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From The Chairman Smiles)
Interested readers -- perhaps, that is, too interested readers? -- might find useful cautions in an essay by Roy Porter, entitled "Reading is Bad for Your Health".
From Samuel Johnson, "Preface [to his edition of Shakespeare] 1765," in Johnson on Shakespeare, ed. Arthur Sherbo, The Yale Edition of the Works of Samuel Johnson (1968; rpt. New Haven: Yale University Press, 1975):It is not easy to discover from what cause the acrimony of a scholiast can naturally proceed. The subjects to be discussed by him are of very small importance; they involve neither property nor liberty; nor favour the interest of sect or party. The various readings of copies, and different interpretations of a passage, seem to be questions that might exercise the wit, without engaging the passions. But, whether it be, that "small things make mean men proud," and vanity catches small occasions; or that all contrariety of opinion, even in those that can defend it no longer, makes proud men angry; there is often found in commentaries a spontaneous strain of invective and contempt, more eager and venomous than is vented by the most furious contravertist in politicks against those whom he is hired to defame.
Perhaps the lightness of the matter may conduce to the vehemency of the agency; when the truth to be investigated is so near to inexistence, as to escape attention, its bulk is to be enlarged by rage and exclamation: That to which all would be indifferent in its original state, may attract notice when the fate of a name is appended to it. A commentator has indeed great temptations to supply by turbulence what he wants of dignity, to beat his little gold to a spacious surface, to work that to foam which no art or dilligence can exalt to spirit.
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