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قراءة كتاب American Sketches

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‏اللغة: English
American Sketches

American Sketches

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دار النشر: Project Gutenberg
الصفحة رقم: 7

air. His words were the words of a yearning spirit. His tone was the tone of a statistician. Had he really read the books of which he spoke? Did they really "help" him in the making of money, which was the purpose of his life, or did they minister to a mind diseased? I do not know. But I do know that there was a kind of pathos in his cold anxiety. Plainly he was a man of quick perception and alert intelligence. And he seemed to have wasted a vast amount of time in acquiring a jargon which certainly was not his own, and in attaching to books a meaning and purpose which they have never possessed.

Such are two widely different products of the lecture hall, and it is impossible not to see that, widely as their temperaments differ, they have been pushed through the same mill. And thus we arrive at the worst vice of enforced culture. Culture is, like the overhead railroad, a mere saviour of time. It is the tramway of knowledge which compels all men to travel by the same car, whatever may be their ultimate destination. It possesses all the inconvenience of pleasures taken or duties performed in common. The knowledge which is sincere and valuable must be acquired by each man separately; it must correspond to the character and disposition of him who acquires it, or it is a thin disguise of vanity and idleness. To what, then, may we attribute this passion for the lecture hall? Perhaps it is partly due to the provincialism characteristic of America, and partly to an invincible energy, which quickens the popular ambition and urges men to acquire information as they acquire wealth, by the shortest route, and with the smallest exertion.

Above all, culture is the craving of an experimental age, and America no doubt will outgrow it domination. Even now Boston, its earliest slave, is shaking off the yoke; and it is taking refuge in the more modern cities of the West. Chicago is, I believe, its newest and vastest empire. There, where all is odd, it is well to be thought a "thinker." There, we are told, the elect believe it their duty "to reach and stimulate others." But wherever culture is found Strange things are done in its name, and the time may come when by the light of Chicago's brighter lamp Boston may seem to dwell in the outer darkness.