
who at the first meeting fired his personality into you like a broadside.
Reflect that, as a rule, the people whom you have come to esteem
communicated themselves to you gradually, that they did not begin
the entertainment with fireworks.  In short, look at literature
as you would look at life, and you cannot fail to perceive that,
essentially, the style is the man.  Decidedly you will never assert
that you care nothing for style, that your enjoyment of an author's matter
is unaffected by his style.  And you will never assert, either,
that style alone suffices for you.

If you are undecided upon a question of style, whether leaning to
the favourable or to the unfavourable, the most prudent course
is to forget that literary style exists.  For, indeed, as style
is understood by most people who have not analysed their impressions
under the influence of literature, there *is* no such thing
as literary style.  You cannot divide literature into two elements
and say: This is matter and that style.  Further, the significance
and the worth of literature are to be comprehended and assessed
in the same way as the significance and the worth of any other phenomenon:
by the exercise of common-sense.  Common-sense will tell you
that nobody, not even a genius, can be simultaneously vulgar
and distinguished, or beautiful and ugly, or precise and vague,
or tender and harsh.  And common-sense will therefore tell you
that to try to set up vital contradictions between matter and style
is absurd.  When there is a superficial contradiction, one of
the two mutually-contradicting qualities is of far less importance
than the other.  If you refer literature to the standards of life,
common-sense will at once decide which quality should count heaviest
in your esteem.  You will be in no danger of weighing a mere
maladroitness of manner against a fine trait of character, or of letting
a graceful deportment blind you to a fundamental vacuity.  When in doubt,
ignore style, and think of the matter as you would think of an individual.

Chapter VII


Having disposed, so far as is possible and necessary, of that
formidable question of style, let us now return to Charles Lamb,
whose essay on *Dream Children* was the originating cause
of our inquiry into style.  As we have made a beginning of Lamb,
it will be well to make an end of him.  In the preliminary stages
of literary culture, nothing is more helpful, in the way
of kindling an interest and keeping it well alight, than
to specialise for a time on one author, and particularly on an author
so frankly and curiously "human" as Lamb is.  I do not mean
that you should imprison yourself with Lamb's complete works
for three months, and read nothing else.  I mean that you should
regularly devote a proportion of your learned leisure to
the study of Lamb until you are acquainted with all
that is important in his work and about his work.  (You may buy
the complete works in prose and verse of Charles and Mary Lamb,
edited by that unsurpassed expert Mr. Thomas Hutchison,
and published by the Oxford University Press, in two volumes
for four shillings the pair!)  There is no reason why you should not
become a modest specialist in Lamb.  He is the very man for you;
neither voluminous, nor difficult, nor uncomfortably lofty;
always either amusing or touching; and--most important--
himself passionately addicted to literature.  You cannot
like Lamb without liking literature in general.  And you cannot
read Lamb without learning about literature in general;
for books were his hobby, and he was a critic of the first rank.
His letters are full of literariness.  You will naturally
read his letters; you should not only be infinitely diverted by them
(there are no better epistles), but you should receive from them
much light on the works.

It is a course of study that I am suggesting to you.
It means a certain amount of sustained effort.  It means
slightly more resolution, more pertinacity, and more expenditure
of brain-tissue than are required for reading a newspaper.
It means, in fact, "work."  Perhaps you did not bargain for work
when you joined me.  But I do not think that the literary taste
can be satisfactorily formed unless one is prepared to put
one's back into the affair.  And I may prophesy to you,
by way of encouragement, that, in addition to the advantages
of familiarity with masterpieces, of increased literary knowledge,
and of a wide introduction to the true bookish atmosphere
and "feel" of things, which you will derive from a comprehensive
study of Charles Lamb, you will also be conscious of
a moral advantage--the very important and very inspiring advantage
of really "knowing something about something."  You will
have achieved a definite step; you will be proudly aware
that you have put yourself in a position to judge as an expert
whatever you may hear or read in the future concerning Charles Lamb.
This legitimate pride and sense of accomplishment will
stimulate you to go on further; it will generate steam.
I consider that this indirect moral advantage even outweighs,
for the moment, the direct literary advantages.

Now, I shall not shut my eyes to a possible result of your
diligent intercourse with Charles Lamb.  It is possible
that you may be disappointed with him.  It is--shall I say?--
almost probable that you will be disappointed with him,
at any rate partially.  You will have expected more joy in him
than you have received.  I have referred in a previous chapter
to the feeling of disappointment which often comes from first contacts
with the classics.  The neophyte is apt to find them--I may as well
out with the word--dull.  You may have found Lamb less diverting,
less interesting, than you hoped.  You may have had to whip yourself up
again and again to the effort of reading him.  In brief, Lamb has not,
for you, justified his terrific reputation.  If a classic is a classic
because it gives *pleasure* to succeeding generations of the people
who are most keenly interested in literature, and if Lamb
frequently strikes you as dull, then evidently there is something wrong.
The difficulty must be fairly fronted, and the fronting of it
brings us to the very core of the business of actually forming the taste.
If your taste were classical you would discover in Lamb
a continual fascination; whereas what you in fact do discover
in Lamb is a not unpleasant flatness, enlivened by a vague humour
and an occasional pathos.  You ought, according to theory,
to be enthusiastic; but you are apathetic, or, at best, half-hearted.
There is a gulf.  How to cross it?

To cross it needs time and needs trouble.  The following considerations
may aid.  In the first place, we have to remember that,
in coming into the society of the classics in general
and of Charles Lamb in particular, we are coming into
the society of a mental superior.  What happens usually
in such a case?  We can judge by recalling what happens
when we are in the society of a mental inferior.  We say things
of which he misses the import; we joke, and he does not smile;
what makes him laugh loudly seems to us horseplay or childish;
he is blind to beauties which ravish us; he is ecstatic over
what strikes us as crude; and his profound truths are for us
trite commonplaces.  His perceptions are relatively coarse;
our perceptions are relatively subtle.  We try to make him understand,
to make him see, and if he is aware of his inferiority
we may have some success.  But if he is not aware of his inferiority,
we soon hold our tongues and leave him alone in his self-satisfaction,
convinced that there is nothing to be done with him.  Every one of us
has been through this experience with a mental inferior, for there is
always a mental inferior handy, just as there is always a being
more unhappy than we are.  In approaching a classic, the true wisdom
is to place ourselves in the position of the mental inferior,
aware of mental inferiority, humbly stripping off all conceit,
anxious to rise out of that inferiority.  Recollect that we always regard
as quite hopeless the mental inferior who does not suspect
his own inferiority.  Our attitude towards Lamb must be:
"Charles Lamb was a greater man than I am, cleverer, sharper,
subtler, finer, intellectually more powerful, and with keener eyes
for beauty.  I must brace myself to follow his lead."
Our attitude must resemble that of one who cocks his ear and listens
with all his soul for a distant sound.

To catch the sound we really must listen.  That is to say,
we must read carefully, with our faculties on the watch.  We must read
slowly and perseveringly.  A classic has to be wooed and
is worth the wooing.  Further, we must disdain no assistance.
I am not in favour of studying criticism of classics before
the classics themselves.  My notion is to study the work
and the biography of a classical writer together, and then to read
criticism afterwards.  I think that in reprints of the classics
the customary "critical introduction" ought to be put at the end,
and not at the beginning, of the book.  The classic should be allowed
to make his own impression, however faint, on the virginal mind
of the reader.  But afterwards let explanatory criticism be read
as much as you please.  Explanatory criticism is very useful;
nearly as useful as pondering for oneself on what one has read!
Explanatory criticism may throw one single gleam that lights up
the entire subject.

My second consideration (in aid of crossing the gulf) touches
the quality of the pleasure to be derived from a classic.  It is never
a violent pleasure.  It is subtle, and it will wax in intensity,
but the idea of violence is foreign to it.  The artistic pleasures
of an uncultivated mind are generally violent.  They proceed from
exaggeration in treatment, from a lack of balance, from attaching
too great an importance to one aspect (usually superficial),
while quite ignoring another.  They are gross, like the joy
of Worcester sauce on the palate.  Now, if there is one point
common to all classics, it is the absence of exaggeration.
The balanced sanity of a great mind makes impossible exaggeration,
and, therefore, distortion.  The beauty of a classic is not at all apt
to knock you down.  It will steal over you, rather.  Many serious students
are, I am convinced, discouraged in the early stages because
they are expecting a wrong kind of pleasure.  They have abandoned
Worcester sauce, and they miss it.  They miss the coarse *tang*.
They must realise that indulgence in the *tang* means the sure
and total loss of sensitiveness--sensitiveness even to the *tang* itself.
They cannot have crudeness and fineness together.  They must choose,
remembering that while crudeness kills pleasure, fineness ever
intensifies it.

Chapter VIII


You have now definitely set sail on the sea of literature.
You are afloat, and your anchor is up.  I think I have given
adequate warning of the dangers and disappointments which await
the unwary and the sanguine.  The enterprise in which you are engaged
is not facile, nor is it short.  I think I have sufficiently predicted
that you will have your hours of woe, during which you may be
inclined to send to perdition all writers, together with
the inventor of printing.  But if you have become really friendly
with Lamb; if you know Lamb, or even half of him; if you have formed
an image of him in your mind, and can, as it were, hear him brilliantly
stuttering while you read his essays or letters, then certainly
you are in a fit condition to proceed and you want to know
in which direction you are to proceed.  Yes, I have caught
your terrified and protesting whisper: "I hope to heaven
he isn't going to prescribe a Course of English Literature,
because I feel I shall never be able to do it!"  I am not.
If your object in life was to be a University Extension Lecturer
in English literature, then I should prescribe something
drastic and desolating.  But as your object, so far as
I am concerned, is simply to obtain the highest and most tonic form
of artistic pleasure of which you are capable, I shall not prescribe
any regular course.  Nay, I shall venture to dissuade you
from any regular course.  No man, and assuredly no beginner,
can possibly pursue a historical course of literature
without wasting a lot of weary time in acquiring mere knowledge
which will yield neither pleasure nor advantage.  In the choice of reading
the individual must count; caprice must count, for caprice is often
the truest index to the individuality.  Stand defiantly on your own feet,
and do not excuse yourself to yourself.  You do not exist in order
to honour literature by becoming an encyclopædia of literature.
Literature exists for your service.  Wherever you happen to be,
that, for you, is the centre of literature.

