Beck Center English Dept. University Libraries Emory University
Emory Women Writers Resource Project Collections:
Women's Advocacy Collection

The Woman's Era, Volume 2, an electronic edition

by Josephine St. P. Ruffin and Florida R. Ridley, Eds. [Ruffin, Josephine St. P. and Ridley, Florida R.]

date: [1894-1897]
source publisher: Woman's Era Club
collections: Abolition, Freedom, and Rights, Women's Advocacy

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Sarah E. Tanner

June 1895

"They are never alone," said Sir Philip Sidney, "that are accompanied by noble thoughts," and we say it is quite possible for the humblest to gain these "noble thoughts" if they will but be discreet in the selection of books they read. The moment we enter the world of books that moment a great personalresponsibility rests upon us. It is as necessary that we choose as wisely the companionship of books as we do the companionship of friends. There is an old proverb, "A man may usually be known by the company he keeps," but he can just as truly be known by the books he reads.

No kinder or wiser friend can one have than a good book, for a book which is worthy for us to take as a companion is the embodiment of the noblest thoughts of which that life was capable.

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"You get into society in the widest sense," said Dr. Geikie, "in a great library, with the huge advantage of needing no introductions and not dreading repulses. From that great crowd you can choose what companions you please, for in these silent levees of the immortals there is no pride, but the highest is at the service of the lowest with a great humility. You may speak freely with any without a thought of your inferiority, for books are perfectly well-bred and hurt no one's feelings by any discriminations."

Great care should be taken in cultivating the habit of reading, for without reading it is impossible to ever be the "full man" of whom Lord Bacon tells us. It is no more reasonable to suppose we will have bright ideas and noble thoughts without reading "than to suppose that the Mississippi might roll on its flood of waters to the ocean, though all its tributary streams were cut off and it were replenished only by occasional drops from the clouds." We are told that the elder Pliny seldom sat down to eat a meal without insisting upon some one reading to him, and that so close and constant was Petrarch's application to his books that, his friends became anxious about his health, and through love to him refused to allow him to enter his study for ten days, and by the morning he was ill with fever; his keys were at once restored to him, and with them came his usual health and bright spirits.

Not only is it necessary to acquire the habit of reading, but also the habit of selecting carefully what we read, and this in itself will greatly develop our intellectual tendency, and then we will learn to appreciate the good and beautiful. Read with a purpose. No better advice can be given a young person than to "read much, not many books."

Milton says,

"Who reads
Incessantly, and to his reading brings not
A spirit or genius equal or superior,
Uncertain and unsetttled still remains,
Deep versed in books and shallow in himself."

Now just a word as to what we should read.

To gather inforination read histories, biographies and travels.

Read the best novels and romances, authors like Sir Walter Scott, George Eliot, Thackeray , Dickens and Hawthorne.

Do not read about authors and imagine you have read the authors themselves, but with great care study the masters of the art of literature, authors like Milton, Dante, Shakespeare, Bacon, Goethe, Cervantes, Schiller, and others.

We could not be expected to exhaust a subject so interminable as this. The thoughtful reader will have at once perceived that we have scarcely done more than given intimations. Our pleasure is that intimations only are necessary to a class to whom this article comes, and we therefore briefly hand it over to them with the hope that they will find it profitable to the extent we have gone.

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