The Spectator "Books Are The Legacies That A Great Genius Leaves To Mankind"

Joseph Addison, Richard Steele

"Books Are The Legacies That A Great Genius Leaves To Mankind"

(Magill's Quotations in Context)

Context: The Spectator, a periodical issued by Joseph Addison and his friend and classmate Richard Steele, amused and enlightened the English public by telling, among other matters, of the conversation of a small club meeting at a coffee house. The members of the club included a country gentleman, Sir Roger de Coverley, the author, known as Mr. Spectator, and several other members representative of the general populace. In issue Number 166, Addison discusses the concept of Aristotle that the world is a transcript of the mind of the first being and that the ideas of men are transcripts of the world. Following this logic, says Addison, books are the legacies left by geniuses to mankind:

There is no other method of fixing those thoughts which arise and disappear in the mind of man, and transmitting them to the last periods of time; no other method of giving a permanency to our ideas, and preserving the knowledge of any particular person, when his body is mixed with the common mass of matter, and his soul retired into the world of spirits. Books are the legacies that a great genius leaves to mankind, which are delivered down from generation to generation, as presents to the posterity of those who are yet unborn.