Page:Life of Octavia Hill as told in her letters.djvu/81

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INFLUENCE OF BOOKS

ever seen. I have not seen them since, and am very anxious to hear what they thought of it. It must have been a wonderful event in their lives. They are (as indeed I think we all are) a great deal too much wrapped up in our own affairs; and it must be very much because we know ourselves so much better than others. Therefore I do not fear to give way to what I know is a preference that the children feel for storybooks. They have even expressed it; and I reserve to myself the choice of books.

I would rather that they had a strong sympathy with men than with birds; therefore I would prefer them to read about men, particularly if they will learn to study the characters more than the events. Yet I value all natural history, all science, as bringing them to realities, saving them from dreams and visions. But I would have them to look upon all strong feeling, love, hate, gentleness, reverence, as being as real as stones and trees and stars. They are very suspicious. Now in books there can be no suspicion. All is declared to be good or evil. Deceit may be shown indeed, but devotion is shown also. I would not have them to believe all around them to be what it appears; for it is not so; but I must get them to believe that, in the deep souls of those even who appear the worst, there is a spark of nobleness, which it is in their power to reach, with which they are to claim fellowship, which they are to look upon as the only eternal part of men. It is for this reason that I do not fear, day after day, to read stories to those who are in the midst of hard work, poverty, sickness, hundreds of people, trials, hopes and deaths. Therefore I have asked you for those books, which are among the very few which I would let these dear children read.