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Now, these are the practical advantages of learning ; but the third benefit is, when rightly considered, just as practical as the other twothe pleasure derived from mere knowledge, without any view to our own bodily enjoyments: and this applies to all classes, the idle as well as the industrious; if, indeed, it be not peculiarly applicable to those who enjoy the inestimable blessing of having time at their command. Every man is by nature endowed with the power of gaining knowledge; and the taste for it, the capacity to be pleased with it, forms equally a part of the natural constitution of his mind. It is his own fault, or the fault of his education, if he derives no gratification from it. There is a satisfaction in knowing what others know-in not being more ignorant than those we live with: there is a satisfaction in knowing what others do not know-in being more informed than they are. But this is quite independent of the pure pleasure of knowledge—of gratifying a curiosity implanted in us by Providence, to lead us towards the better understanding of the universe in which our lot is cast, and the nature wherewithal we are clothed. That every man is capable of being delighted with extending his information upon matters of science will be evident from a few plain considerations.
Reflect how many parts of the reading, even of persons ignorant of all sciences, refer to matters wholly unconnected with any interest or advantage to be derived from the knowledge acquired. Every one is amused with reading a story: a romance may divert some, and a fairy tale may entertain others : but no benefit beyond the amusement is derived from this source: the imagination is gratified; and we willingly spend a good deal of time and a little money
in this gratification, rather than in resting after fatigue, or in any other bodily indulgence. So we read a newspaper, without any view to the advantage we are to gain from learning the news, but because it interests and amuses us to know what is passing. One object, no doubt, is to become acquainted with matters relating to the welfare of the country; but we also read the occurrences which do little or not at all regard the public interests, and we take a pleasure in reading them. Accidents, adventures, anecdotes, crimes, and a variety of other things amuse us, independent of the information respecting public affairs, in which we feel interested as citizens of the state, or as members of a particular body. It is of little importance to inquire how and why these things excite our attention, and wherefore the reading about them is a pleasure : the fact is certain ; and it
clearly that there is a positive enjoyment in knowing what we did not know before: and this pleasure is greatly increased when the information is such as excites our surprise, wonder, or admiration. Most persons who take delight in reading tales of ghosts, which they know to be false, and feel all the while to be silly in the extreme, are merely gratified, or rather occupied, with the strong emotions of horror excited by the momentary belief, for it can only last an instant. Such reading is a degrading waste of precious time, and has even a bad effect upon the feelings and the judgment.* But true stories of horrid crimes, as murders, and pitiable misfortunes, as shipwrecks, are not much more instructive. It may be better to read these than to sit yawning and idle-much better than to sit drinking or gaming, which, when carried to the least excess, are crimes in themselves, and the fruitful parents of many more.
But this is nearly as much as can be said for such vain and
. Childrens' Books have, at all times, been made upon the pernicious plan of exciting wonder, generally horror, at whatever risk. The folly and misery occasioned by this error, it would be difficult to estimate. The time may come when it will be felt and understood. At present, the inveterate habits of parents and nurses prevent children from benefitting by the excellent lessons of Mrs. Barbauld and Miss Edgeworth.
unprofitable reading. If it be a pleasure to gratify curiosity, to know what we were ignorant of, to have our feelings of wonder called forth, how pure a delight of this very kind does Natural Science hold out to its Students! Recollect some of the extraordinary discoveries of Mechanical Philosophy. How wonderful are the laws that regulate the motions of fluids! Is there any thing in all the idle books of tales and horrors more truly astonishing than the fact, that a few pounds of water may, by mere pressure, without any machinery-by merely being placed in a particular way, produce an irresistible force? What can be more strange, than that an ounce weight should balance hundreds of pounds, by the intervention of a few bars of thin iron? Observe the extraordinary truths which Optical Science discloses. Can thing surprise us more, than to find that the colour of white is a mixture of all others that red, and blue, and green, and all the rest, merely by being blended in certain proportions, form what we had fancied rather to be no colour at all, than all colours together? Chemistry is not behind in its wonders. That the diamond should be made of the same material with coal; that water should be chiefly composed of an inflammable substance: that acids should be, for the most part, formed of different kinds of
air, and that one of those acids, whose strength can dissolve almost any of the metals, should consist of the self-same ingredients with the common air we breathe; that salts should be of a metallic nature, and composed, in great part, of metals, fluid like quicksilver, but lighter than water, and which, without any heating, take fire upon being exposed to the air, and by burning form the substance so abounding in saltpetre and in the ashes of burnt wood :—these, surely, are things to excite the wonder of any reflecting mind—nay, of any one but little accustomed to reflect. And yet these are trifling when compared to the prodigies which Astronomy opens to our view : the enormous masses of the heavenly bodies; their immense distances; their countless numbers, and their motions, whose swiftness mocks the uttermost efforts of the imagination.
Akin to this pleasure of contemplating new and extraordinary truths, is the gratification of a more learned curiosity, by tracing resemblances and relations between things which, to common apprehension, seem widely different. Mathematical science, to thinking minds, affords this pleasure in a high degree. It is agreeable to know that the three angles of every triangle, whatever be its size, howsoever its sides may