Great art is worth nothing if it teaches us nothing.

Unless it makes us wiser and kinder people, there is no more merit in studying, or being able to recite passages from, Hamlet or the Pilgrim’s progress or The Prelude, than there is in knowing a handful of nursery rhymes by heart.

Not so much, in fact. Children – and many adults – far prefer “Humpty Dumpty sat on a wall”.

Literature is, or should be, the great instructor and humaniser of man, and if we do not recognise or acknowledge it in this, it’s supreme and unique role, we immediately relegate it to the level of the crossword or jigsaw puzzle, which are merely entertaining amusements which help to break the back of boredom.

Erudition and scholarship too, however rarified, are only means to an end, and are of themselves worth little. They are merely candles which light the…

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