Still, for your own sake you must confine yourself for a long time
to recognised classics, for reasons already explained.  And though
you should not follow a course, you must have a system or principle.
Your native sagacity will tell you that caprice, left quite unfettered,
will end by being quite ridiculous.  The system which I recommend
is embodied in this counsel: Let one thing lead to another.
In the sea of literature every part communicates with every other part;
there are no land-locked lakes.  It was with an eye to this system
that I originally recommended you to start with Lamb.
Lamb, if you are his intimate, has already brought you into relations
with a number of other prominent writers with whom you can
in turn be intimate, and who will be particularly useful to you.
Among these are Wordsworth, Coleridge, Southey, Hazlitt, and Leigh Hunt.
You cannot know Lamb without knowing these men, and some of them
are of the highest importance.  From the circle of Lamb's own work
you may go off at a tangent at various points, according to
your inclination.  If, for instance, you are drawn towards poetry,
you cannot, in all English literature, make a better start than
with Wordsworth.  And Wordsworth will send you backwards to
a comprehension of the poets against whose influence Wordsworth fought.
When you have understood Wordsworth's and Coleridge's *Lyrical Ballads*,
and Wordsworth's defence of them, you will be in a position to judge
poetry in general.  If, again, your mind hankers after an earlier
and more romantic literature, Lamb's *Specimens of English Dramatic Poets
Contemporary with Shakspere* has already, in an enchanting fashion,
piloted you into a vast gulf of "the sea which is Shakspere."

Again, in Hazlitt and Leigh Hunt you will discover essayists
inferior only to Lamb himself, and critics perhaps not inferior.
Hazlitt is unsurpassed as a critic.  His judgments are convincing
and his enthusiasm of the most catching nature.  Having arrived
at Hazlitt or Leigh Hunt, you can branch off once more
at any one of ten thousand points into still wider circles.
And thus you may continue up and down the centuries as far
as you like, yea, even to Chaucer.  If you chance to read Hazlitt
on *Chaucer and Spenser*, you will probably put your hat on instantly
and go out and buy these authors; such is his communicating fire!
I need not particularise further.  Commencing with Lamb,
and allowing one thing to lead to another, you cannot fail
to be more and more impressed by the peculiar suitability
to your needs of the Lamb entourage and the Lamb period.
For Lamb lived in a time of universal rebirth in English literature.
Wordsworth and Coleridge were re-creating poetry; Scott was re-creating
the novel; Lamb was re-creating the human document; and Hazlitt,
Coleridge, Leigh Hunt, and others were re-creating criticism.
Sparks are flying all about the place, and it will be not less than
a miracle if something combustible and indestructible in you
does not take fire.

I have only one cautionary word to utter.  You may be saying
to yourself: "So long as I stick to classics I cannot go wrong."
You can go wrong.  You can, while reading naught but very fine stuff,
commit the grave error of reading too much of one kind of stuff.
Now there are two kinds, and only two kinds.  These two kinds are not
prose and poetry, nor are they divided the one from the other
by any differences of form or of subject.  They are the inspiring kind
and the informing kind.  No other genuine division exists in literature.
Emerson, I think, first clearly stated it.  His terms were
the literature of "power" and the literature of "knowledge."
In nearly all great literature the two qualities are to be found
in company, but one usually predominates over the other.
An example of the exclusively inspiring kind is Coleridge's *Kubla Khan*.
I cannot recall any first-class example of the purely informing kind.
The nearest approach to it that I can name is Spencer's
*First Principles*, which, however, is at least once highly inspiring.
An example in which the inspiring quality predominates is *Ivanhoe*;
and an example in which the informing quality predominates is
Hazlitt's essays on Shakespeare's characters.  You must avoid giving undue
preference to the kind in which the inspiring quality predominates
or to the kind in which the informing quality predominates.
Too much of the one is enervating; too much of the other is desiccating.
If you stick exclusively to the one you may become a mere debauchee
of the emotions; if you stick exclusively to the other you may cease
to live in any full sense.  I do not say that you should hold the balance
exactly even between the two kinds.  Your taste will come into the scale.
What I say is that neither kind must be neglected.

Lamb is an instance of a great writer whom anybody can understand
and whom a majority of those who interest themselves in literature
can more or less appreciate.  He makes no excessive demand
either on the intellect or on the faculty of sympathetic emotion.
On both sides of Lamb, however, there lie literatures more difficult,
more recondite.  The "knowledge" side need not detain us here;
it can be mastered by concentration and perseverance.
But the "power" side, which comprises the supreme productions of genius,
demands special consideration.  You may have arrived at the point of
keenly enjoying Lamb and yet be entirely unable to "see anything in"
such writings as *Kubla Khan* or Milton's *Comus*; and as for *Hamlet*
you may see nothing in it but a sanguinary tale "full of quotations."
Nevertheless it is the supreme productions which are capable
of yielding the supreme pleasures, and which *will* yield
the supreme pleasures when the pass-key to them has been acquired.
This pass-key is a comprehension of the nature of poetry.

Chapter IX


There is a word, a "name of fear," which rouses terror
in the heart of the vast educated majority of the English-speaking race.
The most valiant will fly at the mere utterance of that word.
The most broad-minded will put their backs up against it.
The most rash will not dare to affront it.  I myself have seen it
empty buildings that had been full; and I know that it will
scatter a crowd more quickly than a hose-pipe, hornets,
or the rumour of plague.  Even to murmur it is to incur solitude,
probably disdain, and possibly starvation, as historical examples show.
That word is "poetry."

The profound objection of the average man to poetry can scarcely
be exaggerated.  And when I say the average man, I do not mean
the "average sensual man"--any man who gets on to the top of the omnibus;
I mean the average lettered man, the average man who does care a little
for books and enjoys reading, and knows the classics by name
and the popular writers by having read them.  I am convinced
that not one man in ten who reads, reads poetry--at any rate, knowingly.
I am convinced, further, that not one man in ten who goes so far as
knowingly to *buy* poetry ever reads it.  You will find everywhere
men who read very widely in prose, but who will say quite callously,
"No, I never read poetry."  If the sales of modern poetry,
distinctly labelled as such, were to cease entirely to-morrow
not a publisher would fail; scarcely a publisher would be affected;
and not a poet would die--for I do not believe that a single modern
English poet is living to-day on the current proceeds of his verse.
For a country which possesses the greatest poetical literature
in the world this condition of affairs is at least odd.
What makes it odder is that, occasionally, very occasionally,
the average lettered man will have a fit of idolatry for a fine poet,
buying his books in tens of thousands, and bestowing upon him
immense riches.  As with Tennyson.  And what makes it odder still
is that, after all, the average lettered man does not truly dislike poetry;
he only dislikes it when it takes a certain form.  He will read poetry
and enjoy it, provided he is not aware that it is poetry.
Poetry can exist authentically either in prose or in verse.
Give him poetry concealed in prose and there is a chance that,
taken off his guard, he will appreciate it.  But show him a page of verse,
and he will be ready to send for a policeman.  The reason of this is that,
though poetry may come to pass either in prose or in verse,
it does actually happen far more frequently in verse than in prose;
nearly all the very greatest poetry is in verse; verse is identified
with the very greatest poetry, and the very greatest poetry can only be
understood and savoured by people who have put themselves through a
considerable mental discipline.  To others it is an exasperating weariness.
Hence chiefly the fearful prejudice of the average lettered man
against the mere form of verse.

The formation of literary taste cannot be completed until
that prejudice has been conquered.  My very difficult task
is to suggest a method of conquering it.  I address myself exclusively
to the large class of people who, if they are honest, will declare that,
while they enjoy novels, essays, and history, they cannot "stand" verse.
The case is extremely delicate, like all nervous cases.
It is useless to employ the arts of reasoning, for the matter
has got beyond logic; it is instinctive.  Perfectly futile to assure you
that verse will yield a higher percentage of pleasure than prose!
You will reply: "We believe you, but that doesn't help us."
Therefore I shall not argue.  I shall venture to prescribe
a curative treatment (doctors do not argue); and I beg you
to follow it exactly, keeping your nerve and your calm.
Loss of self-control might lead to panic, and panic would be fatal.

First: Forget as completely as you can all your present notions
about the nature of verse and poetry.  Take a sponge and
wipe the slate of your mind.  In particular, do not harass yourself
by thoughts of metre and verse forms.  Second: Read William Hazlitt's essay
"On Poetry in General."  This essay is the first in the book entitled
*Lectures on the English Poets*.  It can be bought in various forms.
I think the cheapest satisfactory edition is in Routledge's
"New Universal Library" (price 1s. net).  I might have composed
an essay of my own on the real harmless nature of poetry in general,
but it could only have been an echo and a deterioration of Hazlitt's.
He has put the truth about poetry in a way as interesting, clear,
and reassuring as anyone is ever likely to put it.  I do not expect,
however, that you will instantly gather the full message and enthusiasm
of the essay.  It will probably seem to you not to "hang together."
Still, it will leave bright bits of ideas in your mind.
Third: After a week's interval read the essay again.  On a second perusal
it will appear more persuasive to you.

