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Jean Baptiste Racine




Reading Books

You seem by your letter-to envy Mad. C. because she has read more plays and romances than you have. I will give you my sentiments on that head, with the sincerity which it is my duty to use towards you. I am very sorry you lay so much stress on such trifles, which at best should serve only to unbend the mind sometimes, but by no means to engross so much of the heart as I fear they do of yours: you are employed in serious studies, which ought to engage your whole attention; and while thus employed, and we pay masters to instruct you, you should carefully avoid whatever tends to dissipate the mind, and turn you from those studies. Not only conscience and religion oblige you to this conduct, but you should have consideration and respect enough for me, to conform a little to my sentiments, while you are of an age in which you ought to be directed. I do not say that you should not sometimes, by way of amusement, read such things; and you see I have myself many French books very capable of diverting you; but I should be much afflicted if this kind of reading should create in you a disgust for more useful learning....

I have lately read over again, for, I suppose, the hundredth time, the epistles of Cicero to his friends; and I wish at your leisure hours you would read some of them to the ambassador; I am certain they would please him, as, without flattery, I know none who has better caught his manner of writing than he has, whether seriously on great affairs, or jesting agreeably on trifles; in this last kind I think Voiture much beneath either of them. Read the epistles ad Trebatium, ad Marium, ad Papirium Paetum, and others which I will point out to you, whenever you will read; also that from Caelius to Cicero, and you will be astonished to see a man equally gay and eloquent as Cicero. But to form a right judgment, you should familiarize yourself to these letters, by a thorough knowledge of the history of those times, in which Plutarch's Lives will assist you. I advise you to purchase the epistles by Grevius, in Holland, octavo; they are excellent reading for a man who is to write letters, whether on business or on less serious subjects.



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