Εικόνες σελίδας
Ηλεκτρ. έκδοση

of any of the others) is contained in the following passage: "You Wine and Beer, are fain to take up a corner any where-your ambition goes no farther than a cellar; the whole house where I am goes by my name, and is called Ale-house. Who ever heard of a Wine-house, or a Beer-house? My name, too, is of a stately etymology-you must bring forth your Latin. Ale, so please you, from alo, which signifieth nourish-I am the choicest and most luscious of potables." Wine, Beer, and Ale at last compose their differences, each having a certain dominion assigned to him, and join in singing these verses.


I generous Wine am for the court,

[blocks in formation]


To mind the inside of a book, is to entertain one's self with the forced product of another man's brain. Now I think a man of quality and breeding may be much amused with the natural sprouts of his own.

AN ingenious acquaintance of my own was so much struck with this bright sally of his Lordship, that he has left off reading altogether, to the great improvement of his originality, At the hazard of losing some credit on this head, I must confess that I dedicate no inconsiderable portion of my time to other people's thoughts. I dream away my life in others' speculations. I love to lose myself in other men's minds. When I am not walking, I am reading; I cannot sit and think. Books think for me.

I have no repugnances. Shaftsbury is not too genteel for me, nor Jonathan Wild too low. I can read any thing which I call a book. There are things in that shape which I cannot allow for such.

In this catalogue of books which are no books-biblia a-biblia-I reckon Court Calendars, Directories, Pocket Books (the Literary excepted), Draught Boards bound and lettered at the back, Scientific Treatises, Almanacks, Statutes at Large; the works of Hume, Gibbon, Robertson, Beattie, Soame Jenyns, and, generally, all those volumes which "no gentleman's library should be without;" the Histories of Flavius Jose

Lord Foppington in the Relapse.

phus (that learned Jew), and Paley's Moral Philosophy. With these exceptions, I can read almost any thing. I bless my stars for a taste so catholic, so unexcluding.

I confess that it moves my spleen to see these things in books' clothing perched upon shelves, like false saints, usurpers of true shrines, intruders into the sanctuary, thrusting out the legitimate occupants. To reach down a well-bound semblance of a volume, and hope it some kindhearted play-book, then, opening what "seem its leaves," to come bolt upon a withering Population Essay. To expect a Steele, or a Farquhar, and find-Adam Smith. To view a well-arranged assortment of blockheaded Encyclopædias (Anglicanas or Metropolitanas) set out in an array of Russia, or Morocco, when a tythe of that good leather would comfortably re-clothe my shivering folios; would renovate Paracelsus himself, and enable old Raymund Lully-I have them both, reader-to look like himself again in the world. I never see these impostors, but I long to strip them, to warm my ragged veterans in their spoils.


To be strong-backed and neatbound is the desideratum of a volume. Magnificence comes after. This, when it can be afforded, is not to be lavished upon all kinds of books indiscriminately. I would not dress a set of Magazines, for instance, in full suit. The dishabille, or halfbinding (with Russia backs ever), is our costume. A Shakspeare, or a Milton (unless the first editions), it were mere foppery to trick out in gay apparel. The possession of them confers no distinction. The exterior of them (the things themselves being so common), strange to say, raises no sweet emotions, no tickling sense of Thomson's property in the owner. Seasons, again, looks best (I maintain it) a little torn, and dog's-eared. How beautiful to a genuine lover of reading are the sullied leaves, and worn out appearance, nay, the very odour (beyond Russia), if we would not forget kind feelings in fastidious"Circulating Liness, of an old or Vicar of brary Tom Jones, Wakefield! How they speak of the thousand thumbs, which have turned over their pages with delight!-of the lone sempstress, whom they may have cheered (milliner, or harderworking mantua-maker) after her long day's needle-toil, running far into midnight, when she has snatched an hour, ill spared from sleep, to steep her cares, as in some Lethean cup, in spelling out their enchanting contents! Who would have them a whit less soiled? What better condition could we desire to see them in?

