The reason that fiction is more interesting than any other form of literature, to those who really like to study people, is that in fiction the author can really tell the truth without humiliating himself.
In the dark colony of night, when I consider man's magnificent capacity for malice, madness, folly, envy, rage, and destructiveness, and I wonder whether we shall not end up as breakfast for newts and polyps, I seem to hear the muffled cries of all the words in all the books with covers closed.
The real risks for any artist are taken in pushing the work to the limits of what is possible, in the attempt to increase the sum of what it is possible to think. Books become good when they go to this edge and risk falling over it --when they endanger the artist by reason of what he has, or has not, artistically dared.
To use books rightly, is to go to them for help; to appeal to them when our own knowledge and power fail; to be led by them into wider sight and purer conception than our own, and to receive from them the united sentence of the judges and councils of all time, against our solitary and unstable opinions.
Without books the development of civilization would have been impossible. They are the engines of change, windows on the world, Lighthouses as the poet said erected in the sea of time. They are companions, teachers, magicians, bankers of the treasures of the mind, Books are humanity in print.
Here, my dear Lucy, hide these books. Quick, quick! Fling Peregrine Pickle under the toilette --throw Roderick Random into the closet --put The Innocent Adultery into The Whole Duty of Man; thrust Lord Aimworth under the sofa! cram Ovid behind the bolster; there --put The Man of Feeling into your pocket. Now for them.
A book is like a man -- clever and dull, brave and cowardly, beautiful and ugly. For every flowering thought there will be a page like a wet and mangy mongrel, and for every looping flight a tap on the wing and a reminder that wax cannot hold the feathers firm too near the sun.
Digressions, incontestably, are the sunshine; they are the life, the soul of reading! Take them out of this book, for instance, --you might as well take the book along with them; --one cold external winter would reign in every page of it; restore them to the writer; --he steps forth like a bridegroom, --bids All-hail; brings in variety, and forbids the appetite to fail.