Don’t Read Trash! Advice for Students (Back to School Week)

Leonardo Bruni de Studiis et Litteris 5

“But believe me, our own study overcomes and conquers everything, for it opens up and displays to us not only words and syllables, but also tropes, figures, and every fine ornament and beauty of speech. We are shaped and established by this study; through it, we then learn many things which can scarcely be taught by a teacher, such as melody, elegance, harmony, and charm. The head of this study will be first to see to it that we involve ourselves in the reading of only those books which were written by the best and most approved authors of the Latin language; but we must also be wary to avoid those which are written unskillfully and inelegantly, as they would be a certain calamity and blot upon our intellect. The reading of rude and unpolished writers attaches to the reader their faults and degrades his mind with a similar illness. It is like a pabulum for the soul, by which the mind is formed and nourished. For this very reason, those who are concerned for their stomach do not pour any food into it indiscriminately; so too, the reader who wishes to preserve the integrity of the mind will not permit himself to read everything indiscriminately.”

Caravaggio, “Saint Jerome Reading”

Sed omnia (mihi crede) superat ac vincit diligentia nostra. Haec enim non verba solum et syllabas, sed tropos et figuras et omnem ornatum pulchritudinemque orationis aperit nobis atque ostendit. Ab hac informamur ac velut instituimur, denique per hanc multa discimus, quae doceri a praceptore vix possunt: sonum, elegantiam, concinnitatem, venustatem. Caput vero huius diligentiae fuerit videre primum, ut in eorum tantum librorum, qui ab optimis probatissimisque latinae linguae auctoribus scripti sunt, lectione versemur, ab imperite vero ineleganterque scriptis ita caveamus, quasi a calamitate quadam et labe ingenii nostri. Inquinate enim inepteque scriptorum lectio vitia sua lectori affigit et mentem simili coinquinat tabe. Est enim veluti pabulum animi, quo mens imbuitur atque nutritur. Quam ob rem, qui stomachi curam habent, non quemvis cibum illi infundunt; ita, qui sinceritatem animi conservare volet, non quamvis illi lectionem permittet.

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