Fourth: Open the Bible and read the fortieth chapter of Isaiah.
It is the chapter which begins, "Comfort ye, comfort ye, my people,"
and ends, "They shall run and not be weary, and they shall walk
and not faint."  This chapter will doubtless be more or less
familiar to you.  It cannot fail (whatever your particular *ism*)
to impress you, to generate in your mind sensations which you recognise
to be of a lofty and unusual order, and which you will admit
to be pleasurable.  You will probably agree that the result
of reading this chapter (even if your particular *ism*
is opposed to its authority) is finer than the result of reading
a short story in a magazine or even an essay by Charles Lamb.
Now the pleasurable sensations induced by the fortieth chapter
of Isaiah are among the sensations usually induced by high-class poetry.
The writer of it was a very great poet, and what he wrote
is a very great poem.  Fifth: After having read it, go back to Hazlitt,
and see if you can find anything in Hazlitt's lecture which throws light
on the psychology of your own emotions upon reading Isaiah.

Sixth: The next step is into unmistakable verse.  It is to read
one of Wordsworth's short narrative poems, *The Brothers*.
There are editions of Wordsworth at a shilling, but I should advise
the "Golden Treasury" Wordsworth (2s. 6d. net), because it contains
the famous essay by Matthew Arnold, who made the selection.
I want you to read this poem aloud.  You will probably have to hide
yourself somewhere in order to do so, for, of course, you would not,
as yet, care to be overheard spouting poetry.  Be good enough
to forget that *The Brothers* is poetry.  *The Brothers* is a short story,
with a plain, clear plot.  Read it as such.  Read it simply for the story.
It is very important at this critical stage that you should not
embarrass your mind with preoccupations as to the *form* in which
Wordsworth has told his story.  Wordsworth's object was to tell
a story as well as he could: just that.  In reading aloud do not pay
any more attention to the metre than you feel naturally inclined to pay.
After a few lines the metre will present itself to you.  Do not worry
as to what kind of metre it is.  When you have finished the perusal,
examine your sensations....

Your sensations after reading this poem, and perhaps one or two
other narrative poems of Wordsworth, such as *Michael*, will be
different from the sensations produced in you by reading an ordinary,
or even a very extraordinary, short story in prose.  They may not be
so sharp, so clear and piquant, but they will probably be,
in their mysteriousness and their vagueness, more impressive.
I do not say that they will be diverting.  I do not go so far
as to say that they will strike you as pleasing sensations.
(Be it remembered that I am addressing myself to an imaginary
tyro in poetry.)  I would qualify them as being "disturbing."
Well, to disturb the spirit is one of the greatest aims of art.
And a disturbance of spirit is one of the finest pleasures
that a highly-organised man can enjoy.  But this truth can only be
really learnt by the repetitions of experience.  As an aid
to the more exhaustive examination of your feelings under Wordsworth,
in order that you may better understand what he was trying
to effect in you, and the means which he employed, I must direct you
to Wordsworth himself.  Wordsworth, in addition to being a poet,
was unsurpassed as a critic of poetry.  What Hazlitt does for poetry
in the way of creating enthusiasm Wordsworth does in the way
of philosophic explanation.  And Wordsworth's explanations of the theory
and practice of poetry are written for the plain man.
They pass the comprehension of nobody, and their direct, unassuming,
and calm simplicity is extremely persuasive.  Wordsworth's chief essays
in throwing light on himself are the "Advertisement," "Preface,"
and "Appendix" to *Lyrical Ballads*; the letters to Lady Beaumont
and "the Friend" and the "Preface" to the Poems dated 1815.
All this matter is strangely interesting and of immense
educational value.  It is the first-class expert talking at ease
about his subject.  The essays relating to *Lyrical Ballads* will be
the most useful for you.  You will discover these precious documents
in a volume entitled *Wordsworth's Literary Criticism* (published by
Henry Frowde, 2s. 6d.), edited by that distinguished Wordsworthian
Mr. Nowell C. Smith.  It is essential that the student of poetry
should become possessed, honestly or dishonestly, either of this volume
or of the matter which it contains.  There is, by the way, a volume of
Wordsworth's prose in the Scott Library (1s.).  Those who have not read
Wordsworth on poetry can have no idea of the naïve charm
and the helpful radiance of his expounding.  I feel that I cannot
too strongly press Wordsworth's criticism upon you.

Between Wordsworth and Hazlitt you will learn all that it behoves you
to know of the nature, the aims, and the results of poetry.
It is no part of my scheme to dot the "i's" and cross the "t's"
of Wordsworth and Hazlitt.  I best fulfil my purpose in urgently
referring you to them.  I have only a single point of my own to make--
a psychological detail.  One of the main obstacles to
the cultivation of poetry in the average sensible man
is an absurdly inflated notion of the ridiculous.  At the bottom
of that man's mind is the idea that poetry is "silly."
He also finds it exaggerated and artificial; but these two accusations
against poetry can be satisfactorily answered.  The charge of silliness,
of being ridiculous, however, cannot be refuted by argument.
There is no logical answer to a guffaw.  This sense of the ridiculous
is merely a bad, infantile habit, in itself grotesquely ridiculous.
You may see it particularly in the theatre.  Not the greatest dramatist,
not the greatest composer, not the greatest actor can prevent an audience
from laughing uproariously at a tragic moment if a cat walks across
the stage.  But why ruin the scene by laughter?  Simply because
the majority of any audience is artistically childish.  This sense
of the ridiculous can only be crushed by the exercise of moral force.
It can only be cowed.  If you are inclined to laugh when a poet
expresses himself more powerfully than you express yourself,
when a poet talks about feelings which are not usually mentioned
in daily papers, when a poet uses words and images which lie
outside your vocabulary and range of thought, then you had better
take yourself in hand.  You have to decide whether you will be on the side
of the angels or on the side of the nincompoops.  There is no surer
sign of imperfect development than the impulse to snigger
at what is unusual, naïve, or exuberant.  And if you choose to do so,
you can detect the cat walking across the stage in the sublimest
passages of literature.  But more advanced souls will grieve for you.

The study of Wordsworth's criticism makes the seventh step
in my course of treatment.  The eighth is to return to those poems
of Wordsworth's which you have already perused, and read them again
in the full light of the author's defence and explanation.
Read as much Wordsworth as you find you can assimilate,
but do not attempt either of his long poems.  The time, however,
is now come for a long poem.  I began by advising narrative poetry
for the neophyte, and I shall persevere with the prescription.
I mean narrative poetry in the restricted sense; for epic poetry
is narrative.  *Paradise Lost* is narrative; so is *The Prelude*.
I suggest neither of these great works.  My choice falls on
Elizabeth Browning's *Aurora Leigh*.  If you once work yourself
"into" this poem, interesting yourself primarily (as with Wordsworth)
in the events of the story, and not allowing yourself to be obsessed
by the fact that what you are reading is "poetry"--if you do this,
you are not likely to leave it unfinished.  And before you reach the end
you will have encountered *en route* pretty nearly all the moods of poetry
that exist: tragic, humorous, ironic, elegiac, lyric--everything.
You will have a comprehensive acquaintance with a poet's mind.
I guarantee that you will come safely through if you treat the work
as a novel.  For a novel it effectively is, and a better one than any
written by Charlotte Brontë or George Eliot.  In reading, it would be well
to mark, or take note of, the passages which give you the most pleasure,
and then to compare these passages with the passages selected for praise
by some authoritative critic.  *Aurora Leigh* can be got
in the "Temple Classics" (1s. 6d.), or in the "Canterbury Poets" (1s.).
The indispensable biographical information about Mrs. Browning
can be obtained from Mr. J. H. Ingram's short Life of her
in the "Eminent Women" Series (1s. 6d.), or from *Robert Browning*,
by William Sharp ("Great Writers" Series, 1s.).

This accomplished, you may begin to choose your poets.
Going back to Hazlitt, you will see that he deals with, among others,
Chaucer, Spenser, Shakespeare, Milton, Dryden, Pope, Chatterton,
Burns, and the Lake School.  You might select one of these,
and read under his guidance.  Said Wordsworth: "I was impressed
by the conviction that there were four English poets whom I must
have continually before me as examples--Chaucer, Shakespeare,
Spenser, and Milton."  (A word to the wise!)  Wordsworth makes a fifth
to these four.  Concurrently with the careful, enthusiastic study
of one of the undisputed classics, modern verse should be read.
(I beg you to accept the following statement: that if the study
of classical poetry inspires you with a distaste for modern poetry,
then there is something seriously wrong in the method of your development.)
You may at this stage (and not before) commence an inquiry into
questions of rhythm, verse-structure, and rhyme.  There is, I believe,
no good, concise, cheap handbook to English prosody; yet such a manual
is greatly needed.  The only one with which I am acquainted is
Tom Hood the younger's *Rules of Rhyme: A Guide to English Versification*.
Again, the introduction to Walker's *Rhyming Dictionary* gives
a fairly clear elementary account of the subject.  Ruskin also
has written an excellent essay on verse-rhythms.  With a manual
in front of you, you can acquire in a couple of hours
a knowledge of the formal principles in which the music of English verse
is rooted.  The business is trifling.  But the business of appreciating
the inmost spirit of the greatest verse is tremendous and lifelong.
It is not something that can be "got up."

Chapter X


I have now set down what appear to me to be the necessary considerations,
recommendations, exhortations, and dehortations in aid of
this delicate and arduous enterprise of forming the literary taste.
I have dealt with the theory of literature, with the psychology
of the author, and--quite as important--with the psychology of
the reader.  I have tried to explain the author to the reader
and the reader to himself.  To go into further detail
would be to exceed my original intention, with no hope of ever
bringing the constantly-enlarging scheme to a logical conclusion.  My aim
is not to provide a map, but a compass--two very different instruments.
In the way of general advice it remains for me only to put before you
three counsels which apply more broadly than any I have yet offered
to the business of reading.

