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point: for he described common English folk, and made no pretence to be elegantly pathetic and unnaturally sentimental. He objects to critics who, “ without assigning any particular faults, condemn the whole in general defamatory terms, such as vile, dull, damned stuff, &c., and particularly by the use of the monosyllable low.'
Low! There you have it. Thus, whereas, according to the title of the best farce ever writ by a schoolmaster, there is high life below stairs, is there not also low life above stairs ?a farce that now and then verges on tragedy.
Having Swift and Fielding as authorities on the first two counts of my indictment, I need take slight trouble on the third; yet it is the most momentous of the three. I am not digressing. I keep close to my thesis. The keynote of my story is—Never put pen to paper. The unwisdom hereof is shown when a man of genius writes a book. If there were no writing, no printing, men would listen for a poet's lightest words, would use their memories to retain them, would keep them in their brains instead of on their shelves.
Better also for the poet. It is so much easier to write bad rhyme and rhythm than to utter bad rhyme and rhythm. It is so much easier to say a thing twice over in your own study than before an audience who drink in your rhapsody. Besides, your audience helps you : if you have any brains (which, as a modern poet, one may doubt,) they will make you improvise and ejaculate.
I have passed from white paper to the agora. They are not materially unconnected. The cacoëthes scribendi is akin to the legendi. But were there less scribbling, I think there would be stricter speaking. Men get charged with leading articles; and there results what Coleridge used to call (in days when such aperients were weaker) an oral diarrhea. If a man or woman either could not or would not read, he or she would be forced to think.
Η μεν άρ ώς ειπούσ' ανέβη γλαυκώπις 'Αθήνη
rebellious about the alphabet, the true Olympus was a library. There you were beyond reach of all the miserable windy influences which surround the outer world. There you could enjoy life without interference, , could “unsphere the spirit of Plato," could call at a word from the mysterious past the
famous writers and orators who can never be forgotten.
“In my library,” he was wont to say, “I am ten paces from Homer, though there are thirty centuries of human life between us. I can recall Aristophanes on the instant, to give me all the witty chaff of Athens. Here is my favourite philosophic poet Lucretius; here also my favourite amorous poet Catullus; both ready to give me their ideas if only I am fortunate enough to understand them. Shakspeare will step from that shelf when I ask him, surrounding me with such strong humanity and strange romance as never came beneath wand of any other enchanter. Even the spirits of men still living are summoned at my will. I sit here as a magician beyond the reach of unpleasantness from without, and with infinite intellectual wealth inside."
That he was inconsistent with himself is manifest, but the best men have their inconsistencies. He said this, or something like it,
to Dr. John Sterne. The Doctor was a very humorous fellow, and a very able physician. Humour and ability are frequent partners. Many a fool, of each sex, has been cured of imaginary illness by the Doctor's satire.
“Squire,” said the Doctor, who, though a man not quite thirty, had considerable influence over those who knew him, “it is strange that with this love of books and knowledge of their power, you talk of keeping them locked against your son and daughter. Here you have the finest collection of books and manuscripts in Devon,-some of the latter unique and inedited. Now I ask you, Squire, what business have you to possess these treasures, and forbid your children to enjoy them?”
“I could plead paternal right, Doctor, according to the ancient law of the wisest nations,” quoth Squire Silchester, lying comfortably back in his chair. He liked an argument; he particularly liked'an argument with Dr. Sterne. “But I will not return to first