[ocr errors]

In some respects the better a book
is, the less it demands from binding.
Fielding, Smollet, Sterne, and all
that class of perpetually self-repro-
ductive volumes Great Nature's
see them indivi-
Stereotypes we
dually perish with less regret, be-
cause we know the copies of them
to be "eterne." But where a book
is at once both good and rare-where
the individual is almost the species,
and when that perishes,

We know not where is that Promethean


That can its light relumine

such a book, for instance, as the Life
of the Duke of Newcastle, by his
Duchess-no casket is rich enough,
no casing sufficiently durable, to ho-
nour and keep safe such a jewel.

Not only rare volumes of this description, which seem hopeless ever to be reprinted; but old editions of writers, such as Sir Philip Sidney, Bishop Taylor, Milton in his proseworks, Fuller-of whom we have reprints; yet the books themselves, though they go about, and are talked of here and there, we know, have not endenizened themselves (nor possibly ever will) in the national heart, so as to become stock booksit is good to possess these in durable and costly covers.-I do not care for a First Folio of Shakspeare. You cannot make a pet book of an author whom every body reads. I rather prefer the common editions of Rowe and Tonson, without notes, and with plates, which, being so execrably bad, serve as maps, or modest remembrancers, to the text; and without pretending to any supposeable emulation with it, are so much better than the Shakspeare gallery engravings, which did. I have a community of feeling with my countrymen about his Plays; and I like those editions of him best, which have been oftenest tumbled about and handled. -On the contrary, I cannot read Beaumont and Fletcher but in Folio. The Octavo editions are painful to I have no sympathy with look at. them, nor with Mr. Gifford's Ben Jonson. If they were as much read as the current editions of the other poet, I should prefer them in that shape to the older one.-I do not know a more heartless sight than the reprint of the Anatomy of Melancholy. What need was there of unearthing the bones of that fantastic old great man, to expose them in a windingsheet of the latest edition to modern censure? what hapless stationer could dream of Burton ever becoming popular?-The wretched Malone could not do worse, when he bribed the sexton of Stratford church to let him white-wash the painted effigy of old Shakspeare, which stood there, in rude but lively fashion depicted, to the very colour of the cheek, the eye, the eye-brow, hair, the very dress he used to wear-the only authentic testimony we had, however imperfect, of these curious parts and parcels of him. They covered him over with a coat of white paint. Byif I had been a justice of peace Warwickshire, I would have clapt


both commentator and sexton fast in the stocks for a pair of meddling sacrilegious varlets.

I think I see them at their workthese sapient trouble-tombs.

Shall I be thought fantastical, if I confess, that the names of some of our poets sound sweeter, and have a finer relish to the ear-to mine, at least-than that of Milton or of Shakspeare? It may be, that the latter are more staled and rung upon in common discourse. The sweetest names, and which carry a perfume in the mention, are, Kit Marlowe, Drayton, Drummond of Hawthorn den, and Cowley.

Much depends upon when and where you read a book. In the five or six impatient minutes, before the dinner is quite ready, who would think of taking up the Fairy Queen for a stop-gap, or a volume of Bishop Andrewes' sermons?

Milton almost requires a solemn service of music to be played, before you enter upon him. But he brings his music to which, who listens, had need bring docile thoughts and purged ears.

Winter evenings-the world shut out-with less of ceremony the gentle Shakspeare enters. At such a season, the Tempest-or his own Winter's Tale

These two poets you cannot avoid reading aloud-to yourself, or (as it chances) to some single person listening. More than one-and it degenerates into an audience.

Books of quick interest, that hurry on for incidents, are for the eye to glide over solely. It will not do to read them out. I could never listen to even the better kind of modern novels without extreme irksomeness.

A newspaper, read out, is intolerable. In some of the Bank offices it is the custom (to save so much individual time) for one of the clerks who is the best scholar-to commence upon the Times, or the Chronicle, and recite its entire contents aloud pro bono publico. With every advantage of lungs and elocution the effect is singularly vapid.-In barbers' shops, and public-houses, a fellow will get up, and spell out a paragraph, which he communicates as some discovery. Another follows with his selection. So the entire journal transpires at length by piece-meal,

Seldom-readers are slow readers, and, without this expedient no one in the company would probably ever travel through the contents of a whole paper.

Newspapers always excite curiosity. No one ever lays one down without a feeling of disappointment.

