If you have not already done so, you may wish to read the
Introduction to Gnomica.
Thursday 19 July 2012
Read gnomica 1-50 here!
“Books are the quietest and most constant of friends;
they are the most accessible and wisest of counselors,
and the most patient of teachers.”
Charles William Eliot (20 Mar 1834 – 22 Aug 1926)
The renowned Eliot, president of Harvard for forty years (1869-1909), was a giant in American education, laying the solid foundation that has made it possible for Harvard to make itself over into the world-class academic institution it today is.
The sentiment Eliot expresses here cannot escape my classical antennae. For, a good two millennia earlier (in 62 BCE, to be exact), Cicero, the great Roman orator and intellectual, made a very similar observation in connection with the literary activity of his Greek friend, the poet Archias. The latter was being defended in his ‘deportation hearing’ for allegedly having illegitimate (Roman) citizenship ‘papers’ [this kind of government preoccupation, then, is obviously not the purview only of then but also of now and our very own ICE’s la migra]:
Nam ceterae neque temporum sunt neque aetatum omnium neque locorum: haec studia adulescentiam alunt, senectutem oblectant, secundas res ornant, adversis perfugium ac solacium praebent, delectant domi, non impediunt foris, pernoctant nobiscum, peregrinantur, rusticantur. 
“Our other pursuits are not for every time nor for every season or place: but interest in literature nurtures our youth, delights our old age, enhances our successes and offers a consoling refuge against our failures, gives pleasure at home, does not interfere with our public life, stays through the night with us, travels along with us at home and abroad.”
I really don’t think I could have said it better, nor, I believe, did Mr. Eliot. Nor, further, do I believe that I can add much more of significance to the sentiment that both gentlemen, in their different ways, so eloquently express – and with which I have to agree.