Rede well thyselfe that other folke can'st rede.
Chaucer's Good Counsail.
T was on a fine autumnal evening, when the sun was setting serenely behind a thick copse upon a distant hill, and his warm tints were lighting up a magnificent and widely-extended landscape, that, sauntering 'midst the fields, I was meditating upon the various methods of honourably filling up the measure of our existence; when I discovered, towards my left, a messenger running at full speed towards me. The abruptness of his appearance, and the velocity of his step, somewhat disconcerted me; but on his near approach my apprehensions were dissipated.
I knew him to be the servant of my old college friend, whom I chuse here to denominate Lysander. He came to inform me, in his blunt and honest manner, that his master had just arrived with Philemon, our common friend; and that, as they were too fatigued with their journey to come out to me, they begged I would quickly enter the house, and, as usual, make them welcome. This intelligence afforded me the liveliest satisfaction. In fifteen minutes, after a hearty shaking of hands, I was seated with them in the parlour; all of us admiring the unusual splendour of the evening sky, and, in consequence, partaking of the common topics of conversation with a greater flow of spirits.
"You are come, my friends," said I (in the course of conversation), "to make some stay with me — indeed, I cannot suffer you to depart without keeping you at least a week; in order, amongst other things, to view the beauty of our neighbour Lorenzo's grounds, the general splendour of his house, and the magnificence of his Library." "In regard to grounds and furniture," replied Lysander, "there is very little in the most beautiful and costly which can long excite my attention — but the Library—" "Here," exclaimed Philemon, "here you have him in the toils." "I will frankly confess," rejoined Lysander, "that I am an arrant Bibliomaniac— that I love books dearly — that the very sight, touch, and, more, the perusal —" "Hold, my friend," again exclaimed Philemon, "you have renounced your profession — you talk of reading books — do Bibliomaniacs ever read books?" "Nay," quoth Lysander, "you shall not banter thus with impunity. We will, if it please you," said he, turning round to me, "make our abode with you for a few days — and, after seeing the library of your neighbour, I will throw down the gauntlet to Philemon, challenging him to answer certain questions which you may put to us, respecting the number, rarity, beauty, or utility of those works which relate to the literature and antiquities of our own country. We shall then see who is able to return the readiest answer." "Forgive," rejoined Philemon, "my bantering strain. I revoke my speech. You know that, with yourself, I heartily love books; more from their contents than their appearance." Lysander returned a gracious smile; and the hectic of irritability on his cheek was dissipated in an instant.
The approach of evening made us think of settling our plans. My friends begged their horses might be turned into the field; and that, while they stayed with me, the most simple fare and the plainest accommodation might be their lot. They knew how little able I was to treat them as they were wont to be treated; and, therefore, taking "the will for the deed," they resolved to be as happy as an humble roof could make them.
While the cloth was laying for supper (for I should add that we dine at three and sup at nine), we took a stroll in my small garden, which has a mound at the bottom, shaded with lilacs and laburnums, that overlooks a pretty range of meadows, terminated by the village church. The moon had now gained a considerable ascendancy in the sky; and the silvery paleness and profound quiet of the surrounding landscape, which, but an hour ago, had been enlivened by the sun's last rays, seemed to affect the minds of us all very sensibly. Lysander, in particular, began to express the sentiments which such a scene excited in him. —"Yonder," says he, pointing to the church-yard, "is the bourne which terminates our earthly labours; and I marvel much how mortals can spend their time in cavilling at each other — in murdering, with their pens as well as their swords, all that is excellent and admirable in human nature — instead of curbing their passions, elevating their hopes, and tranquillizing their fears. Every evening, for at least one-third of the year, heaven has fixed in the sky yonder visible monitor to man. Calmness and splendour are her attendants: no dark passions, no carking cares, neither spleen nor jealousy, seem to dwell in that bright orb, where, as has been fondly imagined, "the wretched may have rest."—"And here," replied Philemon, "we do nothing but fret and fume if our fancied merits are not instantly rewarded, or if another wear a sprig of laurel more verdant than ourselves; I could mention, within my own recollection, a hundred instances of this degrading prostitution of talent — aye, a thousand."