PEOPLE are very much devoted to the sciences here, but I question if they are very learned. He who, as a philosopher, doubts of all, dare deny nothing as a theologian: the inconsistent man is always well pleased with himself provided you agree with him.
There never was such an erroneous idea: it seems to be a wise provision of nature that the follies of men should be short lived; but books interfere and immortalize them. A fool, not content with having bored all those who have lived with him, insists on tormenting generations to come; he would have his folly triumph over oblivion, which should have been as welcome to him as death; he wishes posterity to be informed of his existence, and he would have it remember forever that he was fool.
Of all authors, there are none whom I despise more than compilers. They crowd from all quarters to pick up the shreds of other mens works; these they fit into their own, as one would patch the turf of a lawn: they are not one whit superior to the compositor, whose typesetting may be called bookmaking if manual labor is all. I would have original books respected; and it seems to me a species of profanation, to take from them the matter of which they are composed, as if from a sanctuary, and exposed it to an undeserved contempt.
When a man has nothing new to say, why cant he be quiet? Why should one be troubled with these useless repetitions? But I will give you a new illustration. You are a man of ability! You come into my library; and you shift the books from the lower shelves to the upper ones, and from the upper to the lower: you have produced a masterpiece!
I write you, , because I am exasperated with a book which I have just laid downa book so big that it seems to contain all science: but it has only split my head without putting anything into it. Farewell.