Thursday, June 20, 2013

The Virtuous Reader

Be exceedingly careful what you read.—Do not take up a book, paper, or periodical, that happens to fall in your way, because you have nothing else to read By so doing, you will expose yourself to great evils. But, though a book be not decidedly objectionable, it may not be worth reading. There are so many good books, at the present day, that it is not worth while to spend time over what is of little value; and it is better to read the Bible alone, than to spend time over a poor book.

Reading for amusement furnishes a constant temptation for reading what is injurious. It promotes, also, an unprofitable manner of reading. Reading in a hasty and cursory manner, without exercising your own thoughts upon what you read, induces a bad habit of mind. To profit by reading depends, not so much on the quantity which is read, as upon the manner in which it is read. You may read a great deal, in a gormandizing way, as the glutton consumes food, and yet be none the better, but the worse for what you read… 

If anyone should propose to you to associate with men and women of the lowest and most abandoned character, you would shrink from the thought—you would be indignant at the proposition. But it is not the mere bodily presence of such characters that makes their society dangerous. It is the communion which you have with their minds and hearts, in their conduct and conversation… literature of the day is written by such characters. By reading their writings, you come into communion with their minds and hearts, as much as if you were personally in their company. In their writings, the fancies which fill their corrupt minds, and the false and dangerous principles which dwell in their depraved hearts, are transferred to paper, to corrupt the unwary reader. Here are, likewise, glowing descriptions of evil conduct, more fascinating to the youthful heart than the example itself would be, because the mischief is artfully concealed behind the drapery of fine literary taste, and beautiful language… 

Think as you read.—Do not drink in the thoughts of others as you drink water; but examine them, and see whether they carry conviction to your own mind; and if they do, think them over, till they become incorporated with your own thoughts, part and parcel of your own mind. Lay up facts and principles in your memory. Let the beautiful thoughts and striking ideas that you discover be treasured up as so many gems and precious stones, to enrich and beautify your own mind. And let your heart be impressed and benefited by the practical thoughts you find addressed to it.

- Qtd., from Harvey Newcomb, How to Be a Man; How to Be a Lady: A Book for Children, Containing Useful Hints On the Formation of Character (Kindle Locations 1863-1866). Lulu. Kindle Edition.

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