—"Gently reprimand your fellow creatures," resumed Lysander, "lest you commit an error as great as any of those which you condemn in others. The most difficult of human tasks seems to be the exercise of forbearance and temperance. By exasperating, you only rekindle, and not extinguish, the evil sparks in our dispositions. A man will bear being told he is in the wrong; but you must tell him so gently and mildly. Animosity, petulance, and persecution, are the plagues which destroy our better parts."—"And envy," replied Philemon, "has surely enough to do."—"Yes," said Lysander, "we might enumerate, as you were about to do, many instances — and (what you were not about to do) pity while we enumerate! I think," continued he, addressing himself particularly to me, "you informed me that the husband of poor Lavinia lies buried in yonder church-yard; and perhaps the very tomb which now glistens by the moonbeam is the one which consecrates his memory! That man was passionately addicted to literature — he had a strong mind; a wonderful grasp of intellect; but his love of paradox and hypothesis quite ruined his faculties. Nicas happened to discover some glaring errors in his last treatise, and the poor man grew sick at heart in consequence. Nothing short of infallibility and invincibility satisfied him; and, like the Spaniard in the 'Diable Boiteux,' who went mad because five of his countrymen had been beaten by fifty Portugese, this unhappy creature lost all patience and forbearance, because, in an hundred systems which he had built with the cards of fancy, ninety-nine happened to tumble to the ground.
"This is the dangerous consequence, not so much of vanity and self-love as of downright literary Quixotism. A man may be cured of vanity as the French nobleman was —'Ecoutez messieurs! Monseigneur le Duc va dire la meillure chose du monde!'78 but for this raving, ungovernable passion of soaring beyond all human comprehension, I fear there is no cure but in such a place as the one which is now before us. Compared with this, how different was Menander's case! Careless himself about examining and quoting authorities with punctilious accuracy, and trusting too frequently to the ipse-dixits of good friends:— with a quick discernment — a sparkling fancy — great store of classical knowledge, and a never ceasing play of colloquial wit, he moved right onwards in his manly course — the delight of the gay, and the admiration of the learned! He wrote much and variously: but in an evil hour the demon Malice caught him abroad — watched his deviations — noted down his failings — and, discovering his vulnerable part, he did not fail, like another Paris, to profit by the discovery. Menander became the victim of over-refined sensibility: he need not have feared the demon, as no good man need fear Satan. His pen ceased to convey his sentiments; he sickened at heart; and after his body had been covered by the green grass turf, the gentle elves of fairy-land took care to weave a chaplet to hang upon his tomb, which was never to know decay! Sycorax was this demon; and a cunning and clever demon was he!"
78 This is the substance of the story related in Darwin's Zoonomia: vol. iv. p. 81.
"I am at a loss," said Philemon, "to comprehend exactly what you mean?"—"I will cease speaking metaphorically," replied Lysander; "but Sycorax was a man of ability in his way. He taught literary men, in some measure, the value of careful research and faithful quotation; in other words, he taught them to speak the truth as they found her; and, doubtless, for this he merits not the name of a demon, unless you allow me the priviledge of a Grecian.79 That Sycorax loved truth must be admitted; but that he loved no one so much as himself to speak the truth must also be admitted. Nor had he, after all, any grand notions of the goddess. She was, in his sight, rather of diminutive than gigantic growth; rather of a tame than a towering mien; dressed out in little trinkets, and formally arrayed in the faded point-lace and elevated toupee of the ancient English school, and not in the flowing and graceful robes of Grecian simplicity. But his malice and ill-nature were frightful; and withal his love of scurrility and abuse quite intolerable. He mistook, in too many instances, the manner for the matter; the shadow for the substance. He passed his criticisms, and dealt out his invectives, with so little ceremony, and so much venom, that he seemed born with a scalping knife in his hand to commit murder as long as he lived! To him, censure was sweeter than praise; and the more elevated the rank, and respectable the character of his antagonist, the more dexterously he aimed his blows, and the more frequently he renewed his attacks. In consequence, scarcely one beautiful period, one passionate sentiment of the higher order, one elevated thought, or philosophical deduction, marked his numerous writings. 'No garden-flower grew wild' in the narrow field of his imagination; and, although the words decency and chastity were continually dropping from his lips, I suspect that the reverse of these qualities was always settled round his heart.80 Thus you see, my dear Philemon," concluded Lysander, "that the love of paradox, of carelessness, and of malice, are equally destructive of that true substantial fame which, as connected with literature, a wise and an honest man would wish to establish. But come; the dews of evening begin to fall chilly; let us seek the house of our friend."
