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This classic exploration of the intellectual life has fully retained its unique value since initial publication in 1904, and is a valuable addition to any discerning reader's collection.

No subsequent work fully compares to this rare mixture of personal insight, ethics, taste, psychology, and common sense. Philip Gilbert Hamerton bestowed upon it his long experience as a writer and artist, his enviable breadth of knowledge, and his elegance of literary style. The result is a remarkable work, expressing intimately the mind and personality of the author, yet universal in its application to all those with a love of intellectual pursuits. The publisher takes a great deal of pleasure in offering this work to the public.

The author consistently rejects simple, dogmatic views, encouraging balance and moderation. He writes, "We need society, and we need solitude also, as we need summer and winter, exercise and rest." There is criticism of both aristocracy and democracy: culture leads one away from class concerns, but one must equally beware the democrat's intolerant tendency to degrade all to the least common denominator.

The book is organized as a series of letters addressed to individuals in a variety of situations. This permits a balanced and insightful work.

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