—— Wisdom loves
This seat serene, and Virtue's self approves:—
Here come the griev'd, a change of thought to find;
The curious here, to feed a craving mind:
Here the devout, their peaceful temple chuse;
And here, the poet meets his favouring Muse.
Crabbe's Poems. (The Library.)
Dr. Henry’s History of Great Britain. A Game of Chess. — Of Monachism and Chivalry. Dinner at Lorenzo’s. Some Account of Book-Collectors in England.
URING the first seven miles of our return from the busy scene which has just been described, it was sufficiently obvious that Lisardo was suffering a little under the pangs of mortification. True it was, he had filled his pocket with an ampler supply of pistoles than it ever fell to the lot of Gil Blas, at the same time of life, to be master of; but he had not calculated upon the similar condition of his competitors; some of whom had yet greater powers of purchase, and a more resolute determination, as well as nicer skill, in exercising these powers, than himself. Thus rushing into the combat with the heat and vehemence of youth, he was of necessity compelled to experience the disappointment attendant upon such precipitancy. It was in vain that Philemon and myself endeavoured to make him completely satisfied with his purchase: nothing produced a look of complacency from him. At length, upon seeing the rising ground which was within two or three miles of our respective homes, he cheered up by degrees; and a sudden thought of the treasures contained in his Clement, De Bure and Panzer, darted a gleam of satisfaction across his countenance. His eyes resumed their wonted brilliancy, and all the natural gaiety of his disposition returned with full effect to banish every vapour of melancholy. "Indeed, my good friend," said he to me —"I shall always have reason to think and speak well of your kindness shewn towards me this day; and although some years may elapse before a similar collection may be disposed of — and I must necessarily wait a tedious period 'ere I get possession of Maittaire, Audiffredi, and others of the old school — yet I hope to convince Lysander, on the exhibition of my purchase, that my conversion to bibliography has been sincere. Yes: I perceive that I have food enough to digest, in the volumes which are now my travelling companions, for two or three years to come — and if, by keeping a sharp look-out upon booksellers' catalogues when they are first published, I can catch hold of Vogt, Schelhorn and Heinecken, my progress in bibliography, within the same period, must be downright marvellous!" "I congratulate you," exclaimed Philemon, "upon the return of your reason and good sense. I began to think that the story of Orlando had been thrown away upon you; and that his regular yearly purchases of a certain set of books, and making himself master of their principal contents before he ventured upon another similar purchase, had already been banished from your recollection."
We were now fast approaching the end of our journey; when the groom of Lorenzo, mounted upon a well-bred courser, darted quickly by the chaise, apparently making towards my house — but on turning his head, and perceiving me within it, he drew up and bade the postilion stop. A note from his master soon disclosed the reason of this interruption. Lorenzo, upon hearing of the arrival of Lysander and Philemon, and of their wish to visit his library, had sent us all three a kind invitation to dine with him on the morrow. His close intimacy with Lisardo (who was his neighbour) had left no doubt in the mind of the latter but that a similar note had been sent to his own house. After telling the messenger that we would not fail to pay our respects to his master, we drove briskly homewards; and found Lysander sitting on a stile under some wide-spreading beech trees, at the entrance of the paddock, expecting our arrival. In less than half an hour we sat down to dinner (at a time greatly beyond what I was accustomed to); regaling Lysander, during the repast, with an account of the contest we had witnessed; and every now and then preventing Lisardo from rushing towards his packet (even in the midst of his fricandeau), and displaying his book-treasures. After dinner, our discussion assumed a more methodical shape. Lysander bestowed his hearty commendations upon the purchase; and, in order to whet the bibliomaniacal appetite of his young convert, he slyly observed that his set of De Bure's pieces were half bound and uncut; and that by having them bound in morocco, with gilt leaves, he would excel my own set; which latter was coated in a prettily-sprinkled calf leather, with speckled edges. Lisardo could not repress the joyful sensations which this remark excited; and I observed that, whenever his eyes glanced upon my shelves, he afterwards returned them upon his own little collection, with a look of complacency mingled with exultation. It was evident, therefore, that he was now thoroughly reconciled to his fortune.
Lysand. During your absence, I have been reading a very favourite work of mine —Dr. Henry's History of Great Britain; especially that part of it which I prefer so much to the history of human cunning and human slaughter; I mean, the account of learning and of learned men.
Phil. It is also a great favourite with me. But while I regret the inexcuseable omission of an index to such a voluminous work, and the inequality of Mr. Andrews's partial continuation of it, I must be permitted to observe that the history of our literature and learned men is not the most brilliant, or best executed, part of Dr. Henry's valuable labours. There are many omissions to supply, and much interesting additional matter to bring forward, even in some of the most elaborate parts of it. His account of the arts might also be improved; although in commerce, manners and customs, I think he has done as much, and as well, as could reasonably be expected. I question, however, whether his work, from the plan upon which it is executed, will ever become so popular as its fondest admirers seem to hope.
Lysand. You are to consider, Philemon, that in the execution of such an important whole, in the erection of so immense a fabric, some parts must necessarily be finished in a less workman-like style than others. And, after all, there is a good deal of caprice in our criticisms. You fancy, in this fabric (if I may be allowed to go on with my simile), a boudoir, a hall, or a staircase; and fix a critical eye upon a recess badly contrived, an oval badly turned, or pillars weakly put together:— the builder says, Don't look at these parts of the fabric with such fastidious nicety; they are subordinate. If my boudoir will hold a moderate collection of old-fashioned Dresden China, if my staircase be stout enough to conduct you and your company to the upper rooms; and, if my hall be spacious enough to hold the hats, umbrellas and walking-sticks of your largest dinner-party, they answer the ends proposed:— unless you would live in your boudoir, upon your staircase, or within your hall! The fact then is, you, Philemon, prefer the boudoir, and might, perhaps, improve upon its structure; but, recollect, there are places in a house of equal, or perhaps more, consequence than this beloved boudoir. Now, to make the obvious application to the work which has given rise to this wonderful stretch of imagination on my part:— Dr. Henry is the builder, and his history is the building, in question: in the latter he had to put together, with skill and credit, a number of weighty parts, of which the "Civil and Ecclesiastical" is undoubtedly the most important to the generality of readers. But one of these component parts was the The History of Learning and of Learned Men; which its author probably thought of subordinate consequence, or in the management of which, to allow you the full force of your objection, he was not so well skilled. Yet, still, never before having been thus connected with such a building, it was undoubtedly a delightful acquisition; and I question whether, if it had been more elaborately executed — if it had exhibited all the fret-work and sparkling points which you seem to conceive necessary to its completion; I question, whether the popularity of the work would have been even so great as it is, and as it unquestionably merits to be! A few passionately-smitten literary antiquaries are not, perhaps, the fittest judges of such a production. To be generally useful and profitable should be the object of every author of a similar publication; and as far as candour and liberality of sentiment, an unaffected and manly style, accompanied with weighty matter, extensive research, and faithful quotation, render a work nationally valuable — the work of Dr. Henry, on these grounds, is an ornament and honour to his country.
Phil. Yet I wish he had rambled (if you will permit me so to speak) a little more into book-men and book-anecdotes.
Lysand. You may indulge this wish very innocently; but, certainly, you ought not to censure Dr. Henry for the omission of such minutiæ.
Lis. Does he ever quote Clement, De Bure, or Panzer?
Lysand. Away with such bibliomaniacal frenzy! He quotes solid, useful and respectable authorities; chiefly our old and most valuable historians. No writer before him ever did them so much justice, or displayed a more familiar acquaintance with them.
Lis. Do pray give us, Lysander, some little sketches of book-characters — which, I admit, did not enter into the plan of Dr. Henry's excellent work. As I possess the original quarto edition of this latter, bound in Russia, you will not censure me for a want of respect towards the author.
Phil. I second Lisardo's motion; although I fear the evening presses too hard upon us to admit of much present discussion.
Lysand. Nothing —(speaking most unaffectedly from my heart) nothing affords me sincerer pleasure than to do any thing in my power which may please such cordial friends as yourselves. My pretensions to that sort of antiquarian knowledge, which belongs to the history of book-collectors, are very poor, as you well know — they being greatly eclipsed by my zeal in the same cause. But, as I love my country and my country's literature, so no conversation or research affords me a livelier pleasure than that which leads me to become better acquainted with the ages which have gone by; with the great and good men of old; who have found the most imperishable monuments of their fame in the sympathizing hearts of their successors. But I am wandering —
Lis. Go on as you please, dear Lysander; for I have been too much indebted to your conversation ever to suppose it could diverge into any thing censoriously irrelevant. Begin where and when you please.
Lysand. I assure you it is far from my intention to make any formal exordium, even if I knew the exact object of your request.
Phil. Tell us all about book-collecting and Bibliomaniacs in this country —
Lis. "Commençez au commençement"— as the French adage is.
Lysand. In sober truth, you impose upon me a pretty tough task! "One Thousand and One Nights" would hardly suffice for the execution of it; and now, already, I see the owl flying across the lawn to take her station in the neighbouring oak; while even the middle ground of yonder landscape is veiled in the blue haziness of evening. Come a short half hour, and who, unless the moon befriend him, can see the outline of the village church? Thus gradually and imperceptibly, but thus surely, succeeds age to youth — death to life — eternity to time! — You see in what sort of mood I am for the performance of my promise?
Lis. Reserve these meditations for your pillow, dear Lysander: and now, again I entreat you —"commençez au commençement."
Phil. Pray make a beginning only: the conclusion shall be reserved, as a desert, for Lorenzo's dinner to-morrow.
Lysand. Lest I should be thought coquettish, I will act with you as I have already done; and endeavour to say something which may gratify you as before.
It has often struck me my dear friends, continued Lysander —(in a balanced attitude, and seeming to bring quietly together all his scattered thoughts upon the subject) it has often struck me that few things have operated more unfavourably towards the encouragement of learning, and of book-collecting, than the universal passion for chivalry— which obtained towards the middle ages; while, on the other hand, a monastic life seems to have excited a love of retirement, meditation, and reading.210 I admit readily, that, considering the long continuance of the monastic orders, and that almost all intellectual improvement was confined within the cloister, a very slow and partial progress was made in literature. The system of education was a poor, stinted, and unproductive one. Nor was it till after the enterprising activity of Poggio had succeeded in securing a few precious remains of classical antiquity,211 that the wretched indolence of the monastic life began to be diverted from a constant meditation upon "antiphoners, grailes, and psalters,"212 towards subjects of a more generally interesting nature. I am willing to admit every degree of merit to the manual dexterity of the cloistered student. I admire his snow-white vellum missals, emblazoned with gold, and sparkling with carmine and ultramarine blue. By the help of the microscopic glass, I peruse his diminutive penmanship, executed with the most astonishing neatness and regularity; and often wish in my heart that our typographers printed with ink as glossy black as that which they sometimes used in their writing. I admire all this; and now and then, for a guinea or two, I purchase a specimen of such marvellous leger-de-main: but the book, when purchased, is to me a sealed book. And yet, Philemon, I blame not the individual, but the age; not the task, but the task-master; for surely the same exquisite and unrivalled beauty would have been exhibited in copying an ode of Horace, or a dictum of Quintilian. Still, however, you may say that the intention, in all this, was pure and meritorious; for that such a system excited insensibly a love of quiet, domestic order, and seriousness: while those counsels and regulations which punished a "Clerk for being a hunter," and restricted "the intercourse of Concubines,"213 evinced a spirit of jurisprudence which would have done justice to any age. Let us allow, then, if you please, that a love of book-reading, and of book-collecting, was a meritorious trait in the monastic life; and that we are to look upon old abbies and convents as the sacred depositories of the literature of past ages. What can you say in defence of your times of beloved chivalry?
