How to Succeed, or Stepping-Stones to Fame and Fortune

“This habit of reading, I make bold to tell you,” says Trollope, “is your pass to the greatest, the purest, and the most perfect pleasures that God has prepared for His creatures. Other pleasures may be more ecstatic; but the habit of reading is the only enjoyment I know, in which there is no alloy.”

The Bible was begun in the desert in Arabia ages before Homer sang and flourished in Asia Minor. Millions of books have since gone into oblivion. Empires have risen and fallen. Revolutions have swept over and changed the earth. It has always been subject to criticism and obloquy. Mighty men have sought its overthrow. Works of Greek poets who catered to men’s depraved tastes have, in spite of everything, perished. The Bible is a book of religion; and can be tried by no other standard.

“Read Plutarch,” said Emerson, “and the world is a proud place peopled with men of positive quality, with heroes and demi-gods standing around us who will not let us sleep.”

“There is no business, no avocation whatever,” says Wyttenbach, “which will not permit a man, who has an inclination, to give a little time, every day, to the studies of his youth.”

“All the sport in the park,” said Lady Jane Grey, “is but a shadow of that pleasure I find in Plato.”

“In the lap of Eternity,” said Heinsius, “among so many divine souls, I take my seat with so lofty a spirit and such sweet content, that I pity all the great ones and rich men, that have not this happiness.”

“Death itself divides not the wise,” says Bulwer. “Thou meetest Plato when thine eyes moisten over the Phædo. May Homer live with all men forever!”

“When a man reads,” says President Porter, “he should put himself into the most intimate intercourse with his author, so that all his energies of apprehension, judgment and feeling may be occupied with, and aroused by, what his author furnishes, whatever it may be. If repetition or review will aid him in this, as it often will, let him not disdain or neglect frequent reviews. If the use of the pen, in brief or full notes, in catchwords or other symbols, will aid him, let him not shrink from the drudgery of the pen and the commonplace book.”

“Reading is to the mind,” says Addison, “what exercise is to the body. As by the one health is preserved, strengthened and invigorated, by the other, virtue (which is the health of the mind) is kept alive, cherished and confirmed.”

“There is a world of science necessary in choosing books,” said Bulwer. “I have known some people in great sorrow fly to a novel, or the last light book in fashion. One might as well take a rose draught for the plague! Light reading does not do when the heart is really heavy. I am told that Goethe, when he lost his son, took to study a science that was new to him. Ah! Goethe was a physician who knew what he was about.”

“When I served when a young man in India,” said a distinguished English soldier and diplomatist; “when it was the turning point in my life; when it was a mere chance whether I should become a mere card-playing, hooka-smoking lounger, I was fortunately quartered for two years in the neighborhood of an excellent library, which was made accessible to me.”

“Books,” says E. P. Whipple, “are lighthouses erected in the great sea of time.”

“As a rule,” said Benjamin Disraeli, “the most successful man in life is the man who has the best information.”

“You get into society, in the widest sense,” says Geikie, “in a great library, with the huge advantage of needing no introductions, and not dreading repulses. From that great crowd you can choose what companions you please, for in the silent levees of the immortals there is no pride, but the highest is at the service of the lowest, with a grand humility. You may speak freely with any, without a thought of your inferiority; for books are perfectly well-bred, and hurt no one’s feelings by any discriminations.” Sir William Waller observed, “In my study, I am sure to converse with none but wise men, but abroad it is impossible for me to avoid the society of fools.” “It is the glorious prerogative of the empire of knowledge,” says Webster, “that what it gains it never loses. On the contrary, it increases by the multiple of its own power; all its ends become means, all its attainments help to new conquests.”

“At this hour, five hundred years since their creation,” says De Quincey, “the tales of Chaucer, never equaled on this earth for their tenderness and for life of picturesqueness, are read familiarly by many in the charming language of their natal day, and by others in the modernization of Dryden, of Pope, and Wordsworth. At this hour, one thousand eight hundred years since their creation, the pagan tales of Ovid, never equaled on this earth for the gayety of their movement and the capricious graces of their narrative, are read by all Christendom.”

“There is no Past so long as Books shall live,” says Lytton.

“No wonder Cicero said that he would part with all he was worth so he might live and die among his books,” says Geikie. “No wonder Petrarch was among them to the last, and was found dead in their company. It seems natural that Bede should have died dictating, and that Leibnitz should have died with a book in his hand, and Lord Clarendon at his desk. Buckle’s last words, ‘My poor book!’ tell a passion that forgot death; and it seemed only a fitting farewell when the tear stole down the manly cheeks of Scott as they wheeled him into his library, when he had come back to Abbotsford to die. Southey, white-haired, a living shadow, sitting stroking and kissing the books he could no longer open or read, is altogether pathetic.”