profitably help ourselves to the judgments of the great critics
—Dryden, Johnson, and the rest. It is when we can best
defend our own opinions that we get most from theirs.

So, then—to sum up the different points we have reached
in this essay—have we found any answer to our question,
how should we read a book? Clearly, no answer that will do
for everyone; but perhaps a few suggestions. In the first
place, a good reader will give the writer the benefit of every
doubt; the help of all his imagination; will follow as closely,
interpret as intelligently as he can. In the next place, he will
judge with the utmost severity. Every book, he will remem-
ber, has the right to be judged by the best of its kind. He
will be adventurous, broad in his choice, true to his own
instincts, yet ready to consider those of other people. This
is an outline which can be filled in at taste and at leisure, but
to read something after this fashion is to be a reader whom
writers respect. It is by the means of such readers that
masterpieces are helped into the world.

If the moralists ask us how we can justify our love of read-
ing, we can make use of some such excuse as this. But if we
are honest, we know that no such excuse is needed. It is true
that we get nothing whatsoever except pleasure from read-
ing; it is true that the wisest of us is unable to say what
that pleasure may be. But that pleasure—mysterious, un-
known, useless as it is—is enough. That pleasure is so
curious, so complex, so immensely fertilizing to the mind
of anyone who enjoys it, and so wide in its effects, that it
would not be in the least surprising to discover, on the day
of judgment when secrets are revealed and the obscure is
made plain, that the reason why we have grown from pigs to
men and women, and come out from our caves, and dropped
our bows and arrows, and sat round the fire and talked and
drunk and made merry and given to the poor and helped
the sick and made pavements and houses and erected some
sort of shelter and society on the waste of the world, is
nothing but this: we have loved reading.