210 As early as the sixth century commenced the custom, in some monasteries, of copying ancient books and composing new ones. It was the usual, and even only, employment of the first monks of Marmoutier. A monastery without a library was considered as a fort or a camp deprived of the necessary articles for its defence: "claustrum sine armario, quasi castrum sine armentario." Peignot, Dict. de Bibliolog., vol. i., 77. I am fearful that this good old bibliomanical custom of keeping up the credit of their libraries among the monks had ceased — at least in the convent of Romsey, in Hampshire — towards the commencement of the sixteenth century. One would think that the books had been there disposed of in bartering for strong liquors; for at a visitation by Bishop Fox, held there in 1506, Joyce Rows, the abbess, is accused of immoderate drinking, especially in the night time; and of inviting the nuns to her chamber every evening, for the purpose of these excesses, "post completorium." What is frightful to add — "this was a rich convent, and filled with ladies of the best families." See Warton's cruel note in his Life of Sir Thomas Pope, p. 25, edit. 1772. A tender-hearted bibliomaniac cannot but feel acutely on reflecting upon the many beautifully-illuminated vellum books which were, in all probability, exchanged for these inebriating gratifications! To balance this unfavourable account read Hearne's remark about the libraries in ancient monasteries, in the sixth volume of Leland's Collectanea, p. 86-7, edit. 1774: and especially the anecdotes and authorities stated by Dr. Henry in book iii., chap, iv., sec. 1.
211 See the first volume of Mr. Roscoe's Lorenzo de Medici; and the Rev. Mr. Shepherd's Life of Poggio Bracciolini.
212 When Queen Elizabeth deputed a set of commissioners to examine into the superstitious books belonging to All-Souls library, there was returned, in the list of these superstitious works, "eight grailes, seven antiphoners of parchment and bound." Gutch's Collectanea Curiosa, vol. ii., 276. At page 115, ante, the reader will find a definition of the word "Antiphoner." He is here informed that a "gradale" or "grail," is a book which ought to have in it "the office of sprinkling holy water: the beginnings of the masses, or the offices of Kyrie, with the verses of gloria in excelsis; the gradales, or what is gradually sung after the epistles; the hallelujah and tracts, the sequences, the creed to be sung at mass, the offertories, the hymns holy, and Lamb of God, the communion, &c., which relate to the choir at the singing of a solemn mass." This is the Rev. J. Lewis's account; idem opus, vol. ii., 168.
213 "Of a Clerk that is an Hunter."
"We ordain that if any clerk be defamed of trespass committed in forest or park of any man's, and thereof be lawfully convicted before his ordinary, or do confess it to him, the diocesan shall make redemption thereof in his goods, if he have goods after the quality of his fault; and such redemption shall be assigned to him to whom the loss, hurt, or injury, is done; but if he have no goods, let his bishop grievously punish his person according as the fault requireth, lest through trust to escape punishment they boldly presume to offend." Fol. 86, rev.: vide infra. (The same prohibition against clergymen being Hunters appears in a circular letter, or injunctions, by Lee, Archbishop of York, A.D. 1536. "Item; they shall not be common Hunters ne Hawkers, ne playe at gammes prohibytede, as dycese and cartes, and such oder." Burnet's Hist. of the Reformation; vol. iii. p. 136, "Collections.")
"Although the governors of the church have always laboured and enforced to drive and chase away from the houses of the church that rotten contagiousness of pleasant filthiness with the which the sight and beauty of the church is grievously spotted and defiled, and yet could never hitherto bring it to pass, seeing it is of so great a lewd boldness that it thursteth in unshamefastly without ceasing; we, therefore," &c. Fol. 114, rect.
"How unbecoming it is, and how contrary to the pureness of Christians, to touch sacred things with lips and hands polluted, or any to give the laws and praisings of cleanness, or to present himself in the Lord's temple, when he is defiled with the spots of lechery, not only the divine and canonical laws, but also the monitions of secular princes, hath evidently seen by the judgment of holy consideration, commanding and enjoining both discreetly and also wholesomely, shamefacedness unto all Christ's faithful, and ministers of the holy church." Fol. 131, rect. Constitutions Provincialles, and of Otho and Octhobone. Redman's edit. 1534, 12mo. On looking into Du Pin's Ecclesiastical History, vol. ix., p. 58, edit. 1699, I find that Hugh of Dia, by the ninth canon in the council of Poictiers, (centy. xi.) ordained "That the sub-deacons, deacons, and priests, shall have no concubine, or any other suspicious women in their houses; and that all those who shall wittingly hear the mass of a priest that keeps a concubine, or is guilty of simony, shall be excommunicated."
Phil. Shew me in what respect the gallant spirit of an ancient knight was hostile to the cultivation of the belles-lettres?
Lysand. Most readily. Look at your old romances, and what is the system of education — of youthful pursuits — which they in general inculcate? Intrigue and bloodshed.214 Examine your favourite new edition of the Fabliaux et Contes of the middle ages, collected by Barbazan! However the editor may say that "though some of these pieces are a little too free, others breathe a spirit of morality and religion —"215 the main scope of the poems, taken collectively, is that which has just been mentioned. But let us come to particulars. What is there in the Ordene de Chevalerie, or Le Castoiement d'un Pere à son fils (pieces in which one would expect a little seriousness of youthful instruction), that can possibly excite a love of reading, book-collecting, or domestic quiet? Again; let us see what these chivalrous lads do, as soon as they become able-bodied! Nothing but assault and wound one another. Read concerning your favourite Oliver of Castile,216 and his half-brother Arthur! Or, open the beautiful volumes of the late interesting translation of Monstrelet, and what is almost the very first thing which meets your eye? Why, "an Esquire of Arragon (one of your chivalrous heroes) named Michel D'Orris, sends a challenge to an English esquire of the same complexion with himself — and this is the nature of the challenge: [which I will read from the volume, as it is close at my right hand, and I have been dipping into it this morning in your absence —]
214 The celebrated Ludovicus Vives has strung together a whole list of ancient popular romances, calling them "ungracious books." The following is his saucy philippic: "Which books but idle men wrote unlearned, and set all upon filth and viciousness; in whom I wonder what should delight men, but that vice pleaseth them so much. As for learning, none is to be looked for in those men, which saw never so much as a shadow of learning themselves. And when they tell ought, what delight can be in those things that be so plain and foolish lies? One killeth twenty by himself alone, another killeth thirty; another, wounded with a hundred wounds, and left for dead, riseth up again; and on the next day, made whole and strong, overcometh two giants, and then goeth away loaden with gold and silver and precious stones, mo than a galley would carry away. What madness is it of folks to have pleasure in these books! Also there is no wit in them, but a few words of wanton lust; which be spoken to move her mind with whom they love, if it chance she be steadfast. And if they be read but for this, the best were to make books of bawd's crafts, for in other things what craft can be had of such a maker that is ignorant of all good craft? Nor I never heard man say that he liked these books, but those that never touched good books."—Instruction of a Christian Woman, sign. D. 1. rev., edit. 1593. From the fifth chapter (sufficiently curious) of "What books be to be read, and what not."
215 Vol. ii., p. 39, edit. 1808.
216 "When the king saw that they were puissant enough for to wield armour at their ease, he gave them license for to do cry a Justing and Tournament. The which Oliver and Arthur made for to be cried, that three aventurous knights should just against all comers, the which should find them there the first day of the lusty month of May, in complete harness, for to just against their adversaries with sharp spears. And the said three champions should just three days in three colours: that is to wit, in black, grey and violet — and their shields of the same hue; and them to find on the third day at the lists. There justed divers young knights of the king's court: and the justing was more asperer of those young knights than ever they had seen any in that country. And, by the report of the ladies, they did so knightly, every one, that it was not possible for to do better, as them thought, by their strokes. But, above all other, Oliver and Arthur (his loyal fellow) had the bruit and loos. The justing endured long: it was marvel to see the hideous strokes that they dealt; for the justing had not finished so soon but that the night separed them. Nevertheless, the adversary party abode 'till the torches were light. But the ladies and damoyselles, that of all the justing time had been there, were weary, and would depart. Wherefore the justers departed in likewise, and went and disarmed them for to come to the banquet or feast. And when that the banquet was finished and done, the dances began. And there came the king and the valiant knights of arms, for to enquire of the ladies and damoyselles, who that had best borne him as for that day. The ladies, which were all of one accord and agreement, said that Oliver and Arthur had surmounted all the best doers of that journey. And by cause that Oliver and Arthur were both of one party, and that they could find but little difference between them of knighthood, they knew not the which they might sustain. But, in the end, they said that Arthur had done right valiantly: nevertheless, they said that Oliver had done best unto their seeming. And therefore it was concluded that the pryce should be given unto Oliver, as for the best of them of within. And another noble knight, of the realm of Algarbe, that came with the queen, had the pryce of without. When the pryce of the juste that had been made was brought before Oliver, by two fair damoyselles, he waxed all red, and was ashamed at that present time; and said that it was of their bounty for to give him the pryce, and not of his desert: nevertheless, he received it; and, as it was of custom in guerdoning them, he kissed them. And soon after they brought the wine and spices; and then the dances and the feast took an end as for that night." Hystorye of Olyuer of Castylle, and of the fayre Helayne, &c., 1518, 4to., sign. A. v. vj. This I suppose to be the passage alluded to by Lysander. The edition from which it is taken, and of which the title was barely known to Ames and Herbert, is printed by Wynkyn De Worde. Mr. Heber's copy of it is at present considered to be unique. The reader will see some copious extracts from it in the second volume of the British Typographical Antiquities.
"First, to enter the lists on foot, each armed in the manner he shall please, having a dagger and sword attached to any part of his body, and a battle-axe, with the handle of such length as the challenger shall fix on. The combat to be as follows: ten strokes of the battle-axe, without intermission; and when these strokes shall have been given, and the judge shall cry out 'Ho!' ten cuts with the sword to be given without intermission or change of armour. When the judge shall cry out 'Ho!' we will resort to our daggers, and give ten stabs with them. Should either party lose or drop his weapon, the other may continue the use of the one in his hand until the judge shall cry out 'Ho!'" &c.217 A very pretty specimen of honourable combat, truly! — and a mighty merciful judge who required even more cuts and thrusts than these (for the combat is to go on) before he cried out "Ho!" Defend us from such ejaculatory umpires! —
217 See Monstrelet's Chronicles, translated by Thomas Johnes, Esq., vol. i., p. 8, edit. 1809, 4to. Another elegant and elaborate specimen of the Hafod press; whose owner will be remembered as long as literature and taste shall be cultivated in this country.
Lis. Pray dwell no longer upon such barbarous heroism! We admit that Monachism may have contributed towards the making of bibliomaniacs more effectually than Chivalry. Now proceed —
These words had hardly escaped Lisardo, when the arrival of my worthy neighbour Narcottus (who lived by the parsonage house), put a stop to the discourse. Agreeably to a promise which I had made him three days before, he came to play a game of chess with Philemon; who, on his part, although a distinguished champion at this head-distracting game, gave way rather reluctantly to the performance of the promise: for Lysander was now about to enter upon the history of the Bibliomania in this country. The Chess-board, however was brought out; and down to the contest the combatants sat — while Lisardo retired to one corner of the room to examine thoroughly his newly-purchased volumes, and Lysander took down a prettily executed 8vo. volume upon the Game of Chess, printed at Cheltenham, about six years ago, and composed "by an amateur." While we were examining, in this neat work, an account of the numerous publications upon the Game of Chess, in various countries and languages, and were expressing our delight in reading anecdotes about eminent chess players, Lisardo was carefully packing up his books, as he expected his servant every minute to take them away. The servant shortly arrived, and upon his expressing his inability to carry the entire packet —"Here," exclaimed Lisardo, "do you take the quartos, and follow me; who will march onward with the octavos." This was no sooner said than our young bibliomaniacal convert gave De Bure, Gaignat, and La Valliere, a vigorous swing across his shoulders; while the twenty quarto volumes of Clement and Panzer were piled, like "Ossa upon Pelion," upon those of his servant — and
"Light of foot, and light of heart"
Lisardo took leave of us 'till the morrow.