You have within yourself a touchstone by which finally you can,
and you must, test every book that your brain is capable of comprehending.
Does the book seem to you to be sincere and true?  If it does,
then you need not worry about your immediate feelings,
or the possible future consequences of the book.  You will ultimately
like the book, and you will be justified in liking it.
Honesty, in literature as in life, is the quality that counts first
and counts last.  But beware of your immediate feelings.
Truth is not always pleasant.  The first glimpse of truth is, indeed,
usually so disconcerting as to be positively unpleasant,
and our impulse is to tell it to go away, for we will have no truck with it.
If a book arouses your genuine contempt, you may dismiss it from your mind.
Take heed, however, lest you confuse contempt with anger.
If a book really moves you to anger, the chances are
that it is a good book.  Most good books have begun by causing anger
which disguised itself as contempt.  Demanding honesty from your authors,
you must see that you render it yourself.  And to be honest with oneself
is not so simple as it appears.  One's sensations and one's sentiments
must be examined with detachment.  When you have violently
flung down a book, listen whether you can hear a faint voice
saying within you: "It's true, though!"  And if you catch the whisper,
better yield to it as quickly as you can.  For sooner or later
the voice will win.  Similarly, when you are hugging a book,
keep your ear cocked for the secret warning: "Yes, but it isn't true."
For bad books, by flattering you, by caressing, by appealing to the weak
or the base in you, will often persuade you what fine and splendid books
they are.  (Of course, I use the word "true" in a wide
and essential significance.  I do not necessarily mean true to literal fact;
I mean true to the plane of experience in which the book moves.
The truthfulness of *Ivanhoe*, for example, cannot be estimated by
the same standards as the truthfulness of Stubbs's *Constitutional History*.)
In reading a book, a sincere questioning of oneself,
"Is it true?" and a loyal abiding by the answer, will help more surely
than any other process of ratiocination to form the taste.
I will not assert that this question and answer are all-sufficient.
A true book is not always great.  But a great book is never untrue.

My second counsel is: In your reading you must have in view
some definite aim--some aim other than the wish to derive pleasure.
I conceive that to give pleasure is the highest end
of any work of art, because the pleasure procured from any art is tonic,
and transforms the life into which it enters.  But the maximum of pleasure
can only be obtained by regular effort, and regular effort implies
the organisation of that effort.  Open-air walking is a glorious exercise;
it is the walking itself which is glorious.  Nevertheless, when setting out
for walking exercise, the sane man generally has a subsidiary aim
in view.  He says to himself either that he will reach a given point,
or that he will progress at a given speed for a given distance,
or that he will remain on his feet for a given time.
He organises his effort, partly in order that he may combine
some other advantage with the advantage of walking, but principally
in order to be sure that the effort shall be an adequate effort.
The same with reading.  Your paramount aim in poring over literature
is to enjoy, but you will not fully achieve that aim unless
you have also a subsidiary aim which necessitates the measurement
of your energy.  Your subsidiary aim may be æsthetic, moral,
political, religious, scientific, erudite; you may devote yourself
to a man, a topic, an epoch, a nation, a branch of literature,
an idea--you have the widest latitude in the choice of an objective;
but a definite objective you must have.  In my earlier remarks
as to method in reading, I advocated, without insisting on,
regular hours for study.  But I both advocate and insist on
the fixing of a date for the accomplishment of an allotted task.
As an instance, it is not enough to say: "I will inform myself completely
as to the Lake School."  It is necessary to say: "I will inform myself
completely as to the Lake School before I am a year older."
Without this precautionary steeling of the resolution
the risk of a humiliating collapse into futility is enormously magnified.

My third counsel is: Buy a library.  It is obvious that you cannot read
unless you have books.  I began by urging the constant purchase of books--
any books of approved quality, without reference to their
immediate bearing upon your particular case.  The moment has now come
to inform you plainly that a bookman is, amongst other things,
a man who possesses many books.  A man who does not possess
many books is not a bookman.  For years literary authorities have been
favouring the literary public with wondrously selected
lists of "the best books"--the best novels, the best histories,
the best poems, the best works of philosophy--or the hundred best
or the fifty best of all sorts.  The fatal disadvantage of such lists
is that they leave out large quantities of literature which is
admittedly first-class.  The bookman cannot content himself
with a selected library.  He wants, as a minimum, a library
reasonably complete in all departments.  With such a basis acquired,
he can afterwards wander into those special byways of book-buying
which happen to suit his special predilections.  Every Englishman
who is interested in any branch of his native literature,
and who respects himself, ought to own a comprehensive and inclusive
library of English literature, in comely and adequate editions.
You may suppose that this counsel is a counsel of perfection.
It is not.  Mark Pattison laid down a rule that he who desired
the name of book-lover must spend five per cent. of his income on books.
The proposal does not seem extravagant, but even on a smaller percentage
than five the average reader of these pages may become the owner,
in a comparatively short space of time, of a reasonably complete
English library, by which I mean a library containing
the complete works of the supreme geniuses, representative important works
of all the first-class men in all departments, and specimen works
of all the men of the second rank whose reputation is really
a living reputation to-day.  The scheme for a library,
which I now present, begins before Chaucer and ends with George Gissing,
and I am fairly sure that the majority of people will be startled
at the total inexpensiveness of it.  So far as I am aware,
no such scheme has ever been printed before.

Chapter XI

AN ENGLISH LIBRARY: PERIOD I* (*For much counsel and correction
in the matter of editions and prices I am indebted
to my old and valued friend, Charles Young, head of the firm
of Lamley & Co., booksellers, South Kensington.)

For the purposes of book-buying, I divide English literature,
not strictly into historical epochs, but into three periods which,
while scarcely arbitrary from the historical point of view,
have nevertheless been calculated according to the space
which they will occupy on the shelves and to the demands
which they will make on the purse:

I. From the beginning to John Dryden, or roughly, to the end
of the seventeenth century.

II. From William Congreve to Jane Austen, or roughly,
the eighteenth century.

III. From Sir Walter Scott to the last deceased author
who is recognised as a classic, or roughly, the nineteenth century.

Period III. will bulk the largest and cost the most; not necessarily
because it contains more absolutely great books than the other periods
(though in my opinion it *does*), but because it is nearest to us,
and therefore fullest of interest for us.

I have not confined my choice to books of purely literary interest--
that is to say, to works which are primarily works of literary art.
Literature is the vehicle of philosophy, science, morals,
religion, and history; and a library which aspires to be complete
must comprise, in addition to imaginative works, all these branches
of intellectual activity.  Comprising all these branches,
it cannot avoid comprising works of which the purely literary interest
is almost nil.

On the other hand, I have excluded from consideration:--

i. Works whose sole importance is that they form a link
in the chain of development.  For example, nearly all the productions
of authors between Chaucer and the beginning of the Elizabethan period,
such as Gower, Hoccleve, and Skelton, whose works, for sufficient reason,
are read only by professors and students who mean to be professors.

ii. Works not originally written in English, such as the works
of that very great philosopher Roger Bacon, of whom this isle
ought to be prouder than it is.  To this rule, however,
I have been constrained to make a few exceptions.  Sir Thomas More's
*Utopia* was written in Latin, but one does not easily conceive
a library to be complete without it.  And could one exclude
Sir Isaac Newton's *Principia*, the masterpiece of the greatest physicist
that the world has ever seen?  The law of gravity ought to have,
and does have, a powerful sentimental interest for us.

iii. Translations from foreign literature into English.

Here, then, are the lists for the first period:

									£	s.	d.
Bede, *Ecclesiastical History:* Temple Classics				0	1	6
Sir Thomas Malory, *Morte d'Arthur:* Everyman's Library (4 vols.)	0	4	0
Sir Thomas More, *Utopia:* Scott Library				0	1	0
George Cavendish, *Life of Cardinal Wolsey:* New Universal Library	0	1
Richard Hakluyt, *Voyages:* Everyman's Library (8 vols.)		0	8	0
Richard Hooker, *Ecclesiastical Polity:* Everyman's Library (2 vols.)	0	2
FRANCIS BACON, *Works:* Newnes's Thin-paper Classics			0	2	0
Thomas Dekker, *Gull's Horn-Book:* King's Classics			0	1	6
Lord Herbert of Cherbury, *Autobiography:* Scott Library		0	1	0
John Selden, *Table-Talk:* New Universal Library			0	1	0
Thomas Hobbes, *Leviathan:* New Universal Library			0	1	0
James Howell, *Familiar Letters:* Temple Classics (3 vols.)		0	4	6
SIR THOMAS BROWNE, *Religio Medici*, etc.: Everyman's Library		0	1
Jeremy Taylor, *Holy Living and Holy Dying:* Temple Classics (3 vols.)	0	4
Izaak Walton, *Compleat Angler:* Everyman's Library			0	1	0
JOHN BUNYAN, *Pilgrim's Progress:* World's Classics			0	1	0
Sir William Temple, *Essay on Gardens of Epicurus:* King's Classics	0	1
John Evelyn, *Diary:* Everyman's Library (2 vols.)			0	2	0
Samuel Pepys, *Diary:* Everyman's Library (2 vols.)			0	2	0
									£2	1	6

The principal omission from the above list is *The Paston Letters*,
which I should probably have included had the enterprise
of publishers been sufficient to put an edition on the market
at a cheap price.  Other omissions include the works of Caxton and Wyclif,
and such books as Camden's *Britannia*, Ascham's *Schoolmaster*,
and Fuller's *Worthies*, whose lack of first-rate value as literature
is not adequately compensated by their historical interest.
As to the Bible, in the first place it is a translation,
and in the second I assume that you already possess a copy.