79 Without turning over the ponderous tones of Stephen, Constantine, and Scaliger, consult the sensible remarks upon the word 'Δαίμῶν' in Parkhurst's Greek and English Lexicon to the New Testament, 8vo. edit. 1798. In the Greek language, it is equally applied to an accomplished and unprincipled character. Homer alone will furnish a hundred instances of this.
80 Mark certain expressions, gentle reader, which occur in the notes to the life of Robin Hood, prefixed to the ballads which go under his name: 1795. 2 vols. 8vo. — also a Dissertation on Romance and Minstrelsy in the first vol. of Ancient Metrical Romances, 1802, 3 vols. 8vo. A very common degree of shrewdness and of acquaintance with English literature will shew that, in Menander and Sycorax, are described honest Tom Warton and snarling 'mister' Joseph Ritson.
As Lysander concluded his discourse, we turned, abruptly, but thoughtfully, towards my cottage; and, making the last circuit of the gravel walk, Philemon stopped to listen to the song of a passing rustic, who seemed to be uttering all the joy which sometimes strongly seizes a simple heart. "I would rather," exclaimed he, "be this poor fellow, chanting his 'native wood-notes wild,' if his heart know not guilt — than the shrewdest critic in the universe, who could neither feel, nor write, good-naturedly!" We smiled at this ejaculation; and quickly reached the house.
The fatigue of travelling had sharpened the appetites of my friends; and at a moment when, as the inimitable Cowper expresses it,
our drawing-rooms begin to blaze
With lights, by clear reflection multiplied
From many a mirror, in which he of Gath,
Goliath, might have seen his giant bulk
Whole, without stooping, towering crest and all,
Our pleasures too began;
Task, b. iv.
but they were something more rational than those of merely eating and drinking. "I seldom partake of this meal," observed Philemon, "without thinking of the omnium-gatherum bowl, so exquisitely described by old Isaac Walton. We want here, it is true, the 'sweet shady arbour — the contexture of woodbines, sweet-briar, jessamine, and myrtle,'81 and the time of the evening prevents our enjoying it without; but, in lieu of all this, we have the sight of books, of busts, and of pictures. I see there the ponderous folio chronicles, the genuine quarto romances, and, a little above, a glittering row of thin, closely-squeezed, curiously-gilt, volumes of original plays. As we have finished our supper, let us —" "My friends," observed I, "not a finger upon a book to-night — to-morrow you may ransack at your pleasure. I wish to pursue the conversation commenced by Lysander, as we were strolling in the garden." "Agreed," replied Philemon — "the quietness of the hour — the prospect, however limited, before us —(for I shall not fail to fix my eyes upon a Froissart printed by Verard, or a portrait painted by Holbein, while you talk)— every thing conspires to render this discourse congenial." "As you have reminded me of that pretty description of a repast in Walton," resumed Lysander, "I will preface the sequel to my conversation by drinking a glass to your healths — and so, masters, 'here is a full glass to you' of the liquor before us." Lysander then continued, "It were to be wished that the republic or region of Literature could be described in as favourable a manner as Camden has described the air, earth, and sky, of our own country;82 but I fear Milton's terrific description of the infernal frozen continent,
beat with perpetual forms
Of whirlwind and dire hail,
Par. Lost, b. ii. v. 587.
is rather applicable to it. Having endeavoured to shew, my dear friends, that the passionate love of hypothesis—(or a determination to make every man think and believe as we do) incorrigible carelessness — and equally incorrigible ill-nature — are each inimical to the true interests of literature, let us see what other evil qualities there are which principally frustrate the legitimate view of learning.
