Lectures on the Art of Reading

Against Knowledge I have, as the light cynic observed of a certain lady’s past, only one serious objection—that there is so much of it.
From 'On the Art of Reading'

Q delivered this collection of twelve lectures at Cambridge University between October 1916 and November 1918, five days before the end of the First World War.

The lectures covered the following topics:

I Introductory

II Apprehension versus Comrehension

III Children’s Reading (I)

IV Children’s Reading (II)

V On Reading for Examinations

VI On a School of English

VII On Reading the Bible (I)

VIII On Reading the Bible (II)

IX On Reading the Bible (III)

X On Reading the Bible (III)

XI Of Selection

XII On the Use of Masterpieces


As well as being a professor at Cambridge, Q was also involved at the other end of the education system, as a member of the Cornwall Educational Committee with special responsibility for school inspections. During the period when he delivered these lectures he was fighting to set up an English Tripos at Cambridge. He was also involved with reforms to elementary education that promised to widen access to all children. These lectures tell us a great deal about Q’s ideas on education, literature, reading and child development. They also reflect his fears for the future of liberal democracy.

In the lectures Q argued for the importance of a liberal education system, with great literature at its centre. Only this could bring balance and perspective, he believed. And without this balance, a country could descend into militarism and tyranny.

Q put children at the heart of education. He was convinced that they were naturally curious, with an inbuilt desire to observe, experiment and explore. Rote learning and cramming for exams could only produce dogmatic and uncritical minds.

You can read a longer study on the lectures here.

If you would like to read the lectures for yourself, they are available here.