									£	s.	d.
*Beowulf*, Routledge's London Library					0	2	6
GEOFFREY CHAUCER, *Works:* Globe Edition				0	3	6
Nicolas Udall, *Ralph Roister-Doister:* Temple Dramatists		0	1	0
EDMUND SPENSER, *Works:* Globe Edition					0	3	6
Thomas Lodge, *Rosalynde:* Caxton Series				0	1	0
Robert Greene, *Tragical Reign of Selimus:* Temple Dramatists		0	1
Michael Drayton, *Poems:* Newnes's Pocket Classics			0	3	6
CHRISTOPHER MARLOWE, *Works:* New Universal Library			0	1	0
WILLIAM SHAKESPEARE, *Works:* Globe Edition				0	3	6
Thomas Campion, *Poems:* Muses' Library					0	1	0
Ben Jonson, *Plays:* Canterbury Poets					0	1	0
John Donne, *Poems:* Muses' Library (2 vols.)				0	2	0
John Webster, Cyril Tourneur, *Plays:* Mermaid Series			0	2	6
Philip Massinger, *Plays:* Cunningham Edition				0	3	6
Beaumont and Fletcher, *Plays: a Selection:* Canterbury Poets		0	1
John Ford, *Plays:* Mermaid Series					0	2	6
George Herbert, *The Temple:* Everyman's Library			0	1	0
ROBERT HERRICK, *Poems:* Muses' Library (2 vols.)			0	2	0
Edmund Waller, *Poems:* Muses' Library (2 vols.)			0	2	0
Sir John Suckling, *Poems:* Muses' Library				0	1	0
Abraham Cowley, *English Poems:* Cambridge University Press		0	4	6
Richard Crashaw, *Poems:* Muses' Library				0	1	0
Henry Vaughan, *Poems:* Methuen's Little Library			0	1	6
Samuel Butler, *Hudibras:* Cambridge University Press			0	4	6
JOHN MILTON, *Poetical Works:* Oxford Cheap Edition			0	2	0
JOHN MILTON, *Select Prose Works:* Scott Library			0	1	0
Andrew Marvell, *Poems:* Methuen's Little Library			0	1	6
John Dryden, *Poetical Works:* Globe Edition				0	3	6
[Thomas Percy], *Reliques of Ancient English Poetry:*
	Everyman's Library (2 vols.)					0	2	0
Arber's *"Spenser" Anthology:* Oxford University Press			0	2
Arber's *"Jonson" Anthology:* Oxford University Press			0	2	0
Arber's *"Shakspere" Anthology:* Oxford University Press		0	2	0
									£3	7	6

There were a number of brilliant minor writers in the seventeenth century
whose best work, often trifling in bulk, either scarcely merits
the acquisition of a separate volume for each author,
or cannot be obtained at all in a modern edition.  Such authors,
however, may not be utterly neglected in the formation of a library.
It is to meet this difficulty that I have included
the last three volumes on the above list.  Professor Arber's anthologies
are full of rare pieces, and comprise admirable specimens of the verse
of Samuel Daniel, Giles Fletcher, Countess of Pembroke, James I.,
George Peele, Sir Walter Raleigh, Thomas Sackville, Sir Philip Sidney,
Drummond of Hawthornden, Thomas Heywood, George Wither,
Sir Henry Wotton, Sir William Davenant, Thomas Randolph,
Frances Quarles, James Shirley, and other greater and lesser poets.

I have included all the important Elizabethan dramatists except
John Marston, all the editions of whose works, according to my researches,
are out of print.

In the Elizabethan and Jacobean periods talent was so extraordinarily
plentiful that the standard of excellence is quite properly raised,
and certain authors are thus relegated to the third, or excluded, class
who in a less fertile period would have counted as at least second-class.


							 £	s.	d.
19 prose authors in	36	volumes costing		 2	1	6
29 poets in 		36	   "	   "		 3	7	6
48			72				£5	9	0
In addition, scores of authors of genuine interest are represented
in the anthologies.

The prices given are gross, and in many instances there is
a 25 per cent. discount to come off.  All the volumes can be procured
immediately at any bookseller's.

Chapter XII


After dealing with the formation of a library of authors up to John Dryden,
I must logically arrange next a scheme for the period covered roughly
by the eighteenth century.  There is, however, no reason why the student
in quest of a library should follow the chronological order.
Indeed, I should advise him to attack the nineteenth century
before the eighteenth, for the reason that, unless his taste
happens to be peculiarly "Augustan," he will obtain a more immediate
satisfaction and profit from his acquisitions in the nineteenth century
than in the eighteenth.  There is in eighteenth-century literature
a considerable proportion of what I may term "unattractive excellence,"
which one must have for the purposes of completeness,
but which may await actual perusal until more pressing and more human books
have been read.  I have particularly in mind the philosophical authors
of the century.

									£	s.	d.
JOHN LOCKE, *Philosophical Works:* Bohn's Edition (2 vols.)		0	7	0
SIR ISAAC NEWTON, *Principia* (sections 1, 2, and 3): Macmillan's	0	12	0
Gilbert Burnet, *History of His Own Time:* Everyman's Library		0	1
William Wycherley, *Best Plays:* Mermaid Series				0	2	6
WILLIAM CONGREVE, *Best Plays:* Mermaid Series				0	2	6
Jonathan Swift, *Tale of a Tub:* Scott Library				0	1	0
Jonathan Swift, *Gulliver's Travels:* Temple Classics			0	1	6
DANIEL DEFOE, *Robinson Crusoe:* World's Classics			0	1	0
DANIEL DEFOE, *Journal of the Plague Year:* Everyman's Library		0	1
Joseph Addison, Sir Richard Steele, *Essays:* Scott Library		0	1	0
William Law, *Serious Call:* Everyman's Library				0	1	0
Lady Mary W. Montagu, *Letters:* Everyman's Library			0	1	0
George Berkeley, *Principles of Human Knowledge:*
	New Universal Library						0	1	0
SAMUEL RICHARDSON, *Clarissa* (abridged): Routledge's Edition		0	2
John Wesley, *Journal:* Everyman's Library (4 vols.)			0	4	0
HENRY FIELDING, *Tom Jones:* Routledge's Edition			0	2	0
HENRY FIELDING, *Amelia:* Routledge's Edition				0	2	0
HENRY FIELDING, *Joseph Andrews:* Routledge's Edition			0	2	0
David Hume, *Essays:* World's Classics					0	1	0
LAURENCE STERNE, *Tristram Shandy:* World's Classics			0	1	0
LAURENCE STERNE, *Sentimental Journey:* New Universal Library		0	1
Horace Walpole, *Castle of Otranto:* King's Classics			0	1	6
Tobias Smollett, *Humphrey Clinker:* Routledge's Edition		0	2	0
Tobias Smollett, *Travels through France and Italy:* World's Classics	0	1
ADAM SMITH, *Wealth of Nations:* World's Classics (2 vols.)		0	2	0
Samuel Johnson, *Lives of the Poets:* World's Classics (2 vols.)	0	2	0
Samuel Johnson, *Rasselas:* New Universal Library			0	1	0
JAMES BOSWELL, *Life of Johnson:* Everyman's Library (2 vols.)		0	2
Oliver Goldsmith, *Works:* Globe Edition				0	3	6
Henry Mackenzie, *The Man of Feeling:* Cassell's National Library	0	0	6
Sir Joshua Reynolds, *Discourses on Art:* Scott Library			0	1
Edmund Burke, *Reflections on the French Revolution:* Scott Library	0	1
Edmund Burke, *Thoughts on the Present Discontents:*
	New Universal Library						0	1	0
EDWARD GIBBON, *Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire:*
	World's Classics (7 vols.)					0	7	0
Thomas Paine, *Rights of Man:* Watts and Co.'s Edition			0	1
RICHARD BRINSLEY SHERIDAN, *Plays:* World's Classics			0	1	0
Fanny Burney, *Evelina:* Everyman's Library				0	1	0
Gilbert White, *Natural History of Selborne:* Everyman's Library	0	1	0
Arthur Young, *Travels in France:* York Library				0	2	0
Mungo Park, *Travels:* Everyman's Library				0	1	0
Jeremy Bentham, *Introduction to the Principles of Morals:*
	Clarendon Press							0	6	6
THOMAS ROBERT MALTHUS, *Essay on the Principle of Population:*
	Ward, Lock's Edition						0	3	6
William Godwin, *Caleb Williams:* Newnes's Edition			0	1	0
Maria Edgeworth, *Helen:* Macmillan's Illustrated Edition		0	2	6
JANE AUSTEN, *Novels:* Nelson's New Century Library (2 vols.)		0	4
James Morier, *Hadji Baba:* Macmillan's Illustrated Novels		0	2	6
									£5	1	0

The principal omissions here are Jeremy Collier, whose outcry against
the immorality of the stage is his slender title to remembrance;
Richard Bentley, whose scholarship principally died with him,
and whose chief works are no longer current; and "Junius,"
who would have been deservedly forgotten long ago had there been
a contemporaneous Sherlock Holmes to ferret out his identity.

									£	s.	d.
Thomas Otway, *Venice Preserved:* Temple Dramatists			0	1	0
Matthew Prior, *Poems on Several Occasions:*
	Cambridge English Classics					0	4	6
John Gay, *Poems:* Muses' Library (2 vols.)				0	2	0
ALEXANDER POPE, *Works:* Globe Edition					0	3	6
Isaac Watts, *Hymns:* Any hymn-book					0	1	0
James Thomson, *The Seasons:* Muses' Library				0	1	0
Charles Wesley, *Hymns:* Any hymn-book					0	1	0
THOMAS GRAY, Samuel Johnson, William Collins, *Poems:*
	Muses' Library							0	1	0
James Macpherson (Ossian), *Poems:* Canterbury Poets			0	1	0
THOMAS CHATTERTON, *Poems:* Muses' Library (2 vols.)			0	2	0
WILLIAM COWPER, *Poems:* Canterbury Poets				0	1	0
WILLIAM COWPER, *Letters:* World's Classics				0	1	0
George Crabbe, *Poems:* Methuen's Little Library			0	1	6
WILLIAM BLAKE, *Poems:* Muses' Library					0	1	0
William Lisle Bowles, Hartley Coleridge, *Poems:*
	Canterbury Poets						0	1	0
ROBERT BURNS, *Works:* Globe Edition					0	3	6
									£1	7	0


							 £	s.	d.
39 prose-writers	in	60 volumes, costing	 5	1	0
18 poets		 " 	18    "		"	 1	7	0
57				78			£6	8	0

Chapter XIII


The catalogue of necessary authors of this third and last period
being so long, it is convenient to divide the prose writers
into Imaginative and Non-imaginative.