Meanwhile, the chess combat continued with unabated spirit. Here Philemon's king stood pretty firmly guarded by both his knights, one castle, one bishop, and a body of common soldiers218— impenetrable as the Grecian phalanx, or Roman legion; while his queen had made a sly sortie to surprise the only surviving knight of Narcottus. Narcottus, on the other hand, was cautiously collecting his scattered foot soldiers, and, with two bishops, and two castle-armed elephants, were meditating a desperate onset to retrieve the disgrace of his lost queen. An inadvertent remark from Lysander, concerning the antiquity of the game, attracted the attention of Philemon so much as to throw him off his guard; while his queen, forgetful of her sex, and venturing unprotected, like Penthesilea of old, into the thickest of the fight, was trampled under foot, without mercy,219 by a huge elephant, carrying a castle of armed men upon his back. Shouts of applause, from Narcottus's men, rent the vaulted air; while grief and consternation possessed the astonished army of Philemon. "Away with your antiquarian questions," exclaimed the latter, looking sharply at Lysander: "away with your old editions of the Game of Chess! The moment is critical; and I fear the day may be lost. Now for desperate action!" So saying, he bade the King exhort his dismayed subjects. His Majesty made a spirited oration; and called upon Sir Launcelot, the most distinguished of the two Knights,220 to be mindful of his own and of his country's honour: to spare the effusion of blood among his subjects as much as possible; but rather to place victory or defeat in the comparative skill of the officers: and, at all events, to rally round that throne which had conferred such high marks of distinction upon his ancestors. "I needed not, gracious sire," replied Sir Launcelot — curbing in his mouth-foaming steed, and fixing his spear in the rest —"I needed not to be here reminded of your kindness to my forefathers, or of the necessity of doing every thing, at such a crisis, beseeming the honour of a true round-table knight. — Yes, gracious sovereign, I swear to you by the love I bear to the Lady of the Lake221— by the remembrance of the soft moments we have passed together in the honey-suckle bowers of her father — by all that an knight of chivalry is taught to believe the most sacred and binding — I swear that I will not return this day alive without the laurel of victory entwined round my brow. Right well do I perceive that deeds and not words must save us now — let the issue of the combat prove my valour and allegiance." Upon this, Sir Launcelot clapped spurs to his horse, and after driving an unprotected Bishop into the midst of the foot-soldiers, who quickly took him prisoner, he sprang forward, with a lion-like nimbleness and ferocity, to pick out Sir Galaad, the only remaining knight in the adverse army, to single combat. Sir Galaad, strong and wary, like the Greenland bear when assailed by the darts and bullets of our whale-fishing men, marked the fury of Sir Launcelot's course, and sought rather to present a formidable defence by calling to aid his elephants, than to meet such a champion single-handed. A shrill blast from his horn told the danger of his situation, and the necessity of help. What should now be done? The unbroken ranks of Philemon's men presented a fearful front to the advance of the elephants, and the recent capture of a venerable bishop had made the monarch, on Narcottus's side, justly fearful of risking the safety of his empire by leaving himself wholly without episcopal aid. Meanwhile the progress of Sir Launcelot was marked with blood; and he was of necessity compelled to slaughter a host of common men, who stood thickly around Sir Galaad, resolved to conquer or die by his side. At length, as Master Laneham aptly expresses it, "get they grysly together."222 The hostile leaders met; there was neither time nor disposition for parley. Sir Galaad threw his javelin with well-directed fury; which, flying within an hair's breadth of Sir Launcelot's shoulder, passed onward, and, grazing the cheek of a foot soldier, stood quivering in the sand. He then was about to draw his ponderous sword — but the tremendous spear of Sir Launcelot, whizzing strongly in the air, passed through his thickly quilted belt, and, burying itself in his bowels, made Sir Galaad to fall breathless from his horse. Now might you hear the shouts of victory on one side, and the groans of the vanquished on the other; or, as old Homer expresses it,
Victors and vanquished shouts promiscuous rise.
With streams of blood the slippery fields are dyed,
And slaughtered heroes swell the dreadful tide.
218 "Whilst there are strong, able, and active men of the king's side, to defend his cause, there is no danger of [this] misfortune." Letter to the Craftsman on the Game of Chess, p. 13.
219 "When therefore the men of one party attack those of the other, though their spleen at first may only seem bent against a Bishop, a Knight, or an inferior officer; yet, if successful in their attacks on that servant of the king, they never stop there: they come afterwards to think themselves strong enough even to attack the Queen," &c. The same, p. 12.
220 "The Knight (whose steps, as your correspondent justly observes, are not of an ordinary kind, and often surprise men who oppose him) is of great use in extricating the King out of those difficulties in which his foes endeavour to entangle him. — He is a man whom a wise player makes great use of in these exigences, and who oftenest defeats the shallow schemes and thin artifices of unskilful antagonists. They must be very bad players who do not guard against the steps of the Knight." The same, p. 14.
221 "The Lady of the Lake; famous in King Arthurz Book"— says Master Laneham, in his Letter to Master Humfrey Martin; concerning the entertainment given by Lord Leicester to Q. Elizabeth at Kenilworth Castle: A.D. 1575, edit. 1784, p. 12. Yet more famous, I add, in a poem under this express title, by Walter Scott, 1810.
And, truly, the army of Narcottus seemed wasted with a great slaughter: yet on neither side, had the monarch been checked, so as to be put in personal danger! "While there is life there is hope," said the surviving Bishop223 on the side of Narcottus: who now taking upon him the command of the army, and perceiving Sir Launcelot to be pretty nearly exhausted with fatigue, and wantonly exposing his person, ordered the men at arms to charge him briskly on all sides; while his own two castles kept a check upon the remaining castle, knight, and bishop of the opposite army: also, he exhorted the king to make a feint, as if about to march onwards. Sir Launcelot, on perceiving the movement of the monarch, sprang forward to make him a prisoner; but he was surprised by an elephant in ambuscade, from whose castle-bearing back a well-shot arrow pierced his corslet, and inflicted a mortal wound. He fell; but, in falling, he seemed to smile even sweetly, as he thought upon the noble speech of Sir Bohort224 over the dead body of his illustrious ancestor, of the same name; and, exhorting his gallant men to revenge his fall, he held the handle of his sword firmly, till his whole frame was stiffened in death. And now the battle was renewed with equal courage and equal hopes of victory on both sides: but the loss of the flower of their armies, and especially of their beloved spouses, had heavily oppressed the adverse monarchs: who, retiring to a secured spot, bemoaned in secret the hapless deaths of their queens, and bitterly bewailed that injudicious law which, of necessity, so much exposed their fair persons, by giving them such an unlimited power. The fortune of the day, therefore, remained in the hands of the respective commanders; and if the knight and bishop, on Philemon's side, had not contested about superiority of rule, the victory had surely been with Philemon. But the strife of these commanders threw every thing into confusion. The men, after being trampled upon by the elephants of Narcottus, left their king exposed, without the power of being aided by his castle. An error so fatal was instantly perceived by the bishop of Narcottus's shattered army; who, like another Ximenes,225 putting himself at the head of his forces, and calling upon his men resolutely to march onwards, gave orders for the elephants to be moved cautiously at a distance, and to lose no opportunity of making the opposite monarch prisoner. Thus, while he charged in front, and captured, with his own hands, the remaining adverse knight, his men kept the adverse bishop from sending reinforcements; and Philemon's elephant not having an opportunity of sweeping across the plain to come to the timely aid of the king,226 the victory was speedily obtained, for the men upon the backs of Narcottus's elephants kept up so tremendous a discharge of arrows that the monarch was left without a single attendant: and, of necessity, was obliged to submit to the generosity of his captors.
223 "I think the Bishops extremely considerable throughout the whole game. One quality too they have, which is peculiar to themselves; this is that, throughout the whole game, they have a steadiness in their conduct, superior to men of any other denomination on the board; as they never change their colour, but always pursue the path in which they set out." The same (vid. 206-7) p. 20.
224 This truly chivalrous speech may be seen extracted in Mr. Burnet's Specimens of English Prose Writers, vol. i., 269. One of Virgil's heroes, to the best of my recollection, dies serenely upon thinking of his beloved countrymen:
—— dulces moriens reminiscitur Argos!