81 Complete Angler, p. 335. Bagster's edit. 1808. In a similar style of description are "the faire grove and swete walkes, letticed and gardened on both sides," of Mr. Warde's letter — describing the nunnery of Little Gidding in Huntingdonshire. See Hearne's edit. of Peter Langtoft's Chronicle, vol. 1. p. cx.
82 "The ayre is most temperate and wholesome, sited in the middest of the temperate zone, subject to no stormes and tempests, as the more southerne and northerne are; but stored with infinite delicate fowle. For water, it is walled and guarded with ye ocean most commodious for trafficke to all parts of the world, and watered with pleasant fishful and navigable rivers, which yeeld safe havens and roads, and furnished with shipping and sailers, that it may rightly be termed The Lady of the Sea. That I may say nothing of healthful bathes, and of meares stored both with fish and fowl. The earth fertile of all kinde of graine, manured with good husbandry, rich in minerall of coals, tinne, lead, copper, not without gold and silver, abundant in pasture, replenished with cattel, both tame and wilde (for it hath more parks than all Europe besides), plentifully wooded, provided with all complete provisions of war, beautified with many populous cities, faire boroughs, good towns, and well-built villages, strong munitions, magnificent palaces of the prince, stately houses of the nobilitie, frequent hospitals, beautiful churches, faire colledges, as well in the other places as in the two Vniversities." Remains, p. 12. edit. 1637.
How far Camden was indebted to the following curious description of our country, written in the time of Edward vj, (of which I shall modernize the orthography,) the reader will judge for himself. The running title of the work is "The Debate between the [French and English] Heralds," 8vo., printed in the bl. lett. (In the possession of Mr. Heber.)
"We have all manner of grains, and fruits, and more plenty than you; for, thanked be God, England is a fruitful and plenteous region, so that we have some fruits whereof you have few; as wardeines, quinces, peaches, medlers, chesnuts, and other delicious fruits; serving for all seasons of the year; and so plenty of pears and apples that, in the west parts of England and Sussex, they make perry and cider, and in such abundance that they convey part over the sea, where, by the Monsieurs of France, it is coveted for their beverage and drinks."—Sign. L. iiij. rev.
"We have in Cornwall and Devonshire (God be honoured) the richest mines of silver and tin that may be, also in Ireland mines of silver, in Derbyshire mines of lead, alabaster, marble, black and white. In Sussex, Yorkshire, and Durham, mines of iron, coal, slate, and freestone; and in every shire of England, generally quarries of hard stone, chalk, and flint: these be commodities honorable and not feigned, being of such estimation that France, nor other realms, may well forbear; and as for saltpetre, there is sufficient made in England to furnish our turn for the wars. Also we have hot fountains or bathes, which you nor no other realms christened have."—Sign. L. v. rev. If ancient Gildas speak the truth, Great Britain was no contemptible place twelve hundred years ago — the period when he lived and wrote his lachrymable history.
"The iland of Britaine placed in the ballance of the divine poising hand (as they call it) which weigheth the whole world, almost the uttermost bound of his earth towards the South and West; extending itself from the South-West, out towards the North pole, eight hundred miles in length; and containing two hundred in breadth, besides the fare outstretched forelands of sundry promonteries, embraced by the embowed bosomes of the ocean sea; with whose most spacious, and on every side (saving only the Southern Streights, by which we sale to Gallehelgicke) impassable enclosure (as I may call it) she is strongly defended; enriched with the mouths of two noble floods, Thames and Severne, as it were two armes (by which out-landish commodities have in times past been transported into the same) besides other rivers of lesser account, strengthened with eight and twenty cities, and some other castles, not meanly fenced with fortresses of walls, embattled towers, gates, and buildings (whose roofes being raised aloft with a threatening hugenesse, were mightily in their aspiring toppes compaced) adorned with her large spreading fields, pleasant seated hils, even framed for good husbandry, which over-mastereth the ground, and mountains most convenient for the changeable pastures of cattell; whose flowers of sundry collours, troden by the feete of men, imprint no unseemly picture on the same, as a spouse of choice, decked with divers jewels; watered with cleere fountains, and sundry brokes, beating on the snow-white sands, together with silver streames sliding forth with soft sounding noise, and leaving a pledge of sweet savours on their bordering bankes, and lakes gushing out abundantly in cold running rivers."—Epistle of Gildas, Transl. 1638, 12mo. p. 1, after the prologue.
