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Comfort Found In Good Old Books

Comfort Found In Good Old Books

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These short essays on the best old books in the world were inspired by the sudden death of an only son, without whom I had not thought life worth living. To tide me over the first weeks of bitter grief I plunged into this work of reviewing the great books from the Bible to the works of the eighteenth century writers. The suggestion came from many readers who were impressed by the fact that in the darkest hour of sorrow my only comfort came from the habit of reading, which Gibbon declared he "would not exchange for the wealth of the Indies." If these essays induce any one to cultivate the reading habit, which has been so great a solace to me in time of trouble, then I shall feel fully repaid.

This book is not intended for those who have had literary training in high school or university. It was planned to meet the wants of that great American public which yearns for knowledge and culture, but does not know how to set about acquiring it. For this reason I have discussed the great books of the world[x] from De Quincey's standpoint of the literature of power, as distinguished from the literature of knowledge. By the literature of power the author of the Confessions of an English Opium Eater meant books filled with that emotional quality which lifts the reader out of this prosaic world into that spiritual life, whose dwellers are forever young.

No book has lived beyond the age of its author unless it were full of this spiritual force which endures through the centuries. The words of the Biblical writers, of Thomas à Kempis, Milton, Bunyan, Dante and others who are discussed in this book, are charged with a spiritual potency that moves the reader of today as they have moved countless generations in the past. Could one wish for a more splendid immortality than this, to serve as the stimulus to ambitious youth long after one's body has moldered in the dust?

Even the Sphinx is not so enduring as a great book, written in the heart's blood of a man or woman who has sounded the deeps of sorrow only to rise up full of courage and faith in human nature.


89 Pages

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