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It is chiefly through books that we enjoy intercourse with superior minds, and these invaluable means of communication are in the reach of all.' In the best books, great men talk to us, give us their most precious thoughts, and pour their souls into ours. God be thanked for books. They are the voices of the distant and the dead, and make us heirs of the spiritual life of past ages. Books are the true levellers. They give to all, who will faithfully use them, the society, the spiritual presence of the best and greatest of our race. No matter how
I am. No matter though the prosperous of my own time will not enter my obscure dwelling. If the sacred writers will enter and take up their abode under my roof, if Milton will cross my threshold to sing to me of Paradise, and Shakspeare to open to me the worlds of imagination and the workings of the human heart, and Franklin to enrich me with his practical wisdom, I shall not pine for want of intellectual companionship, and I may become a cultivated man, though excluded from what is called the best society in the place where I live.
To make this means of culture effectual, a man must select good books, such as have been written by right-minded and strong-minded men, real thinkers, who, instead of diluting by repetition what others say, have something to say for themselves, and write to give relief to full, earnest souls; and these works must not be skimmed over for amusement, but read with fixed attention and a reverential love of truth. In selecting books, we may be aided much by those who have studied more than ourselves. But, after all, it is best to be determined, in this particular, a good deal by our own tastes.
The best books for a man are not always those which the wise recomm
mend, but oftener those which meet the peculiar wants, the natural thirst, of his mind, and therefore awaken interest and rivet thought. And here it may be well to observe, not only in regard to books, but in other respects,
that self-culture must vary with the individual. All means do not equally suit us all.
must unfold himself freely, and should respect the peculiar gifts or biases by which nature has distinguished him from others.
Self-culture does not demand the sacrifice of individuality. It does not regularly apply an established machinery, for the sake of torturing every man into one rigid shape, called perfection. As the human countenance, with the same features in us all, is diversified without end in the race, and is never the same in any two individuals, so the human soul, with the same grand powers and laws, expands into an infinite variety of forms, and would be wofully stinted by modes of culture requiring all' men to learn the same lesson or to bend to the same rules.
I know how hard it is to some men, especially to those who spend much time in manual labor, to fix attention on books. Let them strive to overcome the difficulty, by choosing subjects of deep interest, or by reading in company with those whom they love. Nothing can supply the place of books. They are cheering or soothing companions in solitude, illness, affliction. The wealth of both continents would not compensate for the good they impart. Let every man, if possible, gather some good books under his roof, and obtain access, for himself and family, to some social library. Almost any luxury should be sacrificed to this.
91. The Speech of Brutus on the Death of Cæsar.
ROMANS, countrymen, and lovers ! hear me for my cause, and be silent that you may hear. Believe me for mine honor, and have respect to mine honor, that you may believe. Censure me in your wisdom, and awake your senses,
you may the better judge. If there be any in this assembly, any dear friend of Cæsar's, to him I say, that Brutus's love to Cæsar was no less than his. If, then, that friend demand, why Brutus rose against Cæsar — this is my answer. Not that I loved Cæsar less, but that I loved Rome more. Had you rather Cæsar were living, and die all slaves, than that Cæsar were dead, to live all freemen? As Cæsar loved me I weep for him; as he was fortunate, I rejoice at it; as he was valiant, I honor him ; but, as he was ambitious, I slew him. There are tears for his love, joy for his fortune, honor for his valor, and death for his ambition. Who's here so base, that would be a bondman? If any, speak; for him have I offended. Who's here so rude, that would not be a Roman? If any, speak; for him have I offended. Who's here so vile, that will not love his country? If any, speak, for him have I offended. -I pause
for a reply. None ? then none have I offended. I have done no more to Cæsar than you shall do to Brutus. The question of his death is enrolled in the Capitol ; his glory not extenuated, wherein he was worthy; nor his offences enforced, for which he s'affered death.
Here comes his body mourned by Mark Antony; who, though he had no hand in his death, shall receive the benefit of his dying - a place in the commonwealth ; as which of you shall not? With this I depart, that, as I slew my best lover for the good of Rome, I have the same dagger for myself, when it shall please my country to need my death.
92. Antony's Funeral Oration over Cæsar's Body
FRIENDS, Romans, Countrymen ! - lend me your ears.
Hath told you Cæsar was ambitious,
He was my friend, faithful and just to me
he was ambitious; And Brutus is an honorable man.
You all did see, that on the Lupercal, I thrice presented him a kingly crown; Which he did thrice refuse. Was this ambition? Yet Brutus says he was ambitious; And, sure, he is an honorable man. I speak not to disprove what Brutus spoke; But here I am to speak what I, do know. You all did love him once, not without cause. What cause withholds you, then, to mourn for him? O judgment! thou art fled to brutish beasts, And men have lost their reason. Bear with me. My heart is in the coffin there with Cæsar, And I must pause till it come back to me.
But yesterday, the word of Cæsar might Have stood against the world – now lies he there, And none so poor to do 'him reverence ! O masters! if I were disposed to stir Your hearts and minds to mutiny and rage, I should do Brutus wrong, and Cassius wrong, Who, you all know, are honorable men!
I will not do them wrong; I rather choose
If you have tears, prepare to shed them now.
This, this was the unkindest cut of all; 11. For when the noble Cæsar saw him stab,
Ingratitude, more strong than traitor's arms,