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best mind of youth is drawn irresistably to literature. And a library is a kindling place. It has sometimes awakened genius.
“ A young man whom God has made for a great mathematician, enters a library. He wanders from shelf to shelf. He takes down a volume of poetry ; it seems to him like a world of shadows : its dark sentences and cloudy language present nothing substantial ; he puts it back, half in wonder, half in disgust. He takes up an historical work. This, it may be, holds him longer, but he finds it difficult to come at some simple fact which his clear mind is ever seeking through the rhetoric of the author. He doubts as he reads. He happens, perhaps, next upon a book of geometry. He comprehends little, but his attention is caught by the nicety of every figure, the precision of every word. He is entangled and absorbed by these sharp cut lines and diagrams, and his rapid eye and accurate thought are charmed by the logical and progressive march of every sentence. He cannot get away from that book. He must understand it. Something tells him that the spring of power has been touched, that the inner susceptibility has found its corresponding object. He is not satisfied till he is introduced to this new world of positive demonstration and abstract truth.”
Books and libraries, it is said, are a kindling place, and that they have sometimes awakened genius. Nay, this is too tame; they have done it many a time and oft. While the great Sir Isaac Newton was yet a youth, and was sent to market by his mother with the produce of the farm, the young philosopher left a trusty servant to manage the sales, while he himself employed his time in reading, thus paving the way for his illustrious discoveries in science; referring to which, when made, he said with singular humility, “To myself I seem to have been as a child playing on the sea-shore, while the immense ocean of truth lay unexplored before me.” There is the story of Franklin, familiar to all, that such was his youthful thirst for knowledge, he afterwards regretted that more proper books than those in his father's scanty library had not fallen in his way ; and yet few and inappropriate as they were, they laid the foundation of a mighty power for the development of human science, human liberty and human happiness. Rittenhouse, “with but two or three books," and without the least instruction, acquired so considerable a knowledge of the mathematical sciences, as to be able to read the Principia of Newton, and became one of the most learned astronomers of his age. When the Duke of Argyle happened to find his young gardener, Stone, afterwards so celebrated as a mathematician, reading Newton's Principia, in Latin, he, in amazement enquired, how he had made such acquisitions ? The gardener boy replied, “A servant taught me to read," and then
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innocently asked, “ does one need to know anything more to learn everything else ?” Goethe's peculiar genius, it is said, was called forth to life by hearing the Vicar of Wakefield read by a fellow student ; and Gibbon was drawn to the study of history, by reading the historical books in his grandfather's library. Patrick Henry, the unrivalled orator of freedom, is thought by his accomplished biographer, to have had his love of liberty inspired, and his dormant faculties quickened, by the grandeur of the Roman character, the vivid descriptions and eloquent harangues, so beautifully and strikingly set before him in Livy, his favorite author. Roger Sherman, the shoemaker, who became one of the most useful statesmen of his age, educated himself at the bench and at the fireside ; and to books was he mainly indebted for his great success and usefulness in life. The modern historian Neibuhr is said, when but a boy of seven, to have had his earnest passion for literary studies kindled, by chancing to hear Macbeth read in the library of a friend of his father. Hugh Miller, the celebrated harmonist of the Mosaic and Geological records of creation, whose early education was scarcely more than a faculty for ready-reading, speaks gratefully, in the narrative of his early opportunities, of the powerful impulse imparted to his youthful mind, by a few old volumes which fell in his way. And the early educational advantages of Elihu Burritt, who has mastered upwards of fifty languages, were limited to the common school and a social library in his neighborhood. The recently deceased Benjamin F. Butler, formerly Attorney General of the United States, is said to have had his youthful ambition stimulated to noble aims by reading the life, writings and maxims of the great Franklin, after whom he was named.
How often do we find in the cases of self-made men, that the reading of some chance volume inspired some latent thought, or prompted some noble resolve, that led the way to a distinguished career of fame and usefulness. And such, in the nature of things, must always be the happy consequences of choice and plentiful reading for the young, at a period when their minds, like twigs, may be easily guided ; and thus the conscience and intellect may be properly trained, and the grosser passions supplanted. Not unfrequently circumstances, often trivial in themselves, give bent to a child's character, and change the whole current of his existence. And nothing has had, or can in future be supposed to have a more powerful influence in this direction, than books—books replete with the noblest teachings of wisdom, and the highest incentives to public and private virtue. Mai
SCHOOL LIBRARIES THE GREAT WANT OF WISCONSIN. None can doubt the desirableness and utility of good books. A single book, or half a dozen books, will not answer the purpose. We want libraries. It has been truly said, that the conception of the Library, the assembling in one room, and ranging side by side, all the wisdom of the past, and its preservation unhurt by the ravages of time, completes the beneficence of the inventions of language and letters, and makes, and alone makes, any great thought uttered or written, the common property of mankind. For general reading, such libraries need not necessarily be large; a selection of modern books, which contain the real staple of intellectual life, may be made within a reasonable compass. Such a collection, wisely chosen, centrally located, and freely circulated and read, would go on its daily mission of light, and love and intelligence to bless hundreds of families and thousands of minds. But few individuals are able to procure such libraries. It may also be said, that individuals as such do not build school houses nor churches, canals nor railroads; these are done by associated effort. In matters of great public concern, such as the protection of society, and the education of the people, Government, which is but the expression of the aggregation of the people, steps forward and does the work, or leads off in the enterprise. And this is the way in which libraries may, and should, be economically provided. Let them be SCHOOL LIBRARIES—à part and parcel of the educational system of the State, for the joint benefit of the old and the young. This is no mere theory. It has been tried in many of our States; and wherever faithfully tried, has always proved successful. We have yet had no such faithful trial in Wisconsin; nor is it to be wondered at, for in the infancy of our State, our people could not be expected at once to provide for all the intellectual wants of themselves and their children.