What an eternal time that gentleman in black, at Nando's, keeps the paper! I am sick of hearing the waiter bawling out incessantly, "the Chronicle is in hand, Sir."

As in these little Diurnals I generally skip the Foreign News--the Debates-and the Politics-I find the Morning Herald by far the most entertaining of them. It is an agreeable miscellany, rather than a newspaper.

Coming in to an inn at nighthaving ordered your supper-what can be more delightful than to find lying in the window-seat, left there time out of mind by the carelessness of some former guest-two or three numbers of the old Town and Country Magazine, with its amusing têtea-tête pictures.-" The Royal Lover and Lady G-;" "the Melting Platonic and the old Beau,"-and such like antiquated scandal? Would you exchange it—at that time, and in that place for a better book?

Poor Tobin, who latterly fell blind, did not regret it so much for the weightier kinds of reading-the Paradise Lost, or Comus, he could have read to him-but he missed the pleasure of skimming over with his own eye-a magazine, or a light pamphlet.

I should not care to be caught in the serious avenues of some cathedral alone, and reading-Candide!

I do not remember a more whimsical surprise than having been once detected-by a familiar damsel-reclined at my ease upon the grass, on Primrose Hill (her Cythera), reading

Pamela. There was nothing in the book to make a man seriously ashamed at the exposure; but, as she seated herself down by me, and seemed determined to read in company, I could have wished it had been-any other book.-We read on very sociably for a few pages; and, not finding the author much to her taste, she got up, and-went away. Gentle casuist, I leave it to thee to conjecture, whether the blush (for


there was one between us) was the property of the nymph, or the swain, in this dilemma. From me you shall never get the secret.

I am not much a friend to out-ofdoors reading. I cannot settle my spirits to it. I knew a Unitarian minister, who was generally to be seen upon Snow-hill (as yet Skinner's-street was not), between the hours of ten and eleven in the morning, studying a volume of Lardner. I own this to have been a strain of abstraction beyond my reach. I used to admire how he sidled along, keeping clear of secular contacts. An illiterate encounter with a porter's knot, or a bread-basket, would have quickly put to flight all the theology I am master of, and have left me worse than indifferent to the five points.


I was once amused-there is a pleasure in affecting affectation-at the indignation of a crowd that was justling in with me at the pit door of Covent Garden theatre, to have a sight of Master Betty-then at once in his dawn and his meridian-in Hamlet. I had been invited quite unexpectedly to join a party, whom I met near the door of the playhouse, and I happened to have in my hand a large octavo of Johnson and Steevens's Shakspeare, which, the time not admitting of my carrying it home, of course went with me to the theatre. Just in the very heat and pressure of the doors opening-the rush, as they term it-I deliberately held the volume over my head, open at the scene in which the young scious had been most cried up, and quietly read by the lamp-light. The "The clamour became universal. affectation of the fellow," cried one. "Look at that gentleman reading, papa," squeaked a young lady, who in her admiration of the novelty almost forgot her fears. I read on. "He ought to have his book knocked out of his hand," exclaimed a pursy cit, whose arms were too fast pinioned to his side to suffer him to execute his kind intention. Still I read on-and, till the time came to pay my money, kept as unmoved, as Saint Antony at his Holy Offices, with the satyrs, apes, and hobgoblins, mopping, and making mouths at him, in the picture, while the good man sits as undisturbed at the sight,

as if he were sole tenant of the desart.-The individual rabble (I recognized more than one of their ugly faces) had damned a slight piece of mine but a few nights before, and I was determined the culprits should not a second time put me out of countenance.

There is a class of street-readers, whom I can never contemplate without affection—the poor gentry, who, not having wherewithal to buy, or hire, a book, filch a little learning at the open stalls-the owner, with his hard eye, casting envious looks at them all the while, and thinking when they will have done. Venturing tenderly, page after page, expecting every moment when he shall interpose his interdict, and yet unable to deny themselves the gratification, they "snatch a fearful joy." Martin B—, in this way, by daily fragments, got through two volumes of Clarissa, when the stall-keeper damped his laudable ambition, by asking him (it was in his younger days) whether he meant to purchase the work. declares, that under no circumstances of his life did he ever peruse a book with half the satisfaction which he took in those uneasy snatches. quaint poetess of our day has moralized upon this subject in two very touching but homely stanzas.





saw a boy with eager eye
Open a book upon a stall,
And read, as he'd devour it all;
Which when the stall-man did espy,
Soon to the boy I heard him call,
"You, Sir, you never buy a book,
Therefore in one you shall not look."
The boy pass'd slowly on, and with a sigh
He wish'd he never had been taught to read,
Then of the old churl's books he should
have had no need.

