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there, we know, have not endenizened themselves (nor pos. sihly ever will) in the national heart, so as to become stock books – it is good to possess these in durable and costly cov
I do not care for a first folio of Shakspeare. 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 supposable 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 can. not read Beaumont and Fletcher but in folio. The octavo editions are painful to look at. I have no sympathy with them. If they were as much read as the current editions of the other poet, I should prefer them in that shape to the older
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 winding-sheet of the newest fashion to modern censure? what hapless stationer could dream of Burton's ever becoming popular? The wretched Malone could not do worse, when he bribed the sexton of Stratford church to let him whitewash 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 eyebrow, 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. By —, if I had been a justice of peace for Warwickshire, I would have clapped both commentator and sexton fast in the stocks, for a pair of meddling sacrilegious varlets.
I think I see them at their work—these sapient troubletombs.
Shall I be thought fantastical if I confess that the names of some of our oets 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 Hawthornden, 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 hiin. But he brings his music, to which, who listens, had need Jring docile thoughts and purged ears.
Winter evenings—the world shui out—with less of ceremony the gentle Shakspeare enters. Ai 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 only. 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. Seldon-readers are slow readers, and without this expedient no one in the coinpany 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.”
Coming in to an inn at night-having 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 ome former guest-two or three numbers of the old Town and Country Magazine, with its amusing tête-à-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 magazino or a light pamphlet.
I should not care te be caught in the serious avenues o 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 liave 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-of-doors reading. I cannot settle my spiriis to it. I knew a Unitarian minister, who was generally to be seen upon Snow-hill (as yet Skinner'sstreet was not) between the hours of ten and eleven in the morning, stuuying a volume of Lardner. I own this to have been a strain of abstraction beyond my reach. I used to ad mire 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 nie worse than indifferent to the five points.
There is a class of street-readers whom I can never contemplate without afection-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. M. declares that under no circumstance of his life did he ever peruse a book with half the satisfaction which he took in those uneasy snatches. A quaint poetess of our day has moralized upon this subject in two very touching but homely stanzas.
“ I saw a boy with eager ege
Which when the stailman död espy,
Suon to the boy I heard him call,
THE OLD MARGATE HOY.
I am fond of passing my vacations (I believe I have said so before) at one or other of the universities. Next to these my choice would fix me at some woody spot, such as the neighbourhood of Henley affords in abundance, on the banks of my beloved Thames. But somehow or other my cousin contrives tu wheedle me once in three or four seasons to a wateringplace. Old attachments cling to her in spite of experience. We have been dull at Worthing one summer, duller at Brighton another, dullust at Eastbourn a third, and are at this moment doing dreary penance at-Hastings !-- and all because we were happy many years ago for a brief week at- - Margate. That was our first sea-side experiment, and many circumstances combined to make it the most agreeable holyday of iny life.
We had neither of us seen the sea, and we had never been from home so long together in company.
Can I forget thee, thou old Margate Hoy, with thy weatherbeaten, sun-burnt captain, and his rough accommodations—ill exchanged for the foppery and fresh-water niceness of the modern steam-packet? To the winds and waves thou committedst thy goodly freightage, and didst ask no aid of magic fumes, and spells, and boiling caldrons. With the gales of heaven thou wentest swimmingly, or, when it was their pleasure, stoodest still with sailor-like patience. Thy course was natural, not forced, as in a hot-bed; nor didst thou go poisoning the breath of ocean with sulphureous smoke-a great sea-chimera, chimneying and furnacing the deep; o liker to that fire-god parching up Scamander.
Can I forget thy honest, yet slender crew, with their coy, reluctant responses (yet to the suppression of anything like contempt) to the raw questions which we of the great city would be ever and anon putting to them, as to the uses of this or that strange naval implement? 'Specially can I forget thee, thou happy medium, thou shade of refuge between us and them, conciliating interpreter of their skill to our simplicity, comfortable ambassador between sea and land !- whose sailortrousers did not more convincingly assure thee to be an adopted denizen of the former, than thy white cap, and whiter apron over them, with thy neat-figured practice in thy culinary vocation, bespoke thee to have been of inland nurture heretofore-a master cook of Eastcheap? How busily didst thou ply thy multifarious occupation, cook, mariner, attendant, chamberlain : here, there, like another Ariel, flaming at once about all parts of the deck, yet with kindlier ministrationsnot to assist the tempest, but, as if touched with a kindred sense of our infirmities, to sooth the qualms which that untried motion might haply raise in our crude land-fancies. And when the o'er-washing billows drove us below deck, (sor it was far gone in October, and we had stiff and blowing weather,) how did thy officious ministering, still catering for our comfort, with cards and cordials, and thy more cordial conversation, alleviate the closeness and the confinement of thy else (truth to say) not very savoury, nor very inviting, little cabin !
With these additaments to boot, we had on board a fellowpassenger, whose discourse in verity might have beguiled a longer voyage than we meditated, and have made mirth and wonder abound as far as the Azores. He was a dark, Spanish-complexioned young man, remarkably handsome, with an officer-like assurance, and an insuppressible volubility of assertion. He was, in fact, the greatest liar I had met with then, or since. He was none of your hesitating, half storytellers (a most painful description of mortals) who go on sounding your belief, and only giving you as much as they see you can swallow at a time—the nibbling pickpockets of your patience—but one who committed downright, daylight depredations upon his neighbour's faith. He did not stand shivering upon the brink, but was a hearty, thorough-paced liar, and plunged at once into the depths of your credulity. I partly believe he made pretty sure of his company. Not many rich, not many wise, or learned, composed at that time the common stowage of a Margate packet. We were, I am afraid, a set of as unseasoned Londoners (let our enemies give it a worse name) as Aldermanbury or Watling-street at