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without turning still to his book or looking to his pattern. .. mere bookish sufficiency is unpleasant.” The essayist, in fact, must not be over literary, and yet, if he have the habit, ike Montaigne or Charles Lamb, of delighting in old authors and in their favourite expressions and great phrases, so that ihat habit has become part of his life, then his essays will gain in richness by an inspired pedantry. Indeed the essay as it has gone on has not lost by being a little self-conscious of its function and its right to insist on a fine prose usage and a choice economy of word and phrase.

The most perfect balance of the art on its familiar side as here represented, and after my Lord Verulam, is to be found, 1 suppose, in the creation of

“Sir Roger de Coverley." Goldmith's “Man in Black" runs him very close in that saunterer's gallery, and Elia's people are more real to us than our own acquaintances in flesh and blood. It is worth note, perhaps, how often the essayists had either been among poets like Hazlitt, or written poetry like Goldsmith, or had the advantage of both recognizing the faculty in others and using it themselves, like Charles Lamb; and if we were to take the lyrical temperament, as Ferdinand Brunetière did in accounting for certain French writers, and relate it to some personal asseveration of the emotion of life, we might end by claiming the essayists as dilute lyrists, engaged in pursuing a rhythm too subtle for verse and lifelike as common-room gossip.

And just as we may say there is a lyric tongue, which the true poets of that kind have contributed to form, so there is an essayist's style or way with words—something between talking and writing. You realize it when you hear Dame Prudence, who is the Mother of the English essay, discourse on Riches; Hamlet, a born essayist, speak on acting; T. T., a forgotten essayist of 1614, with an equal turn for homily, write on Painting the Face”; or the “Tatler ” make good English out of the first thing that comes to hand. It is partly a question of art, partly of temperament; and indeed paraphrasing Steele we may say that the success of an essay depends upon the make of the body and the formation of the mind, of him who writes it.

It needs a certain way of turning the pen, and a certain intellectual gesture, which cannot be acquired, and cannot really d be imitated.

It remains to acknowledge the friendly aid of those living -ssayists who are still maintaining the standards and have contributed to the book. This contemporary roll includes the

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EVERYMAN'S LIBRARY

EDITED BY ERNEST RHYS

ESSAYS

A CENTURY OF ENGLISH
ESSAYS CHOSEN BY ERNEST
RHYS AND LLOYD VAUGHAN

THIS IS NO. 653 OF EVERYMAN'S LIBRARY

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