In the latter half of the period the question of copyright
affects our scheme to a certain extent, because it affects prices.
Fortunately it is the fact that no single book of recognised
first-rate general importance is conspicuously dear.
Nevertheless, I have encountered difficulties in the second rank;
I have dealt with them in a spirit of compromise.  I think I may say that,
though I should have included a few more authors had their books been
obtainable at a reasonable price, I have omitted none that I consider
indispensable to a thoroughly representative collection.
No living author is included.

Where I do not specify the edition of a book the original copyright edition
is meant.

									£	s.	d.
SIR WALTER SCOTT, *Waverley, Heart of Midlothian, Quentin Durward,
	Redgauntlet, Ivanhoe:* Everyman's Library (5 vols.)		0	5	0
SIR WALTER SCOTT, *Marmion*, etc.: Canterbury Poets			0	1	0
Charles Lamb, *Works in Prose and Verse:* Clarendon Press (2 vols.)	0	4
Charles Lamb, *Letters:* Newnes's Thin-Paper Classics			0	2	0
Walter Savage Landor, *Imaginary Conversations:* Scott Library		0	1
Walter Savage Landor, *Poems:* Canterbury Poets				0	1	0
Leigh Hunt, *Essays and Sketches:* World's Classics			0	1	0
Thomas Love Peacock, *Principal Novels:*
	New Universal Library (2 vols.)					0	2	0
Mary Russell Mitford, *Our Village:* Scott Library			0	1	0
Michael Scott, *Tom Cringle's Log:* Macmillan's Illustrated Novels	0	2
Frederick Marryat, *Mr. Midshipman Easy:* Everyman's Library		0	1
John Galt, *Annals of the Parish:* Everyman's Library			0	1	0
Susan Ferrier, *Marriage:* Routledge's edition				0	2	0
Douglas Jerrold, *Mrs. Caudle's Curtain Lectures:* World's Classics	0	1
Lord Lytton, *Last Days of Pompeii:* Everyman's Library			0	1
William Carleton, *Stories:* Scott Library				0	1	0
Charles James Lever, *Harry Lorrequer:* Everyman's Library		0	1	0
Harrison Ainsworth, *The Tower of London:* New Universal Library	0	1	0
George Henry Borrow, *Bible in Spain, Lavengro:*
	New Universal Library (2 vols.)					0	2	0
Lord Beaconsfield, *Sybil, Coningsby:*
	Lane's New Pocket Library (2 vols.)				0	2	0
W. M. THACKERAY, *Vanity Fair, Esmond:* Everyman's Library (2 vols.)	0	2
W. M. THACKERAY, *Barry Lyndon*, and *Roundabout Papers*, etc.:
	Nelson's New Century Library					0	2	0
CHARLES DICKENS, *Works:* Everyman's Library (18 vols.)			0	18
Charles Reade, *The Cloister and the Hearth:* Everyman's Library	0	1	0
Anthony Trollope, *Barchester Towers, Framley Parsonage:*
	Lane's New Pocket Library (2 vols.)				0	2	0
Charles Kingsley, *Westward Ho!:* Everyman's Library			0	1	0
Henry Kingsley, *Ravenshoe:* Everyman's Library				0	1	0
Charlotte Brontë, *Jane Eyre, Shirley, Villette, Professor,
	and Poems:* World's Classics (4 vols.)				0	4	0
Emily Brontë, *Wuthering Heights:* World's Classics			0	1	0
Elizabeth Gaskell, *Cranford:* World's Classics				0	1	0
Elizabeth Gaskell, *Life of Charlotte Brontë*				0	2	6
George Eliot, *Adam Bede, Silas Marner, The Mill on the Floss:*
	Everyman's Library (3 vols.)					0	3	0
G. J. Whyte-Melville, *The Gladiators:* New Universal Library		0	1
Alexander Smith, *Dreamthorpe:* New Universal Library			0	1	0
George Macdonald, *Malcolm*						0	1	6
Walter Pater, *Imaginary Portraits*					0	6	0
Wilkie Collins, *The Woman in White*					0	1	0
R. D. Blackmore, *Lorna Doone:* Everyman's Library			0	1	0
Samuel Butler, *Erewhon:* Fifield's Edition				0	2	6
Laurence Oliphant, *Altiora Peto*					0	3	6
Margaret Oliphant, *Salem Chapel:* Everyman's Library			0	1	0
Richard Jefferies, *Story of My Heart*					0	2	0
Lewis Carroll, *Alice in Wonderland:* Macmillan's Cheap Edition		0	1
John Henry Shorthouse, *John Inglesant:* Macmillan's Pocket Classics	0	2
R. L. Stevenson, *Master of Ballantrae, Virginibus Puerisque:*
	Pocket Edition (2 vols.)					0	4	0
George Gissing, *The Odd Women:* Popular Edition (bound)		0	0	7
									£5	0	1

Names such as those of Charlotte Yonge and Dinah Craik
are omitted intentionally.

									£	s.	d.
William Hazlitt, *Spirit of the Age:* World's Classics			0	1
William Hazlitt, *English Poets and Comic Writers:* Bohn's Library	0	3
Francis Jeffrey, *Essays from Edinburgh Review:*
	New Universal Library						0	1	0
Thomas de Quincey, *Confessions of an English Opium-eater*, etc.:
	Scott Library							0	1	0
Sydney Smith, *Selected Papers:* Scott Library				0	1	0
George Finlay, *Byzantine Empire:* Everyman's Library			0	1	0
John G. Lockhart, *Life of Scott:* Everyman's Library			0	1	0
Agnes Strickland, *Life of Queen Elizabeth:* Everyman's Library		0	1
Hugh Miller, *Old Red Sandstone:* Everyman's Library			0	1	0
J. H. Newman, *Apologia pro vita sua:* New Universal Library		0	1
Lord Macaulay, *History of England*, (3), *Essays* (2):
	Everyman's Library (5 vols.)					0	5	0
A. P. Stanley, *Memorials of Canterbury:* Everyman's Library		0	1
THOMAS CARLYLE, *French Revolution* (2), *Cromwell* (3),
	*Sartor Resartus and Heroes and Hero-Worship* (1):
	Everyman's Library (6 vols.)					0	6	0
THOMAS CARLYLE, *Latter-day Pamphlets:* Chapman and Hall's Edition	0	1
CHARLES DARWIN, *Origin of Species:* Murray's Edition			0	1	0
CHARLES DARWIN, *Voyage of the Beagle:* Everyman's Library		0	1	0
A. W. Kinglake, *Eothen:* New Universal Library				0	1	0
John Stuart Mill, *Auguste Comte and Positivism:*
	New Universal Library						0	1	0
John Brown, *Horæ Subsecivæ:* World's Classics				0	1	0
John Brown, *Rab and His Friends:* Everyman's Library			0	1	0
Sir Arthur Helps, *Friends in Council:* New Universal Library		0	1
Mark Pattison, *Life of Milton:* English Men of Letters Series		0	1
F. W. Robertson, *On Religion and Life:* Everyman's Library		0	1	0
Benjamin Jowett, *Interpretation of Scripture:*
	Routledge's London Library					0	2	6
George Henry Lewes, *Principles of Success in Literature:*
	Scott Library							0	1	0
Alexander Bain, *Mind and Body*						0	4	0
James Anthony Froude, *Dissolution of the Monasteries*, etc.:
	New Universal Library						0	1	0
Mary Wollstonecraft, *Vindication of the Rights of Women:*
	Scott Library							0	1	0
John Tyndall, *Glaciers of the Alps:* Everyman's Library		0	1	0
Sir Henry Maine, *Ancient Law:* New Universal Library			0	1	0
JOHN RUSKIN, *Seven Lamps* (1), *Sesame and Lilies* (1),
	*Stones of Venice* (3): George Allen's Cheap Edition (5 vols.)	0	5
HERBERT SPENCER, *First Principles* (2 vols.)				0	2	0
HERBERT SPENCER, *Education*						0	1	0
Sir Richard Burton, *Narrative of a Pilgrimage to Mecca:*
	Bohn's Edition (2 vols.)					0	7	0
J. S. Speke, *Sources of the Nile:* Everyman's Library			0	1
Thomas Henry Huxley, *Essays:* Everyman's Library			0	1	0
E. A. Freeman, *Europe:* Macmillan's Primers				0	1	0
WILLIAM STUBBS, *Early Plantagenets*					0	2	0
Walter Bagehot, *Lombard Street*					0	3	6
Richard Holt Hutton, *Cardinal Newman*					0	3	6
Sir John Seeley, *Ecce Homo:* New Universal Library			0	1	0
David Masson, *Thomas de Quincey:* English Men of Letters Series	0	1	0
John Richard Green, *Short History of the English People*		0	8	6
Sir Leslie Stephen, *Pope:* English Men of Letters Series		0	1	0
Lord Acton, *On the Study of History*					0	2	6
Mandell Creighton, *The Age of Elizabeth*				0	2	6
F. W. H. Myers, *Wordsworth:* English Men of Letters Series		0	1	0
									£4	10	6

The following authors are omitted, I think justifiably:--Hallam,
Whewell, Grote, Faraday, Herschell, Hamilton, John Wilson,
Richard Owen, Stirling Maxwell, Buckle, Oscar Wilde, P. G. Hamerton,
F. D. Maurice, Henry Sidgwick, and Richard Jebb.

