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Importance of Practice

Now everything that happens can be definitely imparted by means of this invention; but the number of torches employed is large, because each letter has to be indicated by two series of them: still, if proper preparations are made, the thing can be adequately carried out. But whichever method is employed, those who use it must practise beforehand, in order that when the actual occasion for putting it in use arises they may be able to give each other the information without any hitch. For there are plenty of instances to show what a wide difference there is between the way an operation is carried out by men who hear of it for the first time, and by men who have become habituated to it. Many things which were considered not only difficult, but impossible at first, are, after an interval of time and practice, performed with the greatest ease. I could give many illustrations of the truth of this remark, but the clearest may be found in the art of reading. Put side by side a man who has never learnt his letters, though otherwise acute, and a child who has acquired the habit, and give the latter a book, and bid him read it: the former will clearly not be induced to believe that the reader has first to attend to the look of each of the letters, secondly to their sound-value, and thirdly to their combinations with others, each of which operation requires a certain time. Therefore when he sees the boy, without a pause for thought, reading off seven or five lines at a breath, he will not easily be induced to believe that he has not read the book before; and certainly not, if he is able also to observe the appropriate enunciation, the proper separations of the words, and the correct use of the rough and smooth breathings. The moral is, not to give up any useful accomplishment on account of its apparent difficulties, but to persevere till it becomes a matter of habit, which is the way mankind have obtained all good things. And especially is this right when the matters in question are such as are often of decisive importance to our safety.

I was led to say this much in connexion with my former assertion that "all the arts had made such progress in our age that most of them were reduced in a manner to exact sciences." And therefore this too is a point in which history properly written is of the highest utility. . . .

Antiochus in Parthia, B.C. 209-5. See ch. 31.

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