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in truth, with one important exception, that of the theory of Rent,* it may probably be said that all the main principles, and much of the details too, of the science, are still better to be found in Adam Smith, than anywhere else:t and if he is read with M‘Culloch's notes, we shall obtain nearly all the additions and corrections which are requisite.
The writings of Burke are almost all concerned with the immediate affairs of his own time, and therefore the benefits to be drawn froin them are to a great extent indirect. But they are not the less valuable on that account. For their general spirit—for their lofty tone of political wisdom and morality—and for the numberless maxims of universal application to be found in them, there is probably scarcely a page in them, which does not deserve to be read and remembered.
Formerly the name of Johnson would not have been omitted among the first English Philosophers. But it may be doubted whether the Rambler and Rasselas are now read except as a sort of lesson. His literary fame in truth rests more securely upon his Dictionary than on anything else.
* [Perhaps I should have added the Theory of Population.
The first draft of Mr. Malthus's celebrated work is, strictly speaking, within our limit, having been published in 1799. But, in its present forui, not till a few years later.
No writer has ever been more unjustly abused than Malthus. He was in truth a benevolent, as well as an acute and well-informed man : and both his general proposition and his practical precept are mere truisms, which have been acted on always, more or lese, in this country at least, by all the upper and middle class, and by a constantly increasing proportion of the lower class.]
+ [So said Sir R. Peel once in the House of Commons.]
III. It is needless to recite the names of the chief English poets, which are known to every educated person, and some acquaintance with which is indispensable to any one of us who aims at any degree of mental cultivation.*
It only occurs to me to make one remark, the converse of that which I made on the French poetry. I cannot but think that with the towering exception of Shakspeare, the English Drama is on the whole the weakest part of our poetry. At least it seems to me that to most people it would be better worth while to read for a third or fourth time any one of a considerable number of Shakspeare's plays, which might be named, than to read almost any play of any other English Dramatist that I have happened to meet with.
I said above, not quite accurately, that the innumerable works of a lighter kind than those which I have now spoken of, in English, are read for amusement. No doubt such books as Boswell's Johnson and Pepys's Diary are not merely for amusement. But it seems needless to dwell upon these. Whoever reads any books except bran-new ones, is sure to read these. The only rule I would suggest is that we should be sure to give, not only in the long run, but with reference to much shorter periods, clearly the lesser part of our time of bookreading, to such books. Stiff reading should always occupy the greater part of that time. This is not synonymous with what is dry or uninteresting ; it only means reading which needs some application of mind.
In reviewing what I have written to discover omissions, it occurs to me to remark that Ecclesiastical History should have been separately spoken of. But this,
* [See below, Lecture on English Poets.]
too (as well as modern books on classical subjects), is a special matter on which the inquirer had better address himself to those who have made it their particular study. One observation may be made, similar to what was made on the History of England : there is a great lack of comprehensive histories of the Church, written in English at least histories of the whole series of Ecclesiastical events. In French, I cannot speak confidently : but there I apprehend the inconvenience is the other way. The histories of Tillemont, Fleury, and others, are so immensely voluminous that in this country at least they are only used for reference. Nor are they translated into English : though Mr. Newman made a good sized book out of a translation of the merest fraction of Fleury. But there is the well-known book of Mosheim, well established here in the translation. And as there are countless works illustrative and explanatory of detached parts of the ground traversed in that book, it may perhaps be said, similarly to what I said of the use of Hume's History, that the general reader can do no better than go through Church History in Mosheim, who, dry and lifeless as he is, is correct, and entirely impartial : supplying his defects as he goes on from the abundant other sources which exist, but which I leave it to others to specify.
I have confined myself to English and French. But I will venture to suggest with reference to Italian, to the same effect as regarding Greek and Latin, that few ordinary readers can hope to find time for more than the best authors in that language. I do not profess to give a catalogue of those : but they, it is indisputable, are most eminently worthy of study, and no one who can read them should omit it.
I am very sensible of the utter imperfection of these suggestions, in the first place from having stopped short at the year 1800. I can only regret that I feel utterly incompetent to offer any hints even to the wayfarer, through the boundless forest that has grown up since then. Let those attempt to do so who think they can.
I am further sensible of the extreme meagreness of the hints I have given. Yet it is possible that, as a beginning, a reader will not go far wrong who makes himself first acquainted with the books I have here named.
There is the further defect, that I have not distinctly laid down an order in which the various lines of literature may be pursued. I am not able to do this, for I have been too much in the habit of neglecting such an order in my own reading. I have been in the habit of simultaneous reading of several books : and those who can do so without confusion of memory, will, I think, find no inconvenience in it.
One obvious rule may be, for an Englishman, to make himself first acquainted with what relates to his own country.
I end with repeating what I have applied to particular languages, but which is pretty nearly universally true. Read only or chiefly the best books. No doubt we may often want to inquire into some particular corner of historical or other knowledge, and then such a rule may be relaxed ; nor is it to be too rigidly attempted to be observed. But still, O General Reader, read thou what is best. Thou wilt find, as thy sciolist of an adviser has long since done, that it is nearly hopeless to read an hundredth part even of that.
THERE is something strangely awful in the loneliness of a widowed throne ; in the stillness of huge palaces, where none may be seen to smile, and the splendour and blazonry of Imperial grandeur are overlaid by the trappings of human woe.
Lord Byron tells those who may look at the ruins of ancient Rome, to
“control In their shut breasts their petty misery."* Much more justly may the spirit of this line be felt by us now.
Many a mourning, many a desolate, many a halfbroken heart there is, among all the peoples, nations, and languages of England's Empire. “Many a silent grief,” as it has been said, “ lying like lead within the breast, or like cold ice upon the heart. Many a bereavement which has robbed the world's gifts of their pleasant savour, and leads the heart but to sigh at the sight of them.”+ But none like hers, who now sits a widow in her island home afar, and even on this day# may in fancy be listening to the heavy toll of the funeral bells, borne across the narrow channel.
All these things are for our learning. Let this lead * Childe Harold, IV. 78. † Newman's Sermons, V. 338.
I Dec. 23, 1861.