Heroes And Hero-worship "The True University Of These Days Is A Collection Of Books"

Thomas Carlyle

"The True University Of These Days Is A Collection Of Books"

(Magill's Quotations in Context)

Context: Prophets and poets were the heroes of the past, but the "hero as Man of Letters . . . is altogether a product of these new ages," and he is "our most important modern person." Carlyle explores the careers of three of these modern heroes–Johnson, Rousseau, and Burns. Unlike the gloriously victorious Goethe, these three "were not heroic bringers of the light, but heroic seekers of it." The writer is a preacher, a prophet; and his books speak "to all men in all times and places." "Books are now our actual University, our Church, our Parliament." The first universities had no books, but the invention of printing revolutionized education:

. . . If we think of it, all that a university, or final highest school can do for us, is still but what the first school began doing,–teach us to read. We learn to read, in various languages, in various sciences; we learn the alphabet and letters of all manner of books. But the place where we are to get knowledge, even theoretic knowledge, is the books themselves! It depends on what we read, after all manner of professors have done their best for us. The true university of these days is a collection of books.