225 It is always pleasant to me to make comparisons with eminent book-patrons, or, if the reader pleases, bibliomaniacs. Cardinal Ximenes was the promoter and patron of the celebrated Complutensian Polyglott Bible; concerning which I have already submitted some account to the public in my Introduction to the Classics, vol. i., pp. 7, 8. His political abilities and personal courage have been described by Dr. Robertson (in his history of Charles V.), with his usual ability. We have here only to talk of him as connected with books. Mallinkrot and Le Long have both preserved the interesting anecdote which is related by his first biographer, Alvaro Gomez, concerning the completion of the forementioned Polyglott. "I have often heard John Brocarius (says Gomez) son of Arnoldus Brocarius, who printed the Polyglott, tell his friends that, when his father had put the finishing stroke to the last volume, he deputed him to carry it to the Cardinal. John Brocarius was then a lad; and, having dressed himself in an elegant suit of clothes, he gravely approached Ximenes, and delivered the volume into his hands. 'I render thanks to thee, oh God!' exclaimed the Cardinal, 'that thou hast protracted my life to the completion of these biblical labours.' Afterwards, when conversing with his friends, Ximenes would often observe that the surmounting of the various difficulties of his political situation did not afford him half the satisfaction which he experienced from the finishing of his Polyglott. He died in the year 1517, not many weeks after the last volume was published." Gomez, or Gomecius's work "de rebus gestis, à Francisco Ximenio Cisnerio Archiepiscopo Complut," 1569, fol., is a book of very uncommon occurrence. It is much to be wished that Lord Holland, or Mr. Southey, would give us a life of this celebrated political character: as the biographies of Flechier and Marsolier seem miserably defective, and the sources of Gomez to have been but partially consulted. But I must not let slip this opportunity of commemorating the book-reputation of Ximenes, without making the reader acquainted with two other singularly scarce and curious productions of the press, which owe their birth to the bibliomanical spirit of our Cardinal. I mean the "Missale mixtum secundum regulum B. Isidori, dictum Mozarabes, cum præfat." A. Ortiz. Toleti, 1500, fol. and the "Breviarium, mixtum," &c. Mozarabes. Toleti, 1502, fol.: of the former of which there was a copy in the Harleian collection; as the ensuing interesting note, in the catalogue of Lord Harley's books, specifies. I shall give it without abridgment: "This is the scarcest book in the whole Harleian collection. At the end of it are the following words, which deserve to be inserted here:— Adlaudem Omnipotentis Dei, nec non Virginis Mariæ Matris ejus, omnium sanctorum sanctarumq; expletum est Missale mixtum secundum regulam beati Isidori dictum Mozarabes: maxima cum diligentia perlectum et emendatum, per Reverendum in utroq; Jure Doctorem Dominum Alfonsum Ortiz, Canonicum Toletanum. Impressum in regal. civitate Toleti, Jussu Reverendissimi in Christo Patris Domini D. Francisci Ximenii, ejusdem civitatis Archiepiscopi. Impensis Nobilis Melchioris Gorricii Novariensis, per Magistrum Petrum Hagembach, Almanum, anno salutis nostræ 1500, Die 29o mensis Januarii." "This is supposed to be the ancient Missal amended and purged by St. Isidore, archbishop of Sevil, and ordered by the Council of Toledo to be used in all churches; every one of which before that time had a missal peculiar to itself. The Moors afterwards committing great ravages in Spain, destroying the churches, and throwing every thing there, both civil and sacred, into confusion, all St. Isidore's missals, excepting those in the city of Toledo, were lost. But those were preserved even after the Moors had made themselves masters of that city; since they left six of the churches there to the Christians, and granted them the free exercise of their religion. Alphonsus the Sixth, many ages afterwards, expelled the Moors from Toledo, and ordered the Roman missal to be used in those churches where St. Isidore's missal had been in vogue, ever since the council above-mentioned. But the people of Toledo insisting that their missal was drawn up by the most ancient bishops, revised and corrected by St. Isidore, proved to be the best by the great number of saints who had followed it, and been preserved during the whole time of the Moorish government in Spain, he could not bring his project to bear without great difficulty. In short, the contest between the Roman and Toletan missals came to that height that, according to the genius of the age, it was decided by a single combat, wherein the champion of the Toletan missal proved victorious. But King Alphonsus, say some of the Spanish writers, not being satisfied with this, which he considered as the effect of chance only, ordered a fast to be proclaimed, and a great fire to be then made; into which, after the king and people had prayed fervently to God for his assistance in this affair, both the missals were thrown; but the Toletan only escaped the violence of the flames. This, continue the same authors, made such an impression upon the king that he permitted the citizens of Toledo to use their own missal in those churches that had been granted the Christians by the Moors. However, the copies of this missal grew afterwards so scarce, that Cardinal Ximenes found it extremely difficult to meet with one of them: which induced him to order this impression, and to build a chapel, in which this service was chanted every day, as it had at first been by the ancient Christians. But, notwithstanding this, the copies of the Toletan missal are become now so exceeding rare that it is at present almost in as much danger of being buried in oblivion as it was when committed to the press by Cardinal Ximenes." Bibl. Harl., vol. iii., p. 117. But let the reader consult the more extended details of De Bure (Bibl. Instruct., vol. i., no. 210, 211), and De La Serna Santander (Dict. Chois. Bibliogr. du xv. Siecle, part iii., p. 178); also the very valuable notice of Vogt; Cat. Libror. Rarior., p. 591; who mention a fine copy of the missal and breviary, each struck off upon vellum, in the collegiate church of St. Ildefonso. If I recollect rightly, Mr. Edwards informed me that an Italian Cardinal was in possession of a similar copy of each. This missal was republished at Rome, with a capital preface and learned notes, by Lesleus, a Jesuit, in 1755, 4to.: and Lorenzana, archbishop of Toledo, republished the breviary in a most splendid manner at Madrid, in 1788. Both these re-impressions are also scarce. I know not whether the late king of Spain ever put his design into execution of giving a new edition of these curious religious volumes; some ancient MSS. of which had been carefully collated by Burriel. Consult Osmont's Dict. Typog., vol. i., p. 477; Cat. de Gaignat, nos. 179, 180; Cat. de la Valliere, nos. 271, 272; Bibl. Solger., vol. ii. no. 1280; and Bibl. Colbert, nos. 342, 366. Having expatiated thus much, and perhaps tediously, about these renowned volumes, let me introduce to the notice of the heraldic reader the Coat of Arms of the equally renowned Cardinal — of whose genuine editions of the Mozarabic Missal and Breviary my eyes were highly gratified with a sight, in the exquisite library of Earl Spencer, at Althorp.
226 Of the Tower or Rook (or Elephant) one may indeed — to speak in the scripture style —(and properly speaking, considering its situation) call this piece "the head stone of the corner." There are two of them; and, whilst they remain firm, his majesty is ever in safety. The common enemies, therefore, of them and their king watch their least motion very narrowly, and try a hundred tricks to decoy them from the king's side, by feints, false alarms, stumbling blocks, or any other method that can be contrived to divert them from their duty. The same, p. 15. (vide. 159, ante.)
Thus ended one of the most memorable chess contests upon record. Not more stubbornly did the Grecians and Romans upon Troy's plain, or the English and French upon Egypt's shores, contend for the palm of victory, than did Philemon and Narcottus compel their respective forces to signalize themselves in this hard-fought game. To change the simile for a more homely one; no Northamptonshire hunt was ever more vigorously kept up; and had it not been (at least so Philemon thought!) for the inadvertent questions of Lysander, respecting the antiquity of the amusement, an easy victory would have been obtained by my guest over my neighbour. Lysander, with his usual politeness, took all the blame upon himself. Philemon felt, as all chess-combatants feel upon defeat, peevish and vexed. But the admirably well adapted conversation of Lysander, and the natural diffidence of Narcottus, served to smooth Philemon's ruffled plumage; and at length diffused o'er his countenance his natural glow of good humour.
It was now fast advancing towards midnight; when Narcottus withdrew to his house, and my guests to their chambers.
To-morrow came; and with the morrow came composure and hilarity in the countenances of my guests. The defeat of the preceding evening was no longer thought of; except that Philemon betrayed some little marks of irritability on Lysander's shewing him the fac-simile wood-cuts of the pieces and men in Caxton's edition of the game of chess, which are published in the recent edition of the Typographical Antiquities of our country.
Lisardo visited us betimes. His countenance, on his entrance gave indication of vexation and disappointment — as well it might; for, on his return home the preceding evening, he found the following note from Lorenzo:—
"My dear Lisardo;
Our friend's visitors, Lysander and Philemon, are coming with their host to eat old mutton, and drink old sherry, with me to-morrow; and afterwards to discuss subjects of bibliography. I do not ask you to join them, because I know your thorough aversion to every thing connected with such topics. Adieu!
"Little," exclaimed Lisardo, "does he know of my conversion. I'll join you uninvited; and abide by the consequences."
At four o'clock we set off, in company with Lisardo, for Lorenzo's dinner. I need hardly add that the company of the latter was cordially welcomed by our host; who, before the course of pastry was cleared away, proposed a sparkling bumper of Malmsey madeira, to commemorate his conversion to Bibliomaniacism. By half-past-five we were ushered into the library, to partake of a costly dessert of rock melons and Hamburgh grapes, with all their appropriate embellishments of nectarines and nuts. Massive and curiously cut decanters, filled with the genuine juice of the grape, strayed backwards and forwards upon the table: and well-furnished minds, which could not refuse the luxury of such a feast, made every thing as pleasant as rational pleasure could be.
Lis. If Lorenzo have not any thing which he may conceive more interesting to propose, I move that you, good Lysander, now resume the discussion of a subject which you so pleasantly commenced last night.
Phil. I rise to second the motion.
Loren. And I, to give it every support in my power.
Lysand. There is no resisting such adroitly levelled attacks. Do pray tell me what it is you wish me to go on with?
Phil. The history of book-collecting and of book-collectors in this country.
Lis. The history of Bibliomania, if you please.
Lysand. You are madder than the maddest of book-collectors, Lisardo. But I will gossip away upon the subjects as well as I am able.
I think we left off with an abuse of the anti-bibliomaniacal powers of chivalry. Let us pursue a more systematic method; and begin, as Lisardo says, "at the beginning."
In the plan which I may pursue, you must forgive me, my friends, if you find it desultory and irregular: and, as a proof of the sincerity of your criticism, I earnestly beg that, like the chivalrous judge, of whom mention was made last night, you will cry out "Ho!" when you wish me to cease. But where shall we begin? From what period shall we take up the history of Bookism (or, if you please, Bibliomania) in this country? Let us pass over those long-bearded gentlemen called the Druids; for in the various hypotheses which sagacious antiquaries have advanced upon their beloved Stone-henge, none, I believe, are to be found wherein the traces of a Library, in that vast ruin, are pretended to be discovered. As the Druids were sparing of their writing,227 they probably read the more; but whether they carried their books with them into trees, or made their pillows of them upon Salisbury-plain, tradition is equally silent. Let us therefore preserve the same prudent silence, and march on at once into the seventh, eighth, and ninth centuries; in which the learning of Bede, Alcuin, Erigena, and Alfred, strikes us with no small degree of amazement. Yet we must not forget that their predecessor Theodore, archbishop of Canterbury, was among the earliest book-collectors in this country; for he brought over from Rome, not only a number of able professors, but a valuable collection of books.228 Such, however, was the scarcity of the book article, that Benedict Biscop (a founder of the monastery of Weremouth in Northumberland), a short time after, made not fewer than five journeys to Rome to purchase books, and other necessary things for his monastery — for one of which books our immortal Alfred (a very Helluo Librorum! as you will presently learn) gave afterwards as much land as eight ploughs could labour.229 We now proceed to Bede; whose library I conjecture to have been both copious and curious. What matin and midnight vigils must this literary phenomenon have patiently sustained! What a full and variously furnished mind was his! Read the table of contents of the eight folio volumes of the Cologne edition230 of his works, as given by Dr. Henry in the appendix to the fourth volume of his history of our own country; and judge, however you may wish that the author had gone less into abstruse and ponderous subjects, whether it was barely possible to avoid falling upon such themes, considering the gross ignorance and strong bias of the age? Before this, perhaps, I ought slightly to have noticed Ina, king of the West Saxons, whose ideas of the comforts of a monastery, and whose partiality to handsome book-binding, we may gather from a curious passage in Stow's Chronicle or Annals.231
227 Julius Cæsar tells us that they dared not to commit their laws to writing. De Bell. Gall., lib. vi., § xiii.-xviii.
228 Dr. Henry's Hist. of Great Britain, vol. iv., p. 12, edit. 1800, 8vo. We shall readily forgive Theodore's singularity of opinions in respect to some cases of pharmacy, in which he held it to be "dangerous to perform bleeding on the fourth day of the moon; because both the light of the moon and the tides of the sea were then upon the increase."— We shall readily forgive this, when we think of his laudable spirit of bibliomania.
229 Dr. Henry says that "This bargain was concluded by Benedict with the king a little before his death, A.D. 690; and the book was delivered, and the estate received by his successor abbot Ceolfred." Hist. of Great Britain, vol. iv., p. 21. There must be some mistake here: as Alfred was not born till the middle of the ninth century. Bed. Hist. Abbat Wermuthien, edit. Smith, pp. 297-8, is quoted by Dr. Henry.
230 1612, folio. De Bure (Bibliogr. Instruct. no. 353) might have just informed us that the Paris and Basil editions of Bede's works are incomplete: and, at no. 4444, where he notices the Cambridge edition of Bede's Ecclesiastical History, (1644, fol.) we may add that a previous English translation of it, by the celebrated Stapleton, had been printed at Antwerp in 1565, 4to., containing some few admirably-well executed wood cuts. Stapleton's translation has become a scarce book; and, as almost every copy of it now to be found is in a smeared and crazy condition, we may judge that it was once popular and much read.
231 The passage is partly as follows —"the sayde king did also erect a chapell of gold and silver (to wit, garnished) with ornaments and vesselles likewise of golde and siluer, to the building of the which chappell hee gaue 2640 pounds of siluer, and to the altar 264 pounde of golde, a chaleis with the patten, tenne pounde of golde, a censar 8 pound, and twenty mancas of golde, two candlesticks, twelue pound and a halfe of siluer, a kiver for the gospel booke twenty pounds"! &c. This was attached to the monastery of Glastonbury; which Ina built "in a fenni place out of the way, to the end the monkes mought so much the more giue their minds to heauenly things," &c. Chronicle, edit. 1615, p. 76.