Lastly, here is the list of poets.  In the matter of price per volume
it is the most expensive of all the lists.  This is due to the fact
that it contains a larger proportion of copyright works.
Where I do not specify the edition of a book, the original
copyright edition is meant:

									£	s.	d.
WILLIAM WORDSWORTH, *Poetical Works:* Oxford Edition			0	3	6
WILLIAM WORDSWORTH, *Literary Criticism:* Nowell Smith's Edition	0	2	6
Robert Southey, *Poems:* Canterbury Poets				0	1	0
Robert Southey, *Life of Nelson:* Everyman's Library			0	1	0
S. T. COLERIDGE, *Poetical Works:* Newnes's Thin-Paper Classics		0	2
S. T. COLERIDGE, *Biographia Literaria:* Everyman's Library		0	1	0
S. T. COLERIDGE, *Lectures on Shakspere:* Everyman's Library		0	1
JOHN KEATS, *Poetical Works:* Oxford Edition				0	3	6
PERCY BYSSHE SHELLEY, *Poetical Works:* Oxford Edition			0	3
LORD BYRON, *Poems:* E. Hartley Coleridge's Edition			0	6	0
LORD BYRON, *Letters:* Scott Library					0	1	0
Thomas Hood, *Poems:* World's Classics					0	1	0
James and Horace Smith, *Rejected Addresses:*
	New Universal Library						0	1	0
John Keble, *The Christian Year:* Canterbury Poets			0	1	0
George Darley, *Poems:* Muses' Library					0	1	0
T. L. Beddoes, *Poems:* Muses' Library					0	1	0
Thomas Moore, *Selected Poems:* Canterbury Poets			0	1	0
James Clarence Mangan, *Poems:* D. J. O'Donoghue's Edition		0	3	6
W. Mackworth Praed, *Poems:* Canterbury Poets				0	1	0
R. S. Hawker, *Cornish Ballads:* C. E. Byles's Edition			0	5
Edward FitzGerald, *Omar Khaayyám:* Golden Treasury Series		0	2	6
P. J. Bailey, *Festus:* Routledge's Edition				0	3	6
Arthur Hugh Clough, *Poems:* Muses' Library				0	1	0
LORD TENNYSON, *Poetical Works:* Globe Edition				0	3	6
ROBERT BROWNING, *Poetical Works:* World's Classics (2 vols.)		0	2
Elizabeth Browning, *Aurora Leigh:* Temple Classics			0	1	6
Elizabeth Browning, *Shorter Poems:* Canterbury Poets			0	1	0
P. B. Marston, *Song-tide:* Canterbury Poets				0	1	0
Aubrey de Vere, *Legends of St. Patrick:*
	Cassell's National Library					0	0	6
MATTHEW ARNOLD, *Poems:* Golden Treasury Series				0	2	6
MATTHEW ARNOLD, *Essays:* Everyman's Library				0	1	0
Coventry Patmore, *Poems:* Muses' Library				0	1	0
Sydney Dobell, *Poems:* Canterbury Poets				0	1	0
Eric Mackay, *Love-letters of a Violinist:* Canterbury Poets		0	1
T. E. Brown, *Poems*							0	7	6
C. S. Calverley, *Verses and Translations*				0	1	6
D. G. ROSSETTI, *Poetical Works*					0	3	6
Christina Rossetti, *Selected Poems:* Golden Treasury Series		0	2
James Thomson, *City of Dreadful Night*					0	3	6
Jean Ingelow, *Poems:* Red Letter Library				0	1	6
William Morris, *The Earthly Paradise*					0	6	0
William Morris, *Early Romances:* Everyman's Library			0	1	0
Augusta Webster, *Selected Poems*					0	4	6
W. E. Henley, *Poetical Works*						0	6	0
Francis Thompson, *Selected Poems*					0	5	0
									£5	7	0

Poets whom I have omitted after hesitation are: Ebenezer Elliott,
Thomas Woolner, William Barnes, Gerald Massey, and Charles Jeremiah Wells.
On the other hand, I have had no hesitation about omitting David Moir,
Felicia Hemans, Aytoun, Sir Edwin Arnold, and Sir Lewis Morris.
I have included John Keble in deference to much enlightened opinion,
but against my inclination.  There are two names in the list which may be
somewhat unfamiliar to many readers.  James Clarence Mangan is the author
of *My Dark Rosaleen*, an acknowledged masterpiece,
which every library must contain.  T. E. Brown is a great poet,
recognised as such by a few hundred people, and assuredly destined
to a far wider fame.  I have included FitzGerald because *Omar Khayyám*
is much less a translation than an original work.


83 prose-writers,	in	141 volumes, costing	£ 9	10	7
38 poets		 " 	 46	"	"	  5	 7	0
121				187			£14	17	7


				Authors.	Volumes.	Price.
1. To Dryden			48		72		£ 5	 9	0
2. Eighteenth Century		57		78		  6	 8	0
3. Nineteenth Century		121		187		£14	17	7

				226		337		£26	14	7

I think it will be agreed that the total cost of this library
is surprisingly small.  By laying out the sum of sixpence a day
for three years you may become the possessor of a collection of books
which, for range and completeness in all branches of literature,
will bear comparison with libraries far more imposing, more numerous,
and more expensive.

I have mentioned the question of discount.  The discount
which you will obtain (even from a bookseller in a small town)
will be more than sufficient to pay for Chambers's *Cyclopædia
of English Literature*, three volumes, price 30s. net.
This work is indispensable to a bookman.  Personally, I owe it much.

When you have read, wholly or in part, a majority of these
three hundred and thirty-five volumes, *with enjoyment*,
you may begin to whisper to yourself that your literary taste
is formed; and you may pronounce judgment on modern works
which come before the bar of your opinion in the calm assurance that,
though to err is human, you do at any rate know what you are talking about.

Chapter XIV


Great books do not spring from something accidental in the great men
who wrote them.  They are the effluence of their very core,
the expression of the life itself of the authors.  And literature cannot
be said to have served its true purpose until it has been
translated into the actual life of him who reads.  It does not succeed
until it becomes the vehicle of the vital.  Progress is the gradual result
of the unending battle between human reason and human instinct,
in which the former slowly but surely wins.  The most powerful engine
in this battle is literature.  It is the vast reservoir of true ideas
and high emotions--and life is constituted of ideas and emotions.
In a world deprived of literature, the intellectual and emotional activity
of all but a few exceptionally gifted men would quickly sink and retract
to a narrow circle.  The broad, the noble, the generous would tend
to disappear for want of accessible storage.  And life would be
correspondingly degraded, because the fallacious idea
and the petty emotion would never feel the upward pull of the ideas
and emotions of genius.  Only by conceiving a society without literature
can it be clearly realised that the function of literature
is to raise the plain towards the top level of the peaks.
Literature exists so that where one man has lived finely
ten thousand may afterwards live finely.  It is a means of life;
it concerns the living essence.

Of course, literature has a minor function, that of passing the time
in an agreeable and harmless fashion, by giving momentary faint pleasure.
Vast multitudes of people (among whom may be numbered not a few
habitual readers) utilise only this minor function of literature;
by implication they class it with golf, bridge, or soporifics.
Literary genius, however, had no intention of competing
with these devices for fleeting the empty hours; and all such use
of literature may be left out of account.  You, O serious student
of many volumes, believe that you have a sincere passion for reading.
You hold literature in honour, and your last wish would be
to debase it to a paltry end.  You are not of those who read because
the clock has just struck nine and one can't go to bed till eleven.
You are animated by a real desire to get out of literature
all that literature will give.  And in that aim you keep on reading,
year after year, and the grey hairs come.  But amid all this
steady tapping of the reservoir, do you ever take stock
of what you have acquired?  Do you ever pause to make a valuation,
in terms of your own life, of that which you are daily absorbing,
or imagine you are absorbing?  Do you ever satisfy yourself by proof
that you are absorbing anything at all, that the living waters,
instead of vitalising you, are not running off you
as though you were a duck in a storm?  Because, if you omit
this mere business precaution, it may well be that you, too,
without knowing it, are little by little joining the triflers who read
only because eternity is so long.  It may well be that even
your alleged sacred passion is, after all, simply a sort of drug-habit.
The suggestion disturbs and worries you.  You dismiss it impatiently;
but it returns.

How (you ask, unwillingly) can a man perform a mental stocktaking?
How can he put a value on what he gets from books?  How can he
effectively test, in cold blood, whether he is receiving
from literature all that literature has to give him?

The test is not so vague, nor so difficult, as might appear.

If a man is not thrilled by intimate contact with nature:
with the sun, with the earth, which is his origin and the arouser
of his acutest emotions--

If he is not troubled by the sight of beauty in many forms--

If he is devoid of curiosity concerning his fellow-men
and his fellow-animals--

If he does not have glimpses of the unity of all things
in an orderly progress--

If he is chronically "querulous, dejected, and envious"--

If he is pessimistic--

If he is of those who talk about "this age of shams,"
"this age without ideals," "this hysterical age," and this

Then that man, though he reads undisputed classics for twenty hours a day,
though he has a memory of steel, though he rivals Porson in scholarship
and Sainte-Beuve in judgment, is not receiving from literature
what literature has to give.  Indeed, he is chiefly wasting his time.
Unless he can read differently, it were better for him if he sold
all his books, gave to the poor, and played croquet.
He fails because he has not assimilated into his existence
the vital essences which genius put into the books that have merely
passed before his eyes; because genius has offered him faith, courage,
vision, noble passion, curiosity, love, a thirst for beauty,
and he has not taken the gift; because genius has offered him
the chance of living fully, and he is only half alive, for it is only
in the stress of fine ideas and emotions that a man may be
truly said to live.  This is not a moral invention, but a simple fact,
which will be attested by all who know what that stress is.

