Finally, the third in my funny little Favourite Quotes series which I resurrected earlier this year.
In August I posted a review (of sorts) of the first volume of Sir Walter Scott’s first novel, Waverley, and I included a quote describing his hero’s unstructured, undisciplined reading encouraged by a theory of education that sounds a bit like Mary Poppins’ “spoonful of sugar”. The longer quote is as follows:
With a desire of amusement therefore, which better discipline might soon have converted into a thirst for knowledge, young Waverley drove through the sea of books, like a vessel without a pilot or a rudder. Nothing perhaps increases by indulgence more than a desultory habit of reading, especially under such opportunities of gratifying it. I believe one reason why such numerous instances of erudition occur among the lower ranks is, that, with the same powers of mind, the poor student is limited to a narrow circle for indulging his passion for books, and must necessarily make himself master of the few he possesses ere he can acquire more. Edward, on the contrary, like the epicure who only deigned to take a single morsel from the sunny side of a peach, read no volume a moment after it ceased to excite his curiosity or interest; and it necessarily happened, that the habit of seeking only this sort of gratification rendered it daily more difficult of attainment, till the passion for reading, like other strong appetites, produced by indulgence a sort of satiety.
I like Scott’s reference to the fact that poorer people have no option but to read deeply (and are therefore more erudite!) because they have such little access to books. How many memoirs have we read about poor children reading and rereading the few books available to them – and how much luckier many of us are today to have access to free public libraries?! Let’s hope those libraries last.
As I said in my last Favourite Quotes post, my aim is to share some interesting ideas, rather than become too bogged down in explication. But, I’d love some explication from you should you be so inspired!