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enable us to attend to and appreciate them. That age will be rich
indeed when those relics which we call Classics, and the still older
and more than classic but even less known Scriptures of the nations,
shall have still further accumulated, when the Vaticans shall be filled
with Vedas and Zendavestas and Bibles, with Homers and Dantes
and Shakespeares, and all the centuries to come shall have
successively deposited their trophies in the forum of the world. By
such a pile we may hope to scale heaven at last.

The works of the great poets have never yet been read by mankind,
for only great poets can read them. They have only been read as the
multitude read the stars, at most astrologically, not astronomically.
Most men have learned to read to serve a paltry convenience, as they
have learned to cipher in order to keep accounts and not be cheated
in trade; but of reading as a noble intellectual exercise they know
little or nothing; yet this only is reading, in a high sense, not that
which lulls us as a luxury and suffers the nobler faculties to sleep the
while, but what we have to stand on tip-toe to read and devote our
most alert and wakeful hours to. I think that having learned our
letters we should read the best that is in literature, and not be forever
repeating our a-b-abs, and words of one syllable, in the fourth or
fifth classes, sitting on the lowest and foremost form all our lives.
Most men are satisfied if they read or hear read, and perchance have
been convicted by the wisdom of one good book, the Bible, and for
the rest of their lives vegetate and dissipate their faculties in what is
called easy reading. There is a work in several volumes in our
Circulating Library entitled "Little Reading," which I thought
referred to a town of that name which I had not been to. There are
those who, like cormorants and ostriches, can digest all sorts of this,
even after the fullest dinner of meats and vegetables, for they suffer
nothing to be wasted. If others are the machines to provide this
provender, they are the machines to read it. They read the nine
thousandth tale about Zebulon and Sophronia, and how they loved as
none had ever loved before, and neither did the course of their true
love run smooth-at any rate, how it did run and stumble, and get up
again and go on! how some poor unfortunate got up on to a steeple,
who had better never have gone up as far as the belfry; and then,
having needlessly got him up there, the happy novelist rings the bell
for all the world to come together and hear, O dear! how he did get
down again! For my part, I think that they had better metamorphose
all such aspiring heroes of universal noveldom into man weather-
cocks, as they used to put heroes among the constellations, and let
them swing round there till they are rusty, and not come down at all
to bother honest men with their pranks. The next time the novelist
rings the bell I will not stir though the meeting-house burn down.
"The Skip of the Tip-Toe-Hop, a Romance of the Middle Ages, by
the celebrated author of ‘Tittle-Tol-Tan,’ to appear in monthly parts;
a great rush; don’t all come together." All this they read with saucer
eyes, and erect and primitive curiosity, and with unwearied gizzard,
whose corrugations even yet need no sharpening, just as some little
four-year-old bencher his two-cent gilt-covered edition of
Cinderella-without any improvement, that I can see, in the
pronunciation, or accent, or emphasis, or any more skill in extracting
or inserting the moral. The result is dulness of sight, a stagnation of
the vital circulations, and a general deliquium and sloughing off of
all the intellectual faculties. This sort of gingerbread is baked daily
and more sedulously than pure wheat or rye-and-Indian in almost
every oven, and finds a surer market.

The best books are not read even by those who are called good
readers. What does our Concord culture amount to? There is in this
town, with a very few exceptions, no taste for the best or for very
good books even in English literature, whose words all can read and
spell. Even the college-bred and so-called liberally educated men
here and elsewhere have really little or no acquaintance with the
English classics; and as for the recorded wisdom of mankind, the
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