Reading about books rather than reading the books

Who now reads the ancient writers? Who systematically reads the great writers, be they ancient or modern, whom the consent of ages has marked out as classics- typical, immortal, peculiar teachers of our race? Alas! the Paradise Lost is lost again to us beneath an inundation of graceful academic verse, sugary stanzas of ladylike prettiness, and ceaseless explanations in more or less readable prose of what John Milton meant or did not mea,n or what he saw or did not see, who married his great aun,t and why Adam or Satan is like that, or unlike the other. We read a perfect library about the Paradise Lost, but the Paradise Lost itself we do not read.

~Frederic Harrison, Choice of Books

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