The essence of reading is sincerity. Each man must discover for himself what it is necessary that he should read, since he who turns over another’s best hundred books loses at once his time and his honesty. After all, nothing belongs to you that does not correspond to your temperament; and the scholar who surrounds himself with books which he can never make his own, incurs the reproach that he is “not cultivated but only manured.” […]
The truth is, that reading is a rare and delicate art. “Some books,” said Bacon, “are to be tasted, others to be swallowed, and some few to be chewed and digested.”
(Charles Whibley, “Musings Without Method,” Blackwood’s Edinburgh Magazine, Vol. CLXXV, 1904, pp. 581–582).
What good were it for me to manufacture perfect iron while my own breast is full of dross? What would it stead me to put properties of land in order, while I am at variance with myself? To speak it in a word: the cultivation of my individual self, here as I am, has from my youth upwards been constantly though dimly my wish and my purpose.
Men are so inclined to content themselves with what is commonest; the spirit and the senses so easily grow dead to the impressions of the beautiful and perfect; that every one should study to nourish in his mind the faculty of feeling these things by every method in his power. For no man can bear to be entirely deprived of such enjoyments: it is only because they are not used to taste of what is excellent, that the generality of people take delight in silly and insipid things, provided they be new. For this reason, he would add, “one ought at least every day to hear a little song, read a good poem, see a fine picture, and, if it were possible, to speak a few reasonable words.”
(Goethe; quoted in Thomas Davis, Literary and Historical Essays. Dublin: James Duffy & Co., 1883, p. 21).
A crítica literária está morta, ou quase morta, na academia americana. Haverá de sobreviver, porque é parte da literatura e a literatura vai sobreviver, mas terá de mover-se para fora da academia.
Eu agora digo a todos os meus melhores alunos de graduação para não cursarem pós-graduação nessa área. Façam qualquer outra coisa, garantam a sobrevivência do jeito que for, mas não como professores universitários. Sintam-se livres para estudar literatura por conta própria, para ler e escrever sozinhos; porque a próxima geração de bons leitores e críticos terá de vir de fora da universidade.
(Harold Bloom; citado em “Bloom Contra-ataca,” Folha de São Paulo, 6 de Agosto de 1995).
The entire object of true education is to make people not merely do the right things, but enjoy the right things: — not merely industrious, but to love industry — not merely learned, but to love knowledge — not merely pure, but to love purity — not merely just, but to hunger and thirst after justice.
(John Ruskin, “The Crown of Wild Olive.” In: The Works of John Ruskin, Vol. 18. London: George Allen, 1905, pp. 435–436).
The dying out of religious practices from the life of the people tends more than anything else to the impoverishment of their speech. For the last three hundred years spoken English has been filled with Biblical allusions, and if the Bible ceases to be read in the schools we must expect these to die out, as the proverbs of the saints died out after the Reformation.
(“The Whitewashing of English,” The Living Age, Vol. CCLII, 1907, p. 186).
You see those immense volumes lying upon my desk. In them, for more than thirty years, I have written whatever is most striking that my reading presents. Sometimes I limit myself to simple references; at other times I transcribe, word for word, special passages. Often I accompany them with notes, and also I place there those thoughts of the moment, those sudden illuminations, which are extinguished without result if the flash is not made permanent by writing. Carried by the revolutionary whirlwind into different European countries, never have I been without those selections; and you cannot imagine with what pleasure I look over that immense collection. Each passage awakens a crowd of interesting ideas and melancholy remembrances a thousand times sweeter than what are called pleasures. I see pages dated at Geneva, Rome, Venice, Lausanne. I cannot see the names of those cities without recalling those of excellent friends whom I have left in them, and who formerly consoled my exile. Often I turn to a page written from my dictation by a beloved child, whom the tempest has separated from me. I stretch out my arms and fancy I hear him speak to me. One date recalls to my mind the time when, upon the banks of a frozen river, I ate with a French bishop a dinner which we had ourselves prepared. That day I was merry, and could join in a laugh with that good man, who now waits for me in a better world; but the preceding night I had passed in an open vessel, without fire or light, seated with my family upon chests, without being able to lie down or rest one moment, listening to the hostile cries of some watermen who did not cease to threaten us, and being able to stretch over cherished forms only a miserable mat to protect them from a heavy snow which fell incessantly.
(Joseph de Maistre; quoted in William Alexander, “De Maistre and Romanism,” The North American Review, Vol. LXXIX, 1854, No. 165, pp. 378–379).
Lest I should forget to mention it, I put down here a rebuke which, later in his life, Sir Walter once gave in my hearing to his daughter Anne. She happened to say of something, I forget what, that she could not abide it — it was vulgar. “My love,” said her father, “you speak like a very young lady; do you know, after all, the meaning of this word vulgar?” “‘Tis only common; nothing that is common, except wickedness, can deserve to be spoken of in a tone of contempt; and when you have lived to my years, you will be disposed to agree with me in thanking God that nothing really worth having or caring about in this world is uncommon.”
(John Gibson Lockhart, The Life of Sir Walter Scott, Vol. 8. Edinburgh: T. and A. Constable, 1902, p. 26).