What!  You talk learnedly about Shakespeare's sonnets!
Have you heard Shakespeare's terrific shout:

	Full many a glorious morning have I seen
		Flatter the mountain-tops with sovereign eye,
	Kissing with golden face the meadows green,
		Gilding pale streams with heavenly alchemy.

And yet, can you see the sun over the viaduct at Loughborough Junction
of a morning, and catch its rays in the Thames off Dewar's whisky monument,
and not shake with the joy of life?  If so, you and Shakespeare
are not yet in communication.  What!  You pride yourself
on your beautiful edition of Casaubon's translation
of *Marcus Aurelius*, and you savour the cadences of the famous:

	This day I shall have to do with an idle, curious man,
with an unthankful man, a railer, a crafty, false, or an envious man.
All these ill qualities have happened unto him, through ignorance
of that which is truly good and truly bad.  But I that understand
the nature of that which is good, that it only is to be desired,
and of that which is bad, that it only is truly odious and shameful:
who know, moreover, that this transgressor, whosoever he be,
is my kinsman, not by the same blood and seed, but by participation
of the same reason and of the same divine particle--
how can I be hurt?...

And with these cadences in your ears you go and quarrel with a cabman!

You would be ashamed of your literary self to be caught in ignorance
of Whitman, who wrote:

	Now understand me well--it is provided in the essence of things
that from any fruition of success, no matter what, shall come forth
something to make a greater struggle necessary.

And yet, having achieved a motor-car, you lose your temper
when it breaks down half-way up a hill!

You know your Wordsworth, who has been trying to teach you about:

		The Upholder of the tranquil soul
	That tolerates the indignities of Time
	And, from the centre of Eternity
	All finite motions over-ruling, lives
	In glory immutable.

But you are capable of being seriously unhappy when your suburban train
selects a tunnel for its repose!

And the A. V. of the Bible, which you now read, not as your forefathers
read it, but with an æsthetic delight, especially in the Apocrypha!
You remember:

	Whatsoever is brought upon thee, take cheerfully, and be patient
when thou art changed to a low estate.  For gold is tried in the fire
and acceptable men in the furnace of adversity.

And yet you are ready to lie down and die because a woman has scorned you!
Go to!

You think some of my instances approach the ludicrous?  They do.
They are meant to do so.  But they are no more ludicrous than life itself.
And they illustrate in the most workaday fashion how you can test
whether your literature fulfils its function of informing and transforming
your existence.

I say that if daily events and scenes do not constantly recall and utilise
the ideas and emotions contained in the books which you have read
or are reading; if the memory of these books does not quicken
the perception of beauty, wherever you happen to be, does not help you
to correlate the particular trifle with the universal, does not
smooth out irritation and give dignity to sorrow--then you are,
consciously or not, unworthy of your high vocation as a bookman.
You may say that I am preaching a sermon.  The fact is, I am.
My mood is a severely moral mood.  For when I reflect upon the difference
between what books have to offer and what even relatively earnest readers
take the trouble to accept from them, I am appalled (or should be appalled,
did I not know that the world is moving) by the sheer inefficiency,
the bland, complacent failure of the earnest reader.
I am like yourself, the spectacle of inefficiency rouses my holy ire.

Before you begin upon another masterpiece, set out in a row
the masterpieces which you are proud of having read during the past year.
Take the first on the list, that book which you perused in all the zeal
of your New Year resolutions for systematic study.  Examine the compartments
of your mind.  Search for the ideas and emotions which you have garnered
from that book.  Think, and recollect when last something from that book
recurred to your memory apropos of your own daily commerce with humanity.
Is it history--when did it throw a light for you on modern politics?
Is it science--when did it show you order in apparent disorder, and help you
to put two and two together into an inseparable four?  Is it ethics--
when did it influence your conduct in a twopenny-halfpenny affair
between man and man?  Is it a novel--when did it help you
to "understand all and forgive all"?  Is it poetry--when was it
a magnifying glass to disclose beauty to you, or a fire to warm
your cooling faith?  If you can answer these questions satisfactorily,
your stocktaking as regards the fruit of your traffic with that book
may be reckoned satisfactory.  If you cannot answer them satisfactorily,
then either you chose the book badly or your impression that you *read* it
is a mistaken one.

When the result of this stocktaking forces you to the conclusion
that your riches are not so vast as you thought them to be,
it is necessary to look about for the causes of the misfortune.
The causes may be several.  You may have been reading worthless books.
This, however, I should say at once, is extremely unlikely.
Habitual and confirmed readers, unless they happen to be reviewers,
seldom read worthless books.  In the first place, they are so busy
with books of proved value that they have only a small margin of leisure left
for very modern works, and generally, before they can catch up with the age,
Time or the critic has definitely threshed for them the wheat from the chaff.
No!  Mediocrity has not much chance of hoodwinking the serious student.

It is less improbable that the serious student has been choosing his books
badly.  He may do this in two ways--absolutely and relatively.
Every reader of long standing has been through the singular experience
of suddenly *seeing* a book with which his eyes have been familiar
for years.  He reads a book with a reputation and thinks:
"Yes, this is a good book.  This book gives me pleasure."
And then after an interval, perhaps after half a lifetime,
something mysterious happens to his mental sight.  He picks up
the book again, and sees a new and profound significance in every sentence,
and he says: "I was perfectly blind to this book before."
Yet he is no cleverer than he used to be.  Only something has happened
to him.  Let a gold watch be discovered by a supposititious man
who has never heard of watches.  He has a sense of beauty.
He admires the watch, and takes pleasure in it.  He says:
"This is a beautiful piece of bric-à-brac; I fully appreciate
this delightful trinket."  Then imagine his feelings when someone
comes along with the key; imagine the light flooding his brain.
Similar incidents occur in the eventful life of the constant reader.
He has no key, and never suspects that there exists such a thing as a key.
That is what I call a choice absolutely bad.

The choice is relatively bad when, spreading over a number of books,
it pursues no order, and thus results in a muddle of faint impressions
each blurring the rest.  Books must be allowed to help one another;
they must be skilfully called in to each other's aid.
And that this may be accomplished some guiding principle is necessary.
"And what," you demand, "should that guiding principle be?"
How do I know?  Nobody, fortunately, can make your principles for you.
You have to make them for yourself.  But I will venture upon
this general observation: that in the mental world what counts
is not numbers but co-ordination.  As regards facts and ideas,
the great mistake made by the average well-intentioned reader
is that he is content with the names of things instead of
occupying himself with the causes of things.  He seeks answers
to the question What? instead of to the question Why?  He studies history,
and never guesses that all history is caused by the facts of geography.
He is a botanical expert, and can take you to where the *Sibthorpia europæa*
grows, and never troubles to wonder what the earth would be
without its cloak of plants.  He wanders forth of starlit evenings
and will name you with unction all the constellations from Andromeda
to the Scorpion; but if you ask him why Venus can never be seen at midnight,
he will tell you that he has not bothered with the scientific details.
He has not learned that names are nothing, and the satisfaction
of the lust of the eye a trifle compared to the imaginative vision
of which scientific "details" are the indispensable basis.

Most reading, I am convinced, is unphilosophical; that is to say,
it lacks the element which more than anything else quickens
the poetry of life.  Unless and until a man has formed a scheme of knowledge,
be it a mere skeleton, his reading must necessarily be unphilosophical.
He must have attained to some notion of the inter-relations
of the various branches of knowledge before he can properly comprehend
the branch in which he specialises.  If he has not drawn an outline map
upon which he can fill in whatever knowledge comes to him, as it comes,
and on which he can trace the affinity of every part with every other part,
he is assuredly frittering away a large percentage of his efforts.
There are certain philosophical works which, once they are mastered,
seem to have performed an operation for cataract, so that he who was blind,
having read them, henceforward sees cause and effect
working in and out everywhere.  To use another figure, they leave
stamped on the brain a chart of the entire province of knowledge.

Such a work is Spencer's *First Principles*.  I know that it is
nearly useless to advise people to read *First Principles*.
They are intimidated by the sound of it; and it costs as much
as a dress-circle seat at the theatre.  But if they would,
what brilliant stocktakings there might be in a few years!
Why, if they would only read such detached essays as
that on "Manners and Fashion," or "The Genesis of Science"
(in a sixpenny volume of Spencer's *Essays*, published by Watts and Co.),
the magic illumination, the necessary power of "synthetising" things,
might be vouchsafed to them.  In any case, the lack of some such
disciplinary, co-ordinating measure will amply explain
many disastrous stocktakings.  The manner in which one single ray of light,
one single precious hint, will clarify and energise the whole mental life
of him who receives it, is among the most wonderful and heavenly
of intellectual phenomena.  Some men search for that light
and never find it.  But most men never search for it.

The superlative cause of disastrous stocktakings remains,
and it is much more simple than the one with which I have just dealt.
It consists in the absence of meditation.  People read, and read,
and read, blandly unconscious of their effrontery in assuming
that they can assimilate without any further effort the vital essence
which the author has breathed into them.  They cannot.  And the proof
that they do not is shown all the time in their lives.
I say that if a man does not spend at least as much time
in actively and definitely thinking about what he has read
as he has spent in reading, he is simply insulting his author.
If he does not submit himself to intellectual and emotional fatigue
in classifying the communicated ideas, and in emphasising on his spirit
the imprint of the communicated emotions--then reading with him
is a pleasant pastime and nothing else.  This is a distressing fact.
But it is a fact.  It is distressing, for the reason
that meditation is not a popular exercise.  If a friend asks you
what you did last night, you may answer, "I was reading," and he will be
impressed and you will be proud.  But if you answer, "I was meditating,"
he will have a tendency to smile and you will have a tendency to blush.
I know this.  I feel it myself.  (I cannot offer any explanation.)
But it does not shake my conviction that the absence of meditation
is the main origin of disappointing stocktakings.

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