Whoever looks into that amusing and prettily-printed little book, "Barclaii Satyricon," 1629, 18mo., will find a description of Germany, similar, in part, to the preceding. —"Olim sylvis et incolis fera, nunc oppidis passim insignis; nemoribus quoque quibus immensis tegebatur, ad usum decusque castigatis." p. 316.
"In the example of Gonzalo, with whom Philemon is perfectly well acquainted, a remarkable exemplification of the passion of Vanity occurs. I recollect, one evening, he came rushing into a party where I sat, screaming with the extatic joy of a maniac —'Ευρηκα, Ευρηκα'; and, throwing down a scroll, rushed as precipitately out of the room. The scroll was of vellum; the title to the contents of it was penned in golden letters, and softly-painted bunches of roses graced each corner. It contained a sonnet to love, and another to friendship; but a principal mistake which struck us, on the very threshold of our critical examination, was that he had incorrectly entitled these sonnets. Friendship should have been called love, and love, friendship. We had no sooner made the discovery than Gonzalo returned, expecting to find us in like ecstacies with himself! — We gravely told him that we stumbled at the very threshold. It was quite sufficient — he seized his sonnets with avidity — and, crumpling the roll (after essaying to tear it) thrust it into his pocket, and retreated. One of the gentlemen in company made the following remarks, on his leaving us: 'In the conduct of Gonzalo appears a strange mixture of intellectual strength and intellectual debility; of wit and dulness; of wisdom and folly; and all this arises chiefly from his mistaking the means for the end — the instrument of achieving for the object achieved. The fondest wish of his heart is literary fame: for this he would sacrifice every thing. He is handsome, generous, an affectionate son, a merry companion, and is, withal, a very excellent belles-lettres scholar. Tell him that the ladies admire him, that his mother doats on him, and that his friends esteem him — and — keeping back the wished-for eulogy of literary excellence — you tell him of nothing which he cares for. In truth he might attain some portion of intellectual reputation, if he would throw aside his ridiculous habits. He must, as soon as the evening shades prevail, burn wax tapers — he must always have an Argand lamp lighted up before him, to throw a picturesque effect upon a dark wood painted by Hobbima — his pens must be made from the crow's wing — his wax must be green — his paper must be thick and hot-pressed; and he must have a portfolio of the choicest bits of ancient vellum that can be procured — his body must recline upon a chintz sofa — his foot must be perched upon an ottoman — in short he must have every thing for which no man of common sense would express the least concern. Can you be surprised, therefore, that he should commence his sonnet to friendship thus:
Oh, sweetest softest thing that's friendship hight!
or that he should conceive the following address to women, by one William Goddard, worthy of being ranked among the most beautiful poetical efforts of the 16th century:
Stars of this earthly heaven, you whose essence
Compos'd was of man's purest quintessence,
To you, to virtuous you, I dedicate
This snaggy sprig83——"
83 From "A Satyrical Dialogue, &c., betweene Alexander the Great and that truelye woman-hater Diogynes. Imprinted in the low countryes for all such gentlewomen as are not altogether idle nor yet well occupyed," 4to. no date. A strange composition! full of nervous lines and pungent satire — but not free from the grossest licentiousness.
