“Reading Is Not Thinking” (from Youth’s Magazine, May 26, 1837; pp. 157-158)
What the great body of our people want is not news, not startling facts, nor illustrations of the various sciences. They find these in overwhelming abundance in the newspapers—which, by the way, are very unduly multiplied, and have unfortunately enough become the paramount object of public interest. They need the principles of science—not the materials for idle conversation, but the real reasons of things: and a magazine ought to be the means of leading men to think—to ascertain the grounds of their knowledge: to compare, and to form intelligible conclusions. There are millions of facts in nature and science of which men had better be ignorant than to neglect this first work of the understanding. But the knowledge which these periodicals diffuse is entirely too miscellaneous for this.
In the desultory habits of reading, now prevalent, relaxation is sought for in an endless variety of pursuits. Few give their attention long enough to any single object, to obtain the commanding knowledge of it which will enable them to enlighten others, or to acquire an in-
terest in it themselves. The choice of the afternoon’s conversation, or the evening’s reading is left to the newspaper or the novel. Years and lives of leisure are thus wasted without a purpose, and without enjoyment too, by men, who by giving the hours of relaxation to a single object, might easily gain such a mastery of it, as to prepare a fund of entertainment for their friends, and for themselves a delightful resource against the monotony of daily cares, and the heavier but hardly less certain oppression of disappointment.
Knowledge and Wisdom far from being one,
Have oft times no connexion. Knowledge dwells
In heads replete with thoughts of other men;
Wisdom in minds attentive to their own.