“The only valuable kind of study,” said Sydney Smith, “is to read so heartily that dinner-time comes two hours before you expected it; to sit with your Livy before you and hear the geese cackling that saved the Capitol, and to see with your own eyes the Carthaginian sutlers gathering up the rings of the Roman knights after the battle of Cannæ, and heaping them into bushels, and to be so intimately present at the actions you are reading of, that when anybody knocks at the door it will take you two or three seconds to determine whether you are in your own study or on the plains of Lombardy, looking at Hannibal’s weather-beaten face and admiring the splendor of his single eye.”
“Never study on speculation,” says Waters; “all such study is vain. Form a plan; have an object; then work for it; learn all you can about it, and you will be sure to succeed. What I mean by studying on speculation is that aimless learning of things because they may be useful some day; which is like the conduct of the woman who bought at auction a brass door-plate with the name of Thompson on it, thinking it might be useful some day!”
“I resolved, when I began to read law,” said Edward Sugden, afterward Lord St. Leonard, “to make everything I acquired perfectly my own, and never go on to a second reading till I had entirely accomplished the first. Many of the competitors read as much in a day as I did in a week; but at the end of twelve months my knowledge was as fresh as on the day it was acquired, while theirs had glided away from their recollection.”
“Very often,” says Sidney Smith, “the modern precept of education is, ‘Be ignorant of nothing.’ But my advice is, have the courage to be ignorant of a great number of things, that you may avoid the calamity of being ignorant of all things.”
“Lord, help me to take fewer things into my hands, and to do them well,” is a prayer recommended by Paxton Hood to an overworked man.
“Many persons seeing me so much engaged in active life,” said Edward Bulwer Lytton, “and as much about the world as if I had never been a student, have said to me, ‘When do you get time to write all your books? How on earth do you contrive to do so much work?’ I shall surprise you by the answer I made. The answer is this–I contrive to do so much work by never doing too much at a time. A man to get through work well must not overwork himself; or, if he do too much to-day, the reaction of fatigue will come, and he will be obliged to do too little to-morrow. Now, since I began really and earnestly to study, which was not till I had left college, and was actually in the world, I may perhaps say that I have gone through as large a course of general reading as most men of my time. I have traveled much and I have seen much; I have mixed much in politics, and in the various business of life; and in addition to all this, I have published somewhere about sixty volumes, some upon subjects requiring much special research. And what time do you think, as a general rule, I have devoted to study, to reading, and writing? Not more than three hours a day; and, when Parliament is sitting, not always that. But then, during these three hours, I have given my whole attention to what I was about.”
“The things that are crowded out of a life are the test of that life. Not what we would like, but what we long for and strive for with all our might we attain.”
“One great cause of failure of young men in business,” says Carnegie, “is lack of concentration. They are prone to seek outside investments. The cause of many a surprising failure lies in so doing. Every dollar of capital and credit, every business-thought, should be concentrated upon the one business upon which a man has embarked. He should never scatter his shot. It is a poor business which will not yield better returns for increased capital than any outside investment. No man or set of men or corporation can manage a business-man’s capital as well as he can manage it himself. The rule, ‘Do not put all your eggs in one basket,’ does not apply to a man’s life-work. Put all your eggs in one basket and then watch that basket, is the true doctrine–the most valuable rule of all.”
“A man must not only desire to be right,” said Beecher, “he must _be_ right. You may say, ‘I wish to send this ball so as to kill the lion crouching yonder, ready to spring upon me. My wishes are all right, and I hope Providence will direct the ball.’ Providence won’t. You must do it; and if you do not, you are a dead man.”
The ruling idea of Milton’s life and the key to his mental history is his resolve to produce a great poem. Not that the aspiration in itself is singular, for it is probably shared in by every poet in his turn. As every clever schoolboy is destined by himself or his friends to become Lord-Chancellor, and every private in the French army carries in his haversack the baton of a marshal, so it is a necessary ingredient of the dream of Parnassus that it should embody itself in a form of surpassing brilliance. What distinguishes Milton from the crowd of youthful literary aspirants, _audax juventa_, is his constancy of resolve. He not only nourished through manhood the dream of youth, keeping under the importunate instincts which carry off most ambitions in middle life into the pursuit of place, profit, honor–the thorns which spring up and smother the wheat–but carried out his dream in its integrity in old age. He formed himself for this achievement and no other. Study at home, travel abroad, the arena of political controversy, the public service, the practice of the domestic virtues, were so many parts of the schooling which was to make a poet.