Of sufferings the poor have many,
Which never can the rich annoy :
I soon perceiv'd another boy,
Who look'd as if he'd not had any
Food, for that day at least-enjoy
The sight of cold meat in a tavern larder.
This boy's case, then thought I, is surely

Thus hungry, longing, thus without a

penny, Beholding choice of dainty-dressed meat: No wonder if he wish he ne'er had learn'd

[blocks in formation]


No. V.


Walk in, ladies and gentlemen; the show is just going to begin!
Bartlemy-Fair Showman.

That this evil wants a remedy is not to be contested; nor can it be de-
nied, that the theatre is as capable of being preserved by a reformation as
matters of more importance; which, for the honour of our national taste,
I could wish were attempted; and then, if it could not subsist under
decent regulations, by not being permitted to present any thing there, but
what were worthy to be there, it would be time enough to consider whe-
ther it were necessary to let it totally fall, or effectually support it.
Cibber, Life, chap. iv.

Truth may complain, and merit murmur, with what justice it may,
the few will never be a match for the many, unless authority should think
fit to interpose, and put down these poetical drams, these gin-shops of the
stage, that intoxicate its auditors, and dishonour their understanding, with
a levity for which I want a name.

I LATELY found myself in a society composed chiefly of old play-goers, most of whom had been contemporary with, and many of them the companions of the Burkes, the Johnsons, the Garricks, the Reynoldses, and the other eminent men who contributed to render the period at which they lived so remarkable in the annals of British literature, taste, and wit. The conversation was entirely theatrical, and consisted, on their parts, of bitter contrasts between the drama as it existed in their time, and, what they chose to term, its present degraded state. "In our time," said one, "a sensible man might go to a theatre and be sure of an evening's rational entertainment." "Aye, Sir," said another, "you and I have found ourselves in the pit of old Drury, on the same bench with Burke, and Charles Fox, and Johnson, and Dunning, listening to Shakspeare, or Farquhar, or poor Brinsley. We have seen there, assembled around us, a cluster of eminent statesmen, profound lawyers, elegant poets, brilliant wits, aye, and grave divines too, who considered an evening spent at the theatre an evening well spent, not one of whom but would now blush at being caught there." All this was very painful to me-Me, the collector and illustrator of the Beauties of the Living Dramatists! Blush at being caught there! as if being caught at a royal, patent, legitimate theatre, were like being discovered at a booth in Smithfield, or detected in aiding and abetting some VOL. VI.

[ocr errors]

Ibid. chap. xvi.

offence against taste and common sense. In my own mind, I set down their remarks as the result of that fault so common to age,-a blind partiality to past times at the expense of the present; and in other words I told them so. "So, gentlemen," said I, 'you make no allowance for the progress of taste? We are an enlightened people; the age we live in is enlightened; every day brings us a step nearer towards perfection; the last thirty years have worked great changes, produced great inventions, wonderful improvements, astonishing discoveries. Burke," I continued, "never crossed the channel in a steamboat; the homeward path of Johnson from his favourite club, never was illumined by gas; and-and--" (hurrying to my conclusion,-considering it waste of time to argue with persons so senseless and so prejudiced withal)-" the drama too has undergone its improvements." "The drama!" they all ejaculated at once, "show, sniveling sentiment, balderdash, and mummery-the drama!" Finding the modern drama so contemptuously treated by these champions of the old school, I brought the main supporters of the new school successively in review before them. "Farquhar, and Vanbrugh, and Sheridan, were pretty fellows in their day,' but has either of them left us such a comedy as Virtue's Harvest Home, or as La Belle Assemblée?” "No," was the reply, but delivered, as I fancied, in a tone of irony which considerably displeased me. "Can

« ΠροηγούμενηΣυνέχεια »