This is a essay book. To get the best out of books, I am convinced that you must begin to love these perennial friends very early in life. It is the only way to know all their 'curves', all those little shadows of expression and small lights. There is a glamour which you never see if you begin to read with a serious intention late in life, when questions of technique and grammar and mere words begin to seem too important. Then you have become too critical to feel through all Fenimore Cooper's verbiage the real lakes and woods, or the wild fervour of romance beneath dear Sir Walter's mat of words. You lose the unreclaimable flavour of books. A friend you may irretrievably lose when you lose a friend—if you are so deadly unfortunate as to lose a friend—for even the memories of him are embittered; but no great author can ever have done anything that will make the book you love less precious to you. The new school of pedagogical thought disapproves, I know, of miscellaneous reading, and no modern moralist will agree with Madame de Sévigné that 'bad books are better than no books at al'; but Madame de Sévigné may have meant books written in a bad style, or feeble books, and not books bad in the moral sense. However, I must confess that when I was young, I read several books which I was told afterward were very bad indeed.