The New Zealand Evangelist
But is it not necessary to read novels, especially those whose design it is to amuse and awaken the interest of the reader? There is no more necessity than there is to be acquainted with all the variety of dishes with which the palate may be pleased, and the body stimulated, and the stomach weakened. Were these the only books in the world the case would be different. But who does not know that those who are given to reading works of fiction leave a mass of most valuable and solid reading untouched and unknown? When you have read and digested all that is really valuable, and which is comprised in what describes the history of man in all the lights in which he has actually been placed, then betake yourselves to works of imagination. But can you not, in works of fiction, have the powers of the imagination enlarged, and the mind taught to soar? Perhaps so. But the lectures of Chalmers on Astronomy will do this to a degree far beyond all that the pen of fiction can do. Will they not give you a command of words and language which will be full, and chaste, and strong? Perhaps so. But if that is what you wish read the works of Edmund Burke; there you will find language vigorous at times, but, for expressiveness and wealth hardly to be equalled by any uninspired pen. He is a master on this subject; and I hope no one who intends to strike for a character for language or thought, strength or beauty, will ever be trying to clothe himself with the puissance of a novel, when he can boast the language of Burke as his mother tongue.
The question in regard to works of fiction usually has a definite relation to the works of Sir Walter Scott. There is such a magic thrown around him page 411 that it cannot be but we are safe there. Is it so? Because the magician can raise mightier spirits than other magicians, and throw more of supernatural light about him than others, is he the less therefore to be feared? No! the very strength of the spell should warn you that there is danger in putting yourself in his power. While I have confessed that I have read him—read him entire—in order to show that I speak from experience, I cannot but say, that it would give me the keenest pain to believe that my example would be quoted, small as is its influence, after I am in my grave, without this solemn protest accompanying it·