"Enough," exclaimed Philemon — while Lysander paused a little, after uttering the foregoing in a rapid and glowing manner —"enough for this effeminate vanity in man! What other ills have you to enumerate, which assail the region of literature?"—"I will tell you," replied Lysander, "another, and a most lamentable evil, which perverts the very end for which talents were given us — and it is in mistaking and misapplying these talents. I speak with reference to the individual himself, and not to the public. You may remember how grievously Alfonso bore the lot which public criticism, with one voice, adjudged to him! This man had good natural parts, and would have abridged a history, made an index, or analyzed a philosophical work, with great credit to himself and advantage to the public. But he set his heart upon eclipsing Doctors Johnson and Jamieson. He happened to know a few etymons more correctly, and to have some little acquaintance with black letter literature, and hence thought to give more weight to lexicographical inquiries than had hitherto distinguished them. But how miserably he was deceived in all his undertakings of this kind past events have sufficiently shewn. No, my good Philemon, to be of use to the republic of literature, let us know our situations; and let us not fail to remember that, in the best appointed army, the serjeant may be of equal utility with the captain.
"I will notice only one other, and a very great, failing observable in literary men — and this is severity and self-consequence. You will find that these severe characters generally set up the trade of Critics; without attending to the just maxim of Pope, that
Ten censure wrong, for one that writes amiss.
"With them, the least deviation from precise correctness, the most venial trippings, the smallest inattention paid to doubtful rules and equivocal positions of criticism, inflames their anger, and calls forth their invectives. Regardless of the sage maxims of Cicero, Quintilian, and Horace, they not only disdain the sober rules which their ancient brethren have wisely laid down, and hold in contempt the voice of the public,84 but, forgetting the subject which they have undertaken to criticise, they push the author out of his seat, quietly sit in it themselves, and fancy they entertain you by the gravity of their deportment, and their rash usurpation of the royal monosyllable 'Nos.'85 This solemn pronoun, or rather 'plural style,'86 my dear Philemon, is oftentimes usurped by a half-starved little I, who sits immured in the dusty recess of a garret, and who has never known the society nor the language of a gentleman; or it is assumed by a young graduate, just settled in his chambers, and flushed with the triumph of his degree of 'B.A.', whose 'fond conceyte' [to borrow Master Francis Thynne's87 terse style,] is, to wrangle for an asses shadowe, or to seke a knott in a rushe!'
84 "Interdum vulgus rectum videt:" says Horace. —Epist. lib. ii. ad. Augustum, v. 63.
85 Vide Rymeri Fœdera— passim.
86 A very recent, and very respectable, authority has furnished me with this expression.
87 See Mr. Todd's Illustrations of Gower and Chaucer, p. 10.
"For my part," continued Lysander, speaking with the most unaffected seriousness —"for my part, nothing delights me more than modesty and diffidence, united with 'strong good sense, lively imagination, and exquisite sensibility,'88 whether in an author or a critic. When I call to mind that our greatest sages have concluded their labours with doubt, and an avowal of their ignorance; when I see how carefully and reverently they have pushed forward their most successful inquiries; when I see the great Newton pausing and perplexed in the vast world of planets, comets, and constellations, which were, in a measure, of his own creation — I learn to soften the asperity of my critical anathemas, and to allow to an author that portion of fallibility of which I am conscious myself.
88 It is said, very sensibly, by La Bruyere, I will allow that good writers are scarce enough; but then I ask where are the people that know how to read and judge? A union of these qualities, which are seldom found in the same person, seems to be indispensably necessary to form an able critic; he ought to possess strong good sense, lively imagination, and exquisite sensibility. And of these three qualities, the last is the most important; since, after all that can be said on the utility or necessity of rules and precepts, it must be confessed that the merit of all works of genius must be determined by taste and sentiment. "Why do you so much admire the Helen of Zeuxis?" said one to Nicostratus. "You would not wonder why I so much admired it (replied the painter) if you had my eyes."—Warton: Note to Pope's Essay on Criticism. Pope's Works, vol. i. 196, edit. 1806.
"I see then," rejoined Philemon, "that you are an enemy to Reviews."89 "Far from it," replied Lysander, "I think them of essential service to literature. They hold a lash over ignorance and vanity; and, at any rate, they take care to bestow a hearty castigation upon vicious and sensual publications. Thus far they do good: but, in many respects, they do ill — by substituting their own opinions for those of an author; by judging exclusively according to their own previously formed decisions in matters of religion and politics; and by shutting out from your view the plan, and real tendency, of the book which they have undertaken to review, and therefore ought to analyze. It is, to be sure, amusing to read the clamours which have been raised against some of the most valuable, and now generally received, works! When an author recollects the pert conclusion of Dr. Kenrick's review of Dr. Johnson's Tour to the Hebrides,90 he need not fear the flippancy of a reviewer's wit, as decisive of the fate of his publication!
