3 September 2013

A Splendid Stroke of Time-Thrift

Philip Gilbert Hamerton, The Intellectual Life (London: Macmillan, 1887), pp. 372-373:
Your abstinence from newspaper reading is not a new experiment in itself, though it is new in reference to your particular case, and I await its effects with interest. I shall be curious to observe the consequences, to an intellect constituted as yours is, of that total cutting off from the public interests of your own century which an abstinence from newspapers implies. It is clear that, whatever the loss may be, you have a definite gain to set against it. The time which you have hitherto given to newspapers, and which may be roughly estimated at about five hundred hours a year, is henceforth a valuable time-income to be applied to whatever purposes your best wisdom may select. When an intellectual person has contrived by the force of one simple resolution to effect so fine an economy as this, it is natural that he should congratulate himself. Your feelings must be like those of an able finance minister who has found means of closing a great leak in the treasury — if any economy possible in the finances of a State could ever relatively equal that splendid stroke of time-thrift which your force of will has enabled you to effect. In those five hundred hours, which are now your own, you may acquire a science or obtain a more perfect command over one of the languages which you have studied. Some department of your intellectual labours which has hitherto been unsatisfactory to you, because it was too imperfectly cultivated, may henceforth be as orderly and as fruitful as a well-kept garden. You may become thoroughly conversant with the works of more than one great author whom you have neglected, not from lack of interest, but from want of time. You may open some old chamber of the memory that has been dark and disused for many a year; you may clear the cobwebs away, and let the fresh light in, and make it habitable once again.
(I quote Hamerton out of context. He concludes that someone who abandons newspapers loses more than he gains.)