Sunday 24 September 2023

Reading Old Books

Thomas Love Peacock (1785-1866) on reading old poetry:

There are more good poems already existing than are sufficient to employ that portion of life which any mere reader and recipient of poetical impressions should devote to them, and these having been produced in poetical times, are far superior in all the characteristics of poetry to the artificial reconstructions of a few morbid ascetics in unpoetical times. To read the promiscuous rubbish of the present time to the exclusion of the select treasures of the past, is to substitute the worse for the better variety of the same mode of enjoyment.

Lafcadio Hearn (1850-1904):

Whenever you hear of a new book being published, read an old one.

‘Shelley’s Defence of Poetry’ Peacock’s Four ages of poetry; Shelley’s Defence of poetry; Browning’s Essay on Shelley, ed. by H.F.B. Brett-Smith (Oxford: Basil Blackwell, 1923), pp. 1-19  (p. 17).

 ‘On Reading’, in Talks to Writers (New York: Dodd, Mead and Company, 1920), pp. 185-214 (p. 214).