Carlyle at His Zenith (1848-53)

By David Alec Wilson | Go to book overview

III
ADVICE ABOUT READING (1851)

WRITING to his sister Jean, Mrs. Aitken at Dumfries, on 12.11.51, about a book he had sent her the day before, Carlyle bestowed upon her some advice about reading still worth looking at.--

'I think it is a pity that you did not get some weightier kind of Books, out of which real knowledge might come to you; for example, Books of History, which you could read carefully, having a Map at hand, and attending to the chronology, that is, keeping both places and dates steadily before you:--for example, have you ever read any good History of England (Hume's, Henry's); Robertson Scotland; Robertson America, a most entertaining book; his Charles the Fifth, etc., etc.? There is a good stock of such Books; and that is the way to read with advantage.

'I recommend also Homer Iliad, and Translations of all the old Greek and Roman Books, called Classics; of which Jack, I believe, has some store; at any rate plenty of them are to be had now comparatively speaking, and very cheap. It would be worth your while to have some solid good Book always at your hand when you have a little leisure. Take some thought of this; and, after consulting Jack, and still more your own real notion,1 ask me to help in any way I can.'

The conclusion is the best of this advice, recalling the old advice which may be prehistoric:--

"Fall to it," eaning to reading, "as you find your stomach serves you: No profit grows, where is no pleasure ta'en: In brief, sir, study what you most affect," or like the best.

____________________
1
Italics added.

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