We have mentioned Alcuin: whom Ashmole calls one of the school-mistresses to France.232 How incomparably brilliant and beautifully polished was this great man's mind! — and, withal, what an enthusiastic bibliomaniac! Read, in particular, his celebrated letter to Charlemagne, which Dr. Henry has very ably translated; and see, how zealous he there shews himself to enrich the library of his archiepiscopal patron with good books and industrious students.233 Well might Egbert be proud of his librarian: the first, I believe upon record, who has composed a catalogue234 of books in Latin hexameter verse: and full reluctantly, I ween, did this librarian take leave of his Cell stored with the choicest volumes — as we may judge from his pathetic address to it, on quitting England for France! If I recollect rightly, Mr. Turner's elegant translation235 of it begins thus:
"O my lov'd cell, sweet dwelling of my soul,
Must I for ever say, dear spot, farewell?"
232 Theatrum Chemicum, proleg. sign. A. 3. rect.
233 History of Great Britain, vol. iv., pp. 32, 86. "Literatorum virorum fautor et Mæcenas habebatur ætate sua maximus ac doctissimus," says Bale: Scrip. Brytan. Illustr., p. 109, edit. 1559. "Præ cæteris (says Lomeier) insignem in colligendis illustrium virorum scriptis operam dedit Egbertus Eboracensis archiepiscopus, &c.: qui nobilissimam Eboraci bibliothecam instituit, cujus meminit Alcuinis," &c. De Bibliothecis, p. 151. We are here informed that the archbishop's library, together with the cathedral of York, were accidentally burnt by fire in the reign of Stephen.
234 This curious catalogue is printed by Dr. Henry, from Gale's Rer. Anglicar. Scriptor. Vet., tom. i., 730. The entire works of Alcuin were printed at Paris, in 1617, folio: and again, at Ratisbon, in 1777, fol., 2 vols. See Fournier's Dict. Portat. de Bibliographie, p. 12. Some scarce separately-printed treatises of the same great man are noticed in the first volume of the appendix to Bauer's Bibl. Libror. Rarior., p. 44.
235 Anglo-Saxon History, vol. ii., p. 355, edit. 1808, 4to.
Now, don't imagine, my dear Lisardo, that this anguish of heart proceeded from his leaving behind all the woodbines, and apple-trees, and singing birds, which were wont to gratify his senses near the said cell, and which he could readily meet with in another clime! — No, no: this monody is the genuine language of a bibliomaniac, upon being compelled to take a long adieu of his choicest book-treasures, stored in some secretly-cut recess of his hermitage; and of which neither his patron, nor his illustrious predecessor, Bede, had ever dreamt of the existence of copies! But it is time to think of Johannes Scotus Erigena; the most facetious wag of his times, notwithstanding his sirname of the Wise. "While Great Britain (says Bale) was a prey to intestine wars, our philosopher was travelling quietly abroad amidst the academic bowers of Greece;"236 and there I suppose he acquired, with his knowledge of the Greek language, a taste for book-collecting and punning.237 He was in truth a marvellous man; as we may gather from the eulogy of him by Brucker.238
236 Freely translated from his Script. Brytan. Illustr., p. 124.
237 Scot's celebrated reply to his patron and admirer, Charles the Bald, was first made a popular story, I believe, among the "wise speeches" in Camden's Remaines, where it is thus told: "Johannes Erigena, surnamed Scotus, a man renowned for learning, sitting at the table, in respect of his learning, with Charles the Bauld, Emperor and King of France, behaved himselfe as a slovenly scholler, nothing courtly; whereupon the Emperor asked him merrily, Quid interest inter Scotum et Sotum? (what is there between a Scot and a Sot?) He merrily, but yet malapertly answered, 'Mensa'—(the table): as though the emperor were the Sot and he the Scot." p. 236. Roger Hoveden is quoted as the authority; but one would like to know where Hoveden got his information, if Scotus has not mentioned the anecdote in his own works? Since Camden's time, this facetious story has been told by almost every historian and annalist.
238 Hist. Philosoph., tom. 3, 616: as referred to and quoted by Dr. Henry; whose account of our book-champion, although less valuable than Mackenzie's, is exceedingly interesting.
In his celebrated work upon predestination, he maintained that "material fire is no part of the torments of the damned;"239 a very singular notion in those times of frightful superstition, when the minds of men were harrowed into despair by descriptions of hell's torments — and I notice it here merely because I should like to be informed in what curious book the said John Scotus Erigena acquired the said notion? Let us now proceed to Alfred; whose bust, I see, adorns that department of Lorenzo's library which is devoted to English History.
239 "He endeavours to prove, in his logical way, that the torments of the damned are mere privations of the happiness, or the trouble of being deprived of it; so that, according to him, material fire is no part of the torments of the damned; that there is no other fire prepared for them but the fourth element, through which the bodies of all men must pass; but that the bodies of the elect are changed into an ætherial nature, and are not subject to the power of fire: whereas, on the contrary, the bodies of the wicked are changed into air, and suffer torments by the fire, because of their contrary qualities. And for this reason 'tis that the demons, who had a body of an ætherial nature, were massed with a body of air, that they might feel the fire." Mackenzie's Scottish Writers: vol. i., 49. All this may be ingenious enough; of its truth, a future state only will be the evidence. Very different from that of Scotus is the language of Gregory Narienzen: "Exit in inferno frigus insuperabile: ignis inextinguibilis: vermis immortalis: fetor intollerabilis: tenebræ palpabiles: flagella cedencium: horrenda visio demonum: desperatio omnium bonorum." This I gather from the Speculum Christiani, fol. 37, printed by Machlinia, in the fifteenth century. The idea is enlarged, and the picture aggravated, in a great number of nearly contemporaneous publications, which will be noticed, in part, hereafter. It is reported that some sermons are about to be published, in which the personality of Satan is questioned and denied. Thus having, by the ingenuity of Scotus, got rid of the fire "which is never quenched"— and, by means of modern scepticism, of the devil, who is constantly "seeking whom he may devour," we may go on comfortably enough, without such awkward checks, in the commission of every species of folly and crime!
This great and good man, the boast and the bulwark of his country, was instructed by his mother, from infancy, in such golden rules of virtue and good sense that one feels a regret at not knowing more of the family, early years, and character, of such a parent. As she told him that "a wise and a good man suffered no part of his time, but what is necessarily devoted to bodily exercise, to pass in unprofitable inactivity"— you may be sure that, with such book-propensities as he felt, Alfred did not fail to make the most of the fleeting hour. Accordingly we find, from his ancient biographer, that he resolutely set to work by the aid of his wax tapers,240 and produced some very respectable compositions; for which I refer you to Mr. Turner's excellent account of their author:241 adding only that Alfred's translation of Boethius is esteemed his most popular performance.
240 The story of the wax tapers is related both by Asser and William of Malmesbury, differing a little in the unessential parts of it. It is this: Alfred commanded six wax tapers to be made, each 12 inches in length, and of as many ounces in weight. On these tapers he caused the inches to be regularly marked; and having found that one taper burnt just four hours, he committed them to the care of the keepers of his chapel; who, from time to time gave him notice how the hours went. But as in windy weather the tapers were more wasted — to remedy this inconvenience, he placed them in a kind of lanthorn, there being no glass to be met with in his dominions. This event is supposed to have occurred after Alfred had ascended the throne. In his younger days, Asser tells us that he used to carry about, in his bosom, day and night, a curiously-written volume of hours, and psalms, and prayers, which by some are supposed to have been the composition of Aldhelm. That Alfred had the highest opinion of Aldhelm, and of his predecessors and contemporaries, is indisputable; for in his famous letter to Wulfseg, Bishop of London, he takes a retrospective view of the times in which they lived, as affording "churches and monasteries filled with libraries of excellent books in several languages." It is quite clear, therefore, that our great Alfred was not a little infected with the bibliomaniacal disease.
241 The History of the Anglo-Saxons; by Sharon Turner, F.S.A., 1808, 4to., 2 vols. This is the last and best edition of a work which places Mr. Turner quite at the head of those historians who have treated of the age of Alfred.
After Alfred, we may just notice his son Edward, and his grandson Athelstan; the former of whom is supposed by Rous242 (one of the most credulous of our early historians) to have founded the University of Cambridge. The latter had probably greater abilities than his predecessor; and a thousand pities it is that William of Malmesbury should have been so stern and squeamish as not to give us the substance of that old book, containing a life of Athelstan — which he discovered, and supposed to be coeval with the monarch — because, forsooth, the account was too uniformly flattering! Let me here, however, refer you to that beautiful translation of a Saxon ode, written in commemoration of Athelstan's decisive victory over the Danes of Brunamburg, which Mr. George Ellis has inserted in his interesting volumes of Specimens of the Early English Poets:243 and always bear in recollection that this monarch shewed the best proof of his attachment to books by employing as many learned men as he could collect together for the purpose of translating the Scriptures into his native Saxon tongue.
242 Consult Johannis Rossi Historia Regum Angliæ; edit. Hearne, 1745, 8vo., p. 96. This passage has been faithfully translated by Dr. Henry. But let the lover of knotty points in ancient matters look into Master Henry Bynneman's prettily printed impression (A.D. 1568) of De Antiquitate Cantabrigiensis Academiæ, p. 14 — where the antiquity of the University of Cambridge is gravely assigned to the æra of Gurguntius's reign, A.M. 3588! — Nor must we rest satisfied with the ingenious temerity of this author's claims in favour of his beloved Cambridge, until we have patiently examined Thomas Hearne's edition (A.D. 1720) of Thomæ Caii Vindic. Antiquitat. Acad. Oxon.: a work well deserving of a snug place in the antiquary's cabinet.
243 Edit. 1803, vol. i., p. 14.
Let us pass by that extraordinary scholar, courtier, statesman, and monk —St. Dunstan; by observing only that, as he was even more to Edgar than Wolsey was to Henry VIII. — so, if there had then been the same love of literature and progress in civilization which marked the opening of the sixteenth century, Dunstan would have equalled, if not eclipsed, Wolsey in the magnificence and utility of his institutions. How many volumes of legends he gave to the library of Glastonbury, of which he was once the abbot, or to Canterbury, of which he was afterwards the Archbishop, I cannot take upon me to guess: as I have neither of Hearne's three publications244 relating to Glastonbury in my humble library.
244 There is an ample Catalogue Raisonné of these three scarce publications in the first volume of the British Bibliographer. And to supply the deficiency of any extract from them, in this place, take, kind-hearted reader, the following — which I have gleaned from Eadmer's account of St. Dunstan, as incorporated in Wharton's Anglia-Sacra— and which would not have been inserted could I have discovered any thing in the same relating to book-presents to Canterbury cathedral. —"Once on a time, the king went a hunting early on Sunday morning; and requested the Archbishop to postpone the celebration of the mass till he returned. About three hours afterwards, Dunstan went into the cathedral, put on his robes, and waited at the altar in expectation of the king — where, reclining with his arms in a devotional posture, he was absorbed in tears and prayers. A gentle sleep suddenly possessed him; he was snatched up into heaven; and in a vision associated with a company of angels, whose harmonious voices, chaunting Kyrie eleyson, Kyrie eleyson, Kyrie eleyson, burst upon his ravished ears! He afterwards came to himself, and demanded whether or not the king had arrived? Upon being answered in the negative, he betook himself again to his prayers, and, after a short interval, was once more absorbed in celestial extasies, and heard a loud voice from heaven saying —Ite, missa est. He had no sooner returned thanks to God for the same, when the king's clerical attendants cried out that his majesty had arrived, and entreated Dunstan to dispatch the mass. But he, turning from the altar, declared that the mass had been already celebrated; and that no other mass should be performed during that day. Having put off his robes, he enquired of his attendants into the truth of the transaction; who told him what had happened. Then, assuming a magisterial power, he prohibited the king, in future, from hunting on a Sunday; and taught his disciples the Kyrie eleyson, which he had heard in heaven: hence this ejaculation, in many places, now obtains as a part of the mass service." Tom. ii., p. 217. What shall we say to "the amiable and elegant Eadmer" for this valuable piece of biographical information? —"The face of things was so changed by the endeavours of Dunstan, and his master, Ethelwald, that in a short time learning was generally restored, and began to flourish. From this period, the monasteries were the schools and seminaries of almost the whole clergy, both secular and regular." Collier's Eccles. History, vol. ii., p. 19, col. 2. That Glastonbury had many and excellent books, vide Hearne's Antiquities of Glastonbury; pp. lxxiv-vii. At Cambridge there is a catalogue of the MSS. which were in Glastonbury library, A.D. 1248.
