( Originally Published Late 1800's )
With this view of the usefulness of books and papers, we need hardly say that a well-selected library is a practical necessity to the man who would attain success. He needs to be an intelligent man. He needs to be informed upon the current topics of the day, and those technical matters which pertain to his own special vocation. In order to do this he must of necessity be diligent with his books and papers. I would have in every house a room set apart to books and the writing-table. Let it be made cosy and attractive. In this library, furnished with shelves and cases to suit the taste and wealth of the owner, let there be gathered the best treasures of literature, and let the library be the most frequented room in the house. This room should be in a large sense the inner sanctuary of the home. Here the mind and soul are to be fed, nourished and strengthened for the real struggle of life. Here are the best enjoyments, the best friendships, the best inspirations of the temple of home. Here parents and children may unite upon a common basis of rational enjoyment, amusement and gratification. Here can be laid, and should be laid, early in life a solid foundation for intellectual pursuits. If there be such a room in the house, and father and mother spend much of their leisure time there in reading and in meditation, the children will early fall into line and become readers even in their tender years, and the library will always prove to be the strongest force to keep them out of evil. It would indeed be a strange boy or girl who would wish to go out to the associations of iniquity after once feeling the full charm of a warm and pleasant library.
A very important question will often arise in the purchase of a library ; namely, what books ought I to buy? To answer this question adequately would require a long discussion and we must refer the reader to Porter's Books and Reading or Pryde's Highways of Literature, for an answer to such a question. One or two suggestions, however, cannot be out of, place. First books should be purchased only for use. As ornaments merely they are not very pretty, and it would be a most senseless waste of money to indulge in them for that purpose. No, books should be for use, for patient perusal and careful study. It is, therefore, well to purchase books few at a time, and those only which represent something to one's intellectual life. If a young man begins by saving a few dollars for two or three good books and if he reads them very diligently before he makes another purchase, he is probably pursuing the best policy with reference to the purchase. of a library. There is no greater satisfaction than for a poor man, with slender means, to point to a small case of books and say they are his and that he has mastered their contents.
There is, perhaps, no better illustration of the power of books over the mind and life than in the case of George Eliot, the celebrated novelist; Marion Evans in her younger days was like others of her sex, passionate, emotional, and impressionable to the highest degree. The Scenes from a Clerical Life reveal to us the happy girlhood of George Eliot ; but at a certain stage of her development she came across the philosophical works of the German, Strause. Some of these she translated into English. This reading of German philosophy turned the whole current of her life. She became henceforth a pro-found student of metaphysics and as the result of her studies gave to the world some of the most subtle analyses of character there are in the history of literature. She passed from the writer of the Scenes of Clerical Life to the creator of Dorothea, Dinah, Gwendolen, and Romola, the most interesting characters of the female type in the history of fiction ; and this is all attributable perhaps to the study of one author's works.