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Wisdom of Washington Irving

I rescued Washington Irving’s collection of short stories, originally titled The Sketch Book, from the risky fate of our library’s Christmas book sale because it included “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow” and it was pretty with gold script on its leather binding. I also thought it would be a good pick for my weekly gig at the nursing home where I read to residents for an hour or so before dinner. It fit my two basic criteria: short enough to finish in the allotted time and nothing involving modern technology, which is lost on my listeners.

As I read aloud to my audience—some listening intently, some falling asleep—I found inspiration and thoughtful observations over and over again. I discretely dog-eared certain pages that rung true for me, so I could return to them later. This week, I had a chance to revisit them and they were just as wonderful as I remembered them. I’ve decided to share a couple of them here.

From “Roscoe”:

[On the invaluable importance of books.]

“The scholar only knows how dear these silent, yet eloquent, companions of pure thoughts and innocent hours become in the seasons of adversity. When all that is worldly turns to dross around us, these only retain their steady value. When friends grow cold, and the converse of intimates languishes into vapid civility and commonplace, these only continue the unaltered countenance of happier days, and cheer us with that true friendship which never deceived hope, nor deserted sorrow.”

“Even that amiable and unostentatious simplicity of character which gives the nameless grace to real excellence, may cause him to be undervalued by some coarse minds, who do not know that true worth is always void of glare and pretention.”

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