We may open the eleventh century with Canute; upon whose political talents this is not the place to expatiate: but of whose bibliomaniacal character the illuminated MS. of The Four Gospels in the Danish tongue — now in the British Museum, and once this monarch's own book — leaves not the shadow of a doubt! From Canute we may proceed to notice that extraordinary literary triumvirate — Ingulph, Lanfranc, and Anselm. No rational man can hesitate about numbering them among the very first rate book-collectors of that age. As to Ingulph, let us only follow him, in his boyhood, in his removal from school to college: let us fancy we see him, with his Quatuor Sermones on a Sunday — and his Cunabula Artis Grammaticæ245 on a week day — under his arm: making his obeisance to Edgitha, the queen of Edward the Confessor, and introduced by her to William Duke of Normandy! Again, when he was placed, by this latter at the head of the rich abbey of Croyland, let us fancy we see him both adding to, and arranging, its curious library246— before he ventured upon writing the history of the said abbey. From Ingulph we go to Lanfranc; who, in his earlier years, gratified his book appetites in the quiet and congenial seclusion of his little favourite abbey in Normandy: where he afterwards opened a school, the celebrity of which was acknowledged throughout Europe. From being a pedagogue, let us trace him in his virtuous career to the primacy of England; and when we read of his studious and unimpeachable behaviour, as head of the see of Canterbury,247 let us acknowledge that a love of books and of mental cultivation is among the few comforts in this world of which neither craft nor misfortune can deprive us. To Lanfranc succeeded, in book-fame and in professional elevation, his disciple Anselm; who was "lettered and chaste of his childhood," says Trevisa:248 but who was better suited to the cloister than to the primacy. For, although, like Wulston, Bishop of Worcester, he might have "sung a long mass, and held him apayred with only the offering of Christian men, and was holden a clean mayde, and did no outrage in drink,"249 yet in his intercourse with William II. and Henry I., he involved himself in ceaseless quarrels; and quitted both his archiepiscopal chair and the country. His memory, however, is consecrated among the fathers of scholastic divinity.
245 These were the common school books of the period.
246 Though the abbey of Croyland was burnt only twenty-five years after the conquest, its library then consisted of 900 volumes, of which 300 were very large. The lovers of English history and antiquities are much indebted to Ingulph for his excellent history of the abbey of Croyland, from its foundation, A.D. 664, to A.D. 1091: into which he hath introduced much of the general history of the kingdom, with a variety of curious anecdotes that are no where else to be found. Dr. Henry: book iii., chap. iv., § 1 and 2. But Ingulph merits a more particular eulogium. The editors of that stupendous, and in truth, matchless collection of national history, entitled Recueil des Historiens des Gaules, thus say of him: "Il avoit tout vu en bon connoisseur, et ce qu'il rapporte, il l'écrit en homme lettré, judicieux et vrai:" tom. xi., p. xlij. In case any reader of this note and lover of romance literature should happen to be unacquainted with the French language, I will add, from the same respectable authority, that "The readers of the Round Table History should be informed that there are many minute and curious descriptions in Ingulph which throw considerable light upon the history of Ancient Chivalry." Ibid. See too the animated eulogy upon him, at p. 153, note a, of the same volume. These learned editors have, however, forgotten to notice that the best, and only perfect, edition of Ingulph's History of Croyland Abbey, with the continuation of the same, by Peter de Blois and Edward Abbas, is that which is inserted in the first volume of Gale's Rerum Anglicarum Scriptores Veteres: Oxon, 1684. (3 vols.)
247 Lanfranc was obliged, against his will, by the express command of Abbot Harlein, to take upon him the archbishopric in the year 1070. He governed that church for nineteen years together, with a great deal of wisdom and authority. His largest work is a commentary upon the Epistles of St. Paul; which is sometimes not very faithfully quoted by Peter Lombard. His treatise in favour of the real presence, in opposition to Birenger, is one of his most remarkable performances. His letters "are short and few, but contain in them things very remarkable." Du Pin's Ecclesiastical History, vol. xi., p. 12, &c., edit. 1699.
248 Polychronicon, Caxton's edit., sign. 46, rev.
249 Polychronicon. Caxton's edit., fol. cccvj. rev. Poor Caxton (towards whom the reader will naturally conceive I bear some little affection) is thus dragooned into the list of naughty writers who have ventured to speak mildly (and justly) of Anselm's memory. "They feign in another fable that he (Anselm) tare with his teeth Christ's flesh from his bones, as he hung on the rood, for withholding the lands of certain bishoprics and abbies: Polydorus not being ashamed to rehearse it. Somewhere they call him a red dragon: somewhere a fiery serpent, and a bloody tyrant; for occupying the fruits of their vacant benefices about his princely buildings. Thus rail they of their kings, without either reason or shame, in their legends of abominable lies: Look Eadmerus, Helinandus, Vincentius, Matthew of Westminster, Rudborne, Capgrave, William Caxton, Polydore, and others." This is the language of master Bale, in his Actes of Englyshe Votaryes, pt. ii., sign. I. vij. rev. Tisdale's edit. No wonder Hearne says of the author, "erat immoderata intemperantia."—Bened. Abbas., vol. i., præf. p. xx.
And here you may expect me to notice that curious book-reader and Collector, Girald, Archbishop of York, who died just at the close of the 11th century. Let us fancy we see him, according to Trevisa,250 creeping quietly to his garden arbour, and devoting his midnight vigils to the investigation of that old-fashioned author, Julius Firmicus; whom Fabricius calls by a name little short of that of an old woman. It is a pity we know not more of the private studies of such a bibliomaniac. And equally to be lamented it is that we have not some more substantial biographical memoirs of that distinguished bibliomaniac, Herman, bishop of Salisbury; a Norman by birth; and who learnt the art of book-binding and book-illumination, before he had been brought over into this country by William the Conqueror.251 (A character, by the bye, who, however completely hollow were his claims to the crown of England, can never be reproached with a backwardness in promoting learned men to the several great offices of church and state.)
250 "This yere deyd thomas archbisohop of york and gyralde was archebishop after him; a lecherous man, a wytch and euyl doer, as the fame tellyth, for under his pyle whan he deyde in an erber was founde a book of curyous craftes, the book hight Julius frumeus. In that booke he radde pryuely in the under tydes, therefor unnethe the clerkes of his chirche would suffre him be buryed under heuene without hooly chirche," Polychronicon: Caxton's edit., sign. 43., 4 rect. (fol. cccxlij.) Godwyn says that "he was laide at the entrance of the church porch." "Bayle chargeth him (continues he) with sorcery and coniuration, because, forsooth, that, after his death, there was found in his chamber a volume of Firmicus: who writ of astrology indeed, but of coniuration nothing that ever I heard." Catalogue of the Bishops of England, p. 453 — edit. 1601. Concerning Girard's favourite author, consult Fabricius's Bibl. Lat.: cura Ernesti, vol. iii., p. 114, &c., edit. 1773.
251 Leland tells us that Herman erected "a noble library at Sailsbury, having got together some of the best and most ancient works of illustrious authors:" de Scriptor. Britan., vol. i., 174: and Dugdale, according to Warton (Monasticon Anglican.; vol. iii., p. 375), says that "he was so fond of letters that he did not disdain to bind and illuminate books."
Loren. If you proceed thus systematically, my good Lysander, the morning cock will crow 'ere we arrive at the book-annals even of the Reformation.
Lysand. It is true; I am proceeding rather too methodically. And yet I suppose I should not obtain Lisardo's forgiveness if, in arriving at the period of Henry the Second,252 I did not notice that extraordinary student and politician, Becket!
252 I make no apology to the reader for presenting him with the following original character of our once highly and justly celebrated monarch, Henry II. — by the able pen of Trevisa. "This Henry II. was somewhat reddish, with large face and breast; and yellow eyen and a dim voice; and fleshy of body; and took but scarcely of meat and drink: and for to alledge the fatness, he travailed his body with business; with hunting, with standing, with wandering: he was of mean stature, renable of speech, and well y lettered; noble and orped in knighthood; and wise in counsel and in battle; and dread and doubtfull destiny; more manly and courteous to a Knight when he was dead than when he was alive!" Polychronicon, Caxton's edit., fol. cccliij., rev.
Lis. At your peril omit him! I think (although my black-letter reading be very limited) that Bale, in his English Votaries, has a curious description of this renowned archbishop; whose attachment to books, in his boyish years, must on all sides be admitted.
Lysand. You are right. Bale has some extraordinary strokes of description in his account of this canonized character: but if I can trust to my memory (which the juice of Lorenzo's nectar, here before us, may have somewhat impaired), Tyndale253 has also an equally animated account of the same — who deserves, notwithstanding his pomp and haughtiness, to be numbered among the most notorious bibliomaniacs of his age.
253 We will first amuse ourselves with Bale's curious account of
"The fresh and lusty beginnings of Thomas Becket."
