OUR HOME LIBRARY 283
copy of the newest popular book, but expend his money more wisely in the purchase of—What?
Here is a real difficulty. The variety of opinions among guides and instructors seems to me a most cheerful and encouraging fact. Doubtless each has a good reason to give for his preferences. Doubtless there are treasures to be found in various regions of literature—not a solitary pot of gold hidden in a single field, and a terrible chance that we may not happen to buy the right lot—but veins of rich ore running through all the rocks, and placers in all the gravel beds. Doubtless we may follow any one of a half dozen roads and not go far astray after all.
Let us not take our reading too anxiously, too strenuously. There are more than a hundred good books in the world. The best hundred for you may not be the best hundred for me. We ought to be satisfied if we get something thoroughly good, even though it be not absolutely and unquestionably the best in the world. The habit of worrying about the books that we have not read destroys the pleasure and diminishes the profit of those that we are reading. Be serious, earnest, sincere in your choice of books, and then put your trust in Providence and read with an easy mind.
Any author who has kept the affection, interest, and confidence of thoughtful, honest readers through at least one generation is fairly sure to have something in him that is worth reading.
Let us keep out of provincialism in literature—even that which comes from Athens.
You like Tolstoi and George Eliot; I like Scott and Thackeray. You like Byron and Shelley; I like Wordsworth and Tennyson. You admire the method of Stubbs and Seignobos; I still find pleasure in Macaulay and Carlyle. Well, probably neither of us is altogether wasting time. Jordan is a good river. But there is also plenty of water in the streams of Abana and Pharpar.
There is a large number of courses of reading that.any one of us might take with profit. It is foolish to stand too long hesitating at the cross-roads. Choose your course with