89 The earliest publications, I believe, in this country, in the character of Reviews were there Weekly Memorials for the Ingenious, &c. Lond. 1683, 4to. — and The Universal Historical Bibliotheque: or an Account of most of the considerable Books printed in all Languages, in the Month of January 1686. London, 1687, 4to. Five years afterwards came forth The Young Student's Library, by the Athenian Society, 1692, folio, "a kind of common theatre where every person may act, or take such part as pleases him best, and what he does not like he may pass over, assuring himself that, every one's judgment not being like his, another may chuse what he mislikes, and so every one may be pleased in their turns." Pref. A six weeks' frost is said to have materially delayed the publication. After these, in the subsequent century, appeared the Old and New Memoirs of Literature; then, the Works of the Learned; upon which was built, eclipsing every one that had preceeded it, and not excelled by any subsequent similar critical journal, The Monthly Review.
90 After all, said the reviewing Doctor, we are of opinion, with the author himself, that this publication contains 'the sentiments of one who has seen but little:' meaning, thereby, that the book was hardly worth perusal! What has become of the said Dr. Kenrick now? We will not ask the same question about the said Dr. Johnson; whose works are upon the shelf of every reading man of sense and virtue.
"It is certainly," pursued Lysander, "a very prolific age of knowledge. There never was, at any one period of the world, so much general understanding abroad. The common receptacles of the lower orders of people present, in some degree, intellectual scenes. I mean, that collision of logic, and corruscation of wit, which arise from the perusal of a newspaper; a production, by-the-bye, upon which Cowper has conferred immortality.91 You may remember, when we were driven by a sharp tempest of hail into the small public-house which stands at the corner of the heath — what a logomachy— what a war of words did we hear! and all about sending troops to the north or south of Spain, and the justice or injustice of the newly-raised prices of admission to Covent Garden theatre!!92 The stage-coach, if you recollect, passed by quickly after our having drunk a tumbler of warm brandy and water to preserve ourselves from catching cold; and into it glad enough we were to tumble! We had no sooner begun to be tolerably comfortable and composed than a grave old gentleman commenced a most furious Philippic against the prevailing studies, politics, and religion of the day — and, in truth, this man evinced a wonderfully retentive memory, and a fair share of powers of argument; bringing everything, however, to the standard of his own times. It was in vain we strove to edge in the great Whig and Tory Reviews of the northern and southern hemispheres! The obdurate champion of other times would not listen a moment, or stir one inch, in favour of these latter publications. When he quitted us, we found that he was a —— of considerable consequence in the neighbourhood, and had acquired his fortune from the superior sagacity and integrity he had displayed in consequence of having been educated at the free-school in the village of —— one of the few public schools in this kingdom which has not frustrated the legitimate views of its pious founder, by converting that into a foppish and expensive establishment which was at once designed as an asylum for the poor and an academy to teach wisdom and good morals."
91 See the opening the fourth book of "The Task;" a picture perfectly original and unrivalled in its manner.
92 It is not less true, than surprising, that the ridiculous squabbles, which disgraced both this theatre and the metropolis, have been deemed deserving of a regular series of publications in the shape of numbers — 1, 2, 3, &c. As if the subject had not been sufficiently well handled in the lively sallies and brilliant touches of satire which had before appeared upon it in the Monthly Mirror!