As those authors report, which chiefly wrote Thomas Becket's life — whose names are Herbert Boseham, John Salisbury, William of Canterbury, Alen of Tewkesbury, Benet of Peterborough, Stephen Langton, and Richard Croyland — he bestoyed his youth in all kinds of lascivious lightness, and lecherous wantonness. After certain robberies, rapes, and murders, committed in the king's wars at the siege of Toulouse in Languedoc, and in other places else, as he was come home again into England, he gave himself to great study, not of the holy scriptures, but of the bishop of Rome's lousy laws, whereby he first of all obtained to be archdeacon of Canterbury, under Theobald the archbishop; then high chancellor of England; metropolitan, archbishop, primate; pope of England, and great legate from antichrist's own right side. In the time of his high-chancellorship, being but an ale-brewer's son of London, John Capgrave saith that he took upon him as he had been a prince. He played the courtier altogether, and fashioned himself wholly to the king's delights. He ruffled it out in the whole cloth with a mighty rabble of disguised ruffians at his tail. He sought the worldly honour with him that sought it most. He thought it a pleasant thing to have the flattering praises of the multitude. His bridle was of silver, his saddle of velvet, his stirrups, spurs, and bosses double gilt; his expenses far passing the expenses of an earl. That delight was not on the earth that he had not plenty of. He fed with the fattest, was clad with the softest, and kept company with the plesantest. Was not this (think you) a good mean to live chaste? I trow it was. Englyshe Votaryes, pt. ii., sign. P. vi. rect. Printed by Tisdale, 8vo. The orthography is modernized, but the words are faithfully Balëan! Thus writes Tyndale: and the king made him (Becket) his chancellor, in which office he passed the pomp and pride of Thomas (Wolsey) cardinal, as far as the ones shrine passeth the others tomb in glory and riches. And after that, he was a man of war, and captain of five or six thousand men in full harness, as bright as St. George, and his spear in his hand; and encountered whatsoever came against him, and overthrew the jollyest rutter that was in the host of France. And out of the field, hot from bloodshedding, was he made bishop of Canterbury; and did put off his helm, and put on his mitre; put off his harness, and on with his robes; and laid down his spear, and took his cross ere his hands were cold; and so came, with a lusty courage of a man of war, to fight an other while against his prince for the pope; when his prince's cause were with the law of God, and the pope's clean contrary. Practise of Popish Prelates. Tyndale's Works, edit. 1572, p. 361. The curious bibliographer, or collector of ancient books of biography, will find a very different character of Becket in a scarce Latin life of him, printed at Paris in the black letter, in the fifteenth century. His archiepiscopal table is described as being distinguished for great temperance and propriety: "In ejus mensa non audiebantur tibicines non cornicines, non lira, non fiala, non karola: nulla quidem præterquam mundam splendidam et inundantem epularum opulentiam. Nulla gule, nulla lascivie, nulla penitus luxurie, videbantur incitamenta. Revera inter tot et tantas delicias quæ ei apponebantur, in nullo penitus sardanapalum sed solum episcopum sapiebat," &c. Vita et processus sancti Thome Cantuariensis martyris super libertate ecclesiastica; Paris, 1495, sign. b. ij. rect. From a yet earlier, and perhaps the first printed, mention of Becket — and from a volume of which no perfect copy has yet been found — the reader is presented with a very curious account of the murder of the Archbishop, in its original dress. "Than were there iiij. cursed knyghtes of leuyng yt thoughte to haue had a grete thanke of the kyng and mad her a vowe to gedir to sle thomas. And so on childremasse day all moste at nyghte they come to caunterbury into thomas hall Sire Reynolde beriston, Sire william tracy, Sire Richard breton, and sire hewe morley. Thanne Sire Reynolde beriston for he was bitter of kynde a none he seyde to thomas the king that is be yonde the see sente us to the and bad that thou shuldst asoyle the bishoppe that thou cursiddiste than seyde thomas seris they be not acursed by me but by the Pope and I may not asoyle that he hathe cursid well seyde Reynolde than we see thou wolte not do the kynges byddynge and swore a grete othe by the eyon of God thou shalt be dede. than cryde the othir knyghtes sle sle and they wente downe to the courte and armyd hem. Than prestis and clerkis drowe hem to the church to thomas and spered the dores to hem. But whan thomas herde the knyghtes armed and wold come into the churche and myghte not he wente to the dore and un barred it and toke one of the knyghtes by the honde and seyde hit be semyth not to make a castell of holy churche, and toke hem by the honde and seyde come ynne my children in goddis name Thanne for it was myrke that they myghte not see nor knowe thomas they seyde where is the traytour nay seyde thomas no traytour but Archebishoppe. Than one seyde to hym fle fore thou arte but dede. Nay seyde thomas y come not to fle but to a byde Ego pro deo mori paratus sum et pro defensione iusticie et ecclesie libertate I am redy to dye for the loue of God and for the fredomme and righte of holy churche Than reynold with his swerdes poynte put off thomas cappe and smote at his hede and cutte of his crowne that it honge by like a dysche Than smote anothir at him and smote hit all of than fill he downe to the grounde on his knees and elbowes and seyde god into thy hondes I putte my cause and the righte of holy churche and so deyde Than the iij knyghte smote and his halfe stroke fell upon his clerkis arme that helde thomas cross be fore him and so his swerde fill down to the grounde and brake of the poynte and he seyde go we hens he is dede. And when they were all at the dore goyng robert broke wente a geyne and sette his fote to thomas necke and thruste out the brayne upon the pauement Thus for righte of holoye churche and the lawe of the londe thomas toke his dethe." The boke that is callid Festiuall; 1486, fol. sign. m. iij. These anecdotes, which are not to be found in Lyttleton or Berrington, may probably be gratifying to the curious.
Although I wish to be as laconic as possible in my Catalogue Raisonné of libraries and of book-collectors, during the earlier periods of our history, yet I must beg to remind you that some of the nunneries and monasteries, about these times, contained rather valuable collections of books: and indeed those of Glasgow, Peterborough, and Glastonbury,254 deserve to be particularly noticed and commended. But I will push on with the personal history of literature, or rather of the Bibliomania.
254 "I shall retire back to Godstowe, and, for the farther reputation of the nunns there, shall observe that they spent a great part of their time in reading good books. There was a common library for their use well furnished with books, many of which were English, and divers of them historical. The lives of the holy men and women, especially of the latter, were curiously written on vellum, and many illuminations appeared throughout, so as to draw the nunns the more easily to follow their examples." Hearne's edit. Guil. Neubrig., vol. ii., p. 768. Again he says, "It is probable they (certain sentences) were written in large letters, equal to the writing that we have in the finest books of offices, the best of which were for the use of the nunns, and for persons of distinction, and such as had weak eyes; and many of them were finely covered, not unlike the Kiver for the Gospell book, given to the chapell of Glastonbury by king Ina." p. 773. Can the enlightened reader want further proof of the existence of the Bibliomania in the nunnery of Godstow? As to Peterborough abbey, Gunston, in his history of the same place, has copied the catalogue of the different libraries belonging to the abbots. Benedict, who became abbot in 1177, had a collection of no less than fifty-seven volumes. But alas! the book reputation of this monastery soon fell away: for master Robert, who died abbot in 1222, left but seven books behind him; and Geoffrey de Croyland, who was abbot in 1290, had only that dreary old gentleman, Avicenna, to keep him company! At its dissolution, however, it contained 1700 volumes in MSS. Gunton's Peterborough, p. 173. Glastonbury seems to have long maintained its reputation for a fine library; and even as late as the year 1248 it could boast of several classical authors, although the English books were only four in number; the rest being considered as "vetustas et inutilia." The classical authors were Livy, Sallust, Tully, Seneca, Virgil, and Persius. See Joh. Confrat. Glaston., vol. ii., p. 423, 435: Hearne's edit. "Leland," says Warton, "who visited all the monasteries just before their dissolution, seems to have been struck with the venerable air and amplitude of this library." Hist. Engl. Poetry, Diss. ii.
I should be wanting in proper respect to the gentlemanly and scholar-like editor of his works, if I omitted the mention of that celebrated tourist and topographer, Girald Barri, or Giraldus Cambrensis; whose Irish and Welch itinerary has been recently so beautifully and successfully put forth in our own language.255 Giraldus, long before and after he was bishop of St. David's, seems to have had the most enthusiastic admiration of British antiquities; and I confess it would have been among the keenest delights of my existence (had I lived at the period) to have been among his auditors when he read aloud (perhaps from a stone pulpit) his three books of the Topography of Ireland.256 How many choice volumes, written and emblazoned upon snow-white vellum, and containing many a curious and precious genealogy, must this observing traveller and curious investigator have examined, when he was making the tour of Ireland in the suite of Prince, afterwards King, John! Judge of the anxiety of certain antiquated families, especially of the Welch nation, which stimulated them to open their choicest treasures, in the book way, to gratify the genealogical ardour of our tourist!
255 There is a supplemental volume to the two English ones, containing the only complete Latin edition extant of the Welsh Itinerary. Of this impression there are but 200 copies printed on small, and 50 on large, paper. The whole work is most creditably executed, and does great honour to the taste and erudition of its editor, Sir Richard Colt Hoare, bart.
256 "Having finished his topography of Ireland, which consisted of three books, he published it at Oxford, A.D. 1187, in the following manner, in three days. On the first day he read the first book to a great concourse of people, and afterwards entertained all the poor of the town. On the second day he read the second book, and entertained all the Doctors and chief scholars: and on the third day he read the third book, and entertained the younger scholars, soldiers, and burgesses."—"A most glorious spectacle (says he), which revived the ancient times of the poets, and of which no example had been seen in England." This is given by Dr. Henry (b. iii., ch. 4, § 2), on the authority of Giraldus's own book, De rebus a se gestis, lib. i. c. 16. Twyne, in his arid little quarto Latin volume of the Antiquities of Oxford, says not a word about it; and, what is more extraordinary, it is barely alluded to by Antony Wood! See Mr. Gutch's genuine edition of Wood's Annals of the University of Oxford, vol. i., pp. 60, 166. Warton, in his History of English Poetry, vol. i., Diss. ii., notices Giraldus's work with his usual taste and interest.
Lis. I wish from my heart that Girald Barri had been somewhat more communicative on this head!
Loren. Of what do you suppose he would have informed us, had he indulged this bibliographical gossipping?
Lis. Of many a grand and many a curious volume.
Lysand. Not exactly so, Lisardo. The art of book-illumination in this country was then sufficiently barbarous, if at all known.
Lis. And yet I'll lay a vellum Aldus that Henry the second presented his fair Rosamond with some choice Heures de Notre Dame! But proceed. I beg pardon for this interruption.
Lysand. Nay, there is nothing to solicit pardon for! We have each a right, around this hospitable table, to indulge our book whims: and mine may be as fantastical as any.
Loren. Pray proceed, Lysander, in your book-collecting history! unless you will permit me to make a pause or interruption of two minutes — by proposing as a sentiment —"Success to the Bibliomania!"
Phil. 'Tis well observed: and as every loyal subject at our great taverns drinks the health of his Sovereign "with three times three up-standing," even so let us hail this sentiment of Lorenzo!
Lis. Philemon has cheated me of an eloquent speech. But let us receive the sentiment as he proposes it.
Loren. Now the uproar of Bacchus has subsided, the instructive conversation of Minerva may follow. Go on, Lysander.
Lysand. Having endeavoured to do justice to Girald Barri, I know of no other particularly distinguished bibliomaniac till we approach the æra of the incomparable Roger, or Friar, Bacon. I say incomparable, Lorenzo; because he was, in truth, a constellation of the very first splendour and magnitude in the dark times in which he lived; and notwithstanding a sagacious writer (if my memory be not treacherous) of the name of Coxe, chooses to tell us that he was "miserably starved to death, because he could not introduce a piece of roast beef into his stomach, on account of having made a league with Satan to eat only cheese;"257— yet I suspect that the end of Bacon was hastened by other means more disgraceful to the age and equally painful to himself.
257 "A short treatise declaringe the detestable wickednesse of magicall sciences, as necromancie, coniuration of spirites, curiouse astrologie, and suche lyke, made by Francis Coxe." Printed by Allde, 12mo., without date (14 leaves). From this curious little volume, which is superficially noticed by Herbert (vol. ii., p. 889), the reader is presented with the following extract, appertaining to the above subject: "I myself (says the author) knew a priest not far from a town called Bridgewater, which, as it is well known in the country, was a great magician in all his life time. After he once began these practices, he would never eat bread, but, instead thereof, did always eat cheese: which thing, as he confessed divers times, he did because it was so concluded betwixt him and the spirit which served him," &c. sign. A viii. rect. "(R.) Bacon's end was much after the like sort; for having a greedy desire unto meat, he could cause nothing to enter the stomach — wherefore thus miserably he starved to death." Sign. B. iij. rev. Not having at hand John Dee's book of the defence of Roger Bacon, from the charge of astrology and magic (the want of which one laments as pathetically as did Naudé, in his "Apologie pour tous les grands personnages, &c., faussement soupçonnez de Magic," Haye, 1653, 8vo., p. 488), I am at a loss to say the fine things, which Dee must have said, in commendation of the extraordinary talents of Roger Bacon; who was miserably matched in the age in which he lived; but who, together with his great patron Grosteste, will shine forth as beacons to futurity. Dr. Friend in his History of Physic has enumerated what he conceived to be Bacon's leading works; while Gower in his Confessio Amantis (Caxton's edit., fol. 70), has mentioned the brazen head —
for to telle
Of such thyngs as befelle:
which was the joint manufactory of the patron and his èleve. As lately as the year 1666, Bacon's life formed the subject of a "famous history," from which Walter Scott has given us a facetious anecdote in the seventh volume (p. 10) of Dryden's Works. But the curious investigator of ancient times, and the genuine lover of British biography, will seize upon the more prominent features in the life of this renowned philosopher; will reckon up his great discoveries in optics and physics; and will fancy, upon looking at the above picture of his study, that an explosion from gun-powder (of which our philosopher has been thought the inventor) has protruded the palings which are leaning against its sides. Bacon's "Opus Majus," which happened to meet the eyes of Pope Clement IV., and which now would have encircled the neck of its author with an hundred golden chains, and procured for him a diploma from every learned society in Europe — just served to liberate him from his first long imprisonment. This was succeeded by a subsequent confinement of twelve years; from which he was released only time enough to breathe his last in the pure air of heaven. Whether he expended 3000, or 30,000 pounds of our present money, upon his experiments, can now be only matter of conjecture. Those who are dissatisfied with the meagre manner in which our early biographers have noticed the labours of Roger Bacon, and with the tetragonistical story, said by Twyne to be propagated by our philosopher, of Julius Cæsar's seeing the whole of the British coast and encampment upon the Gallic shore, "maximorum ope speculorum" (Antiquit. Acad. Oxon. Apolog. 1608, 4to., p. 353), may be pleased with the facetious story told of him by Wood (Annals of Oxford, vol. i., 216, Gutch's edit.) and yet more by the minute catalogue of his works noticed by Bishop Tanner (Bibl. Brit. Hibern. p. 62): while the following eulogy of old Tom Fuller cannot fail to find a passage to every heart: "For mine own part (says this delightful and original writer) I behold the name of Bacon in Oxford, not as of an individual man, but corporation of men; no single cord, but a twisted cable of many together. And as all the acts of strong men of that nature are attributed to an Hercules; all the predictions of prophecying women to a Sibyll; so I conceive all the achievements of the Oxonian Bacons, in their liberal studies, are ascribed to one, as chief of the name." Church History, book iii., p. 96.
