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The Intellectual Life Hardcover – March, 1981
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Hamerton presents his thesis and personal concern using many short stories about the experience of his friends, acquaintances, and his own life. These individuals had very different beginnings in life yet found themselves on similar trajectories. Many if not most of us might (have) find this book life-changing if read seriously while young. However it is edifying at any age. Hamerton gently reminds us throughout life is short and smart people amidst their dreams often overestimate what they can do in a lifetime. Hence they often make a mess in subsequent shortfalls. As a good example of someone avoiding this consequence of haste in living thoughtfully, Hamerton recounts the wisdom of his father's approach to life.
As he used the male pronoun Hamerton throughout, note he writes for both genders (if you read carefully) explaining British culture (~1873) did not recognize female intellectualism. Hence few young women were able to get support for such an orientation. Hamerton clearly observes there was no reason why women could not seek development of a higher intellect. Several of his stories were about young women.
On the topic of the welfare of unmarried men, who as men found it easier to develop as intellectuals in 1873 circa Britain, he laments their frustration with finding suitable marriage prospects. These few women would understand and accept their husbands' psychology and be undaunted by their often uncommon personalities. He notes the unliklihood of this type of match might lead to poor alternative choices. Happily for Hamerton he did find just the right woman although late in life.
The type font chosen for this publishing, perhaps for economy, has a very thin letter style (ie font weight) and for me is somewhat harder to read. Otherwise this soft cover version is well-made. There are the online versions however as a bookshelf destined gift this book is a classic. There are more recent hardcover reprints. Thus the paperback is a bargain. Otherwise it will be rare book prices for the 1873 printing. Beware there is another book of very similar title but different author. My five star rating is for the original literary work and does not reflect the quality of this particular publication.
It points out that intellectual work requires asceticism and this is quite true in my experience. Many hours must be spent in study and at the lab bench or computer. While interaction with other scholars is part of the reward, one cannot contribute without the solitary hours of reading and writing.
The book is somewhat repetitious and, like most French philosophy, highly abstract. Yet it is the only source I have found that addresses the life of the mind so completely.
Highly recommended both for those beginning a life of scholarship and for acccomplished scholars who want to reflect on their lives.