Philemon was about to reply, with his usual warmth and quickness, to the latter part of these remarks — as bearing too severely upon the eminent public seminaries within seventy miles of the metropolis — but Lysander, guessing his intentions from his manner and attitude, cut the dialogue short by observing that we did not meet to discuss subjects of a personal and irritable nature, and which had already exercised the wits of two redoubted champions of the church — but that our object, and the object of all rational and manly discussion, was to state opinions with frankness, without intending to wound the feelings, or call forth the animadversions, of well-meaning and respectable characters. "I know," continued he, "that you, Philemon, have been bred in one of these establishments, under a man as venerable for his years as he is eminent for his talents and worth; who employs the leisure of dignified retirement in giving to the world the result of his careful and profound researches; who, drinking largely at the fountain head of classical learning, and hence feeling the renovated vigour of youth (without having recourse to the black art of a Cornelius Agrippa93), circumnavigates 'the Erythrean sea'— then, ascending the vessel of Nearchus, he coasts 'from Indus to the Euphrates'— and explores with an ardent eye what is curious and what is precious, and treasures in his sagacious mind what is most likely to gratify and improve his fellow-countrymen. A rare and eminent instance this of the judicious application of acquired knowledge! — and how much more likely is it to produce good, and to secure solid fame, than to fritter away one's strength, and undermine one's health, in perpetual pugilistic contests with snarling critics, dull commentators, and foul-mouthed philologists."
93 Let him who wishes to be regaled in a dull dreary night — when the snow is heavily falling, and the wind whistles hollowly — open those leaves of Bayle's Historical and Biographical Dictionary which relate to this extraordinary character; and see there how adroitly Agrippa is defended against the accusation of "having two devils attending him in the shape of two little dogs — one of them being called Monsieur, and the other Mademoiselle"—"whereas Paulus Jovius, Thevet, &c., speak only of one dog, and never mention his name." Vol. i. 357, 361; edit. 1736, 10 vols. folio.
The bibliographer, who wishes to be master of the most curious and rare editions of his works, may go from Bayle to Clement, and from Clement to Vogt. He must beware of the castrated Lyons' editions "per Beringos fratres"— against one of which Bayle declaims, and produces a specimen (quite to his own liking) of the passage suppressed:— another, of a similar kind, is adduced by Vogt (edit. 1793, pp. 19, 20); who tells us, however, that an edition of 1544, 8vo., without mention of place or printer — and especially a Cologne edition of 1598, by Hierat, in 12mo. — exhibits the like castrations; p. 20. This has escaped Clement, learned as he is upon the Lyons' editions, vol. i. 94, 95, 96. Bauer (Bibl. Libr. Rarior.) is here hardly worth consulting; and the compilers of the celebrated Nouveau Dict. Historique (Caen edit. 1789, vol. i. p. 7. Art. Agrippa) deserve censure for the recommendation of these Lyons' editions only.
Agrippa's "Vanity of Sciences" was first published at Antwerp in 4to. 1530; a book, upon the rarity of which bibliographers delight to expatiate. His "Occult Philosophy"— according to Bayle, in 1531 (at least, the Elector of Cologne had seen several printed leaves of it in this year), but according to Vogt and Bauer, in 1533. — There is no question about the edition of 1533; of which Vogt tells us, "An Englishman, residing at Frankfort, anxiously sought for a copy of it, offering fifty crowns (imperiales) and more, without success." All the editions in Agrippa's life-time (before 1536) are considered uncastrated, and the best. It should not be forgotten that Brucker, in his Hist. Crit. Phil., has given a masterly account of Agrippa, and an analysis of his works.
Philemon heartily assented to the truth of these remarks; and, more than once, interrupted Lysander in his panegyrical peroration by his cheerings:94 for he had, in his youth (as was before observed), been instructed by the distinguished character upon whom the eulogy had been pronounced.
94 This word is almost peculiar to our own country, and means a vehement degree of applause. It is generally used previous to, and during, a contest of any kind — whether by men in red coats, or blue coats, or black coats — upon land, upon water, or within doors. Even the walls of St. Stephen's chapel frequently echo to the "loud cheerings" of some kind or other. See every newspaper on every important debate.
The effort occasioned by the warmth in discussing such interesting subjects nearly exhausted Lysander — when it was judged prudent to retire to rest. Each had his chamber assigned to him; and while the chequered moon-beam played upon the curtains and the wall, through the half-opened shutter, the minds of Lysander and Philemon felt a correspondent tranquillity; and sweet were their slumbers till the morning shone full upon them.
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