The subject of SCHOOL LIBRARIES, when properly considered, cannot but enlist the earnest sympathies and activities of our people. Our first great duty is, unquestionably, to teach our children to read—thus providing for them a knowledge productive of one of the highest sources of human happiness. And our next duty, scarcely less important, is to provide them with proper books to gratify and improve the taste they early acquire for reading. “It is in vain," writes the learned and eloquent EDWARD EVERETT, “that children are taught to read, if they have no access to good books, --worse than in vain, if they are furnished with nothing better than the wretched trash in tawdry. binding, which is carried round by the peddlers.”
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tinguished Rev. Dr. FRANCIS WAYLAND, now more than forty years engaged in the great work of American education. “Our system of general education,” he writes, “ seems to render some provision for furnishing abundant and good reading an imperative duty. To teach our people to read, is to accomplish but half our work; or, rather to leave our work unfinished precisely at the point where what we have done may prove a curse instead of a blessing. We can only realize the benefits of our system of general education, when we not only teach the people to read, but also furnish them with such reading as shall cultivate the intellect, and improve the heart. When this shall have been done for our whole country, and it will be done in all the free States, a population will rise up among us such as the world has never yet seen."
We teach our children in their infancy to eat, and as they grow up we provide them with trades and teach them occupations by which to obtain their daily bread. We teach them in their childhood how to read and shall we not also at the same time, furnish them proper reading matter, so that while they are growing up they may carefully cultivate this noble talent for wise and not ignoble purposes? Considered in any proper point of view, School Libraries are, in very deed, the great intellectual want of our State—a want inherently connected with our system of popular education, and so connected by our Constitution, our laws, and by the fitness of things, as well as by the universal consent and approval of our people.
TIE KIND OF BOOKS NEEDED. For School Libraries, we are generally apt to say, that books are needed to suit all capacities, to meet the wants of all classes of community. And this is correct. Yet the primary object should not be forgotten, to provide suitable books for the youth of both sexes, from their earliest ability to read up to the age of twenty. This is the public educational limit, and School Libraries are but auxiliaries of the system of popular education ; and this is the formative period of character. To select the proper kind of mental food—the School Libraries—for the children of a whole State, as well as the reading in a great measure for their parents, would be a labor of vast responsibility ; for from such libraries, the most momentous consequences would be likely to result. What, then, are the kinds of books needed ?
"In the history of the early life of any one,” remarks President BARKER, of Alleghany College, “ the imagination is far more vigorous and lively than the rational faculty. Long before we are capable of any sustained effort of reasoning, we listen with inexpressible delight to narratives of moving incidents by flood and field,' with slight discrimination between truth and falsehood, or even between that which is conformable to nature, and that which is preternatural and impossible. The imagination draws its inspiration primarily from the senses, and hence narrative and descriptive compositions must form the staple of every collection of books that children will read with interest, and that will permanently affect their principles and conduct. In a narrative, the truth is clothed with flesh ; it lives, it speaks to us as a familiar friend ; we are permitted to look at its features, to grasp its hand in sincere friendship, and call it ours by the fondest names and recollections. Examples, and associations which make examples prevalent, almost infinitely outweigh any array of precepts, however judicious; and hence all professedly didactic essays might as well be omitted from a catalogue of books to be read voluntarially by school children. History, and biography, books of travel, popular descriptions of the kingdoms of nature, especially of animal life, and the applications of science to art, whether useful or ornamental, comprise most of the works which should find admission to the shelves of a public school library. If to these be admitted a judicious admixture of works of fiction and imagination, such as are true to nature and to morality, both in action and sentiment, such as are neither above nor below the capacity of youth, and, above all, that have a high philosophical meaning, threading upon a narrative not too gross the pearl of wisdom both practical and speculative, such a library completes the circle of that knowledge which youth will seek voluntarily for its own sake. * * * If a very important function of the public shool, is the inculcation of virtuous principles and the formation of virtuous habits, the literature of the library should correspond with this idea of their character. A large portion of the library, especially that part of it designed for the use of the more juvenile pupils, should be selected with direct reference to the influence which it will have upon habits and principles. Especially should the public authorities take care that no book containing loose or vicious principles, and even that no book merely neutral on moral questions, be placed in the hands of the children of the public schools. * * * While discussion on the vexed questions that divide Christians into parties, is forbidden within the walls of a room dedicated to the common benefit of all classes of religionists,—it is by no means forbidden to inculcate that morality which all alike deem to be obligatory, nor the principle on which it rests,--obedience to the will of God, revealed in the Holy Scriptures. Enter