Only let us imagine we see this sharp-eyed philosopher at work in his study, of which yonder print is generally received as a representation! How heedlessly did he hear the murmuring of the stream beneath, and of the winds without — immersed in the vellum and parchment rolls of theological, astrological, and mathematical lore, which, upon the dispersion of the libraries of the Jews,258 he was constantly perusing, and of which so large a share had fallen to his own lot!
258 Warton, in his second Dissertation, says that "great multitudes of their (the Jews) books fell into the hands of Roger Bacon;" and refers to Wood's Hist. et Antiquit. Univ. Oxon., vol. i., 77, 132 — where I find rather a slight notification of it — but, in the genuine edition of this latter work, published by Mr. Gutch, vol. i., p. 329, it is said: "At their (the Jews) expulsion, divers of their tenements that were forfeited to the king, came into the hands of William Burnell, Provost of Wells; and their books (for many of them were learned) to divers of our scholars; among whom, as is verily supposed, Roger Bacon was one: and that he furnished himself with such Hebrew rarities, that he could not elsewhere find. Also that, when he died, he left them to the Franciscan library at Oxon, which, being not well understood in after-times, were condemned to moths and dust!" Weep, weep, kind-hearted bibliomaniac, when thou thinkest upon the fate of these poor Hebrew MSS.!
Unfortunately, my friends, little is known with certainty, though much is vaguely conjectured, of the labours of this great man. Some of the first scholars and authors of our own and of other countries have been proud to celebrate his praises; nor would it be considered a disgrace by the most eminent of modern experimental philosophers — of him, who has been described as "unlocking the hidden treasures of nature, and explaining the various systems by which air, and earth, and fire, and water, counteract and sustain each other"259— to fix the laureate crown round the brows of our venerable Bacon!
259 See a periodical paper, entitled The Director! vol. ii., p. 294.
We have now reached the close of the thirteenth century and the reign of Edward the First;260 when the principal thing that strikes us, connected with the history of libraries, is this monarch's insatiable lust of strengthening his title to the kingdom of Scotland by purchasing "the libraries of all the monasteries" for the securing of any record which might corroborate the same. What he gave for this tremendous book-purchase, or of what nature were the volumes purchased, or what was their subsequent destination, is a knot yet remaining to be untied.
260 "King Edward the first caused and committed divers copies of the records, and much concerning the realm of Scotland, unto divers abbies for the preservance thereof; which for the most part are now perished, or rare to be had; and which privilie by the dissolution of monasteries is detained. The same king caused the libraries of all monasteries, and other places of the realm, to be purchased, for the further and manifest declaration of his title, as chief Lord of Scotland: and the record thereof now extant, doth alledge divers leger books of abbeys for the confirmation thereof": Petition (to Q. Elizabeth) for an academy of Antiquities and History. Hearne's Curious Discourses written by eminent Antiquaries; vol. ii., 326, edit. 1775.
Of the bibliomaniacal propensity of Edward's grandson, the great Edward the Third, there can be no question. Indeed, I could gossip away upon the same 'till midnight. His severe disappointment upon having Froissart's presentation copy of his Chronicles261 (gergeously attired as it must have been) taken from him by the Duke of Anjou, is alone a sufficient demonstration of his love of books; while his patronage of Chaucer shews that he had accurate notions of intellectual excellence. Printing had not yet begun to give any hint, however faint, of its wonderful powers; and scriveners or book-copiers were sufficiently ignorant and careless.262
261 Whether this presentation copy ever came, eventually, into the kingdom, is unknown. Mr. Johnes, who is as intimate with Froissart as Gough was with Camden, is unable to make up his mind upon the subject; but we may suppose it was properly emblazoned, &c. The duke detained it as being the property of an enemy to France! — Now, when we read of this wonderfully chivalrous age, so glowingly described by the great Gaston, Count de Foix, to Master Froissart, upon their introduction to each other (vide St. Palaye's memoir in the 10th vol. of L'Acadamie des Inscriptions, &c.), it does seem a gross violation (at least on the part of the Monsieur of France!) of all gentlemanly and knight-like feeling, to seize upon a volume of this nature, as legitimate plunder! The robber should have had his skin tanned, after death, for a case to keep the book in! Of Edward the Third's love of curiously bound books, see p. 118, ante.
262 "How ordinary a fault this was (of 'negligently or willfully altering copies') amongst the transcribers of former times, may appear by Chaucer; who (I am confident) tooke as greate care as any man to be served with the best and heedfullest scribes, and yet we finde him complayning against Adam, his scrivener, for the very same:
So ofte a daye I mote thy worke renew,
If to correct and eke to rubbe and scrape,
And all is thorow thy neglegence and rape."
Ashmole Theatrum Chemicum; p. 439.
The mention of Edward the Third, as a patron of learned men, must necessarily lead a book-antiquary to the notice of his eminent chancellor, Richard De Bury; of whom, as you may recollect, some slight mention was made the day before yesterday.263 It is hardly possible to conceive a more active and enthusiastic lover of books than was this extraordinary character; the passion never deserting him even while he sat upon the bench.264 It was probably De Bury's intention to make his royal master eclipse his contemporary Charles the Vth, of France — the most renowned foreign bibliomaniac of his age!265 In truth, my dear friends, what can be more delightful to a lover of his country's intellectual reputation than to find such a character as De Bury, in such an age of war and bloodshed, uniting the calm and mild character of a legislator, with the sagacity of a philosopher, and the elegant-mindedness of a scholar! Foreigners have been profuse in their commendations of him, and with the greatest justice; while our Thomas Warton, of ever-to-be-respected memory, has shewn us how pleasingly he could descend from the graver tone of a historical antiquary, by indulging himself in a chit-chat style of book-anecdote respecting this illustrious character.266
264 "— patescebat nobis aditus facilis, regalis favoris intuitu, ad librorum latebras libere perscrutandas. Amoris quippe nostri fama volatilis jam ubique percrebuit, tamtumque librorum, et maxime veterum, ferebamur cupiditate languescere; posse vero quemlibet, nostrum per quaternos facilius, quam per pecuniam, adipisci favorem." Philobiblion; sive de Amore Librorum (vide p. 29, ante), p. 29: edit. 1599, 4to. But let the reader indulge me with another extract or two, containing evidence the most unquestionable of the severest symptoms of the Bibliomania that ever assailed a Lord Chancellor or a Bishop! — Magliabechi must have read the ensuing passage with rapture: "Quamobrem cum prædicti principis recolendæ memoriæ bonitate suffulti, possemus obesse et prodesse, officere et proficere vehementer tam maioribus quam pusillis; affluxerunt, loco xeniorum et munerum, locoque, donorum et iocalium, temulenti quaterni, ac decripiti codices; nostris tamen tam affectibus, quam aspectibus, pretiosi. Tunc nobilissimorum monasteriorum aperiebantur armaria, referebantur scrinia, et cistulæ solvebantur, et per longa secula in sepulchris soporata volumina, expergiscunt attonita, quæque in locis tenebrosis latuerant, novæ lucis radiis perfunduntur." "Delicatissimi quondam libri, corrupti et abhominabiles iam effecti, murium fætibus cooperti, et vermium morsibus terebrati, iacebant exanimes — et qui olim purpura vestiebantur et bysso, nunc in cinere et cilicio recubantes, oblivioni traditi videbantur, domicilia tinearum. Inter hæc nihilominus, captatis temporibus, magis voluptuose consedimus, quam fecisset Medicus delicatus inter aromatum apothecas, ubi amoris nostri objectum reperimus et fomentum; sic sacra vasa scientiæ, ad nostræ dispensationis provenerunt arbitrium: quædam data, quædam vendita, ac nonnulla protempore commodata. Nimirum cum nos plerique de hujusmodi donariis cernerent contentatos, ea sponte nostris usibus studuerent tribuere, quibus ipsi libentius caruerunt: quorum tamen negotia sic expedire curavimus gratiosi, ut et eisdem emolumentum accresceret, nullum tamen iustitia detrimentum sentiret." "Porro si scyphos aureos et argenteos, si equos egregios, si nummorum summas non modicas amassemus tunc temporis, dives nobis ærarium instaurasse possemus: sed revera libros non libras maluimus, codicesque plusquam florenos, ac panfletos exiguos incrassatis prætulimus palfridis," Philobiblion; p. 29, 30, &c. Dr. James's preface to this book, which will be noticed in its proper place, in another work, is the veriest piece of old maidenish particularity that ever was exhibited! However, the editor's enthusiastic admiration of De Bury obtains his forgiveness in the bosom of every honest bibliomaniac!
265 Charles the Fifth, of France, may be called the founder of the Royal Library there. The history of his first efforts to erect a national library is thus, in part, related by the compilers of Cat. de la Bibliothéque Royale, pt. i., p. ij.-iij.: "This wise king took advantage of the peace which then obtained, in order to cultivate letters more successfully than had hitherto been done. He was learned for his age; and never did a prince love reading and book-collecting better than did he! He was not only constantly making transcripts himself, but the noblemen, courtiers, and officers that surrounded him voluntarily tendered their services in the like cause; while, on the other hand, a number of learned men, seduced by his liberal rewards, spared nothing to add to his literary treasures. Charles now determined to give his subjects every possible advantage from this accumulation of books; and, with this view, he lodged them in one of the Towers of the Louvre; which tower was hence called La Tour de la Librarie. The books occupied three stories: in the first, were desposited 269 volumes; in the second 260; and in the third, 381 volumes. In order to preserve them with the utmost care (say Sauval and Felibien), the king caused all the windows of the library to be fortified with iron bars; between which was painted glass, secured by brass-wires. And that the books might be accessible at all hours, there were suspended, from the ceiling, thirty chandeliers and a silver lamp, which burnt all night long. The walls were wainscotted with Irish wood; and the ceiling was covered with cypress wood: the whole being curiously sculptured in bas-relief." Whoever has not this catalogue at hand (vide p. 93, ante) to make himself master of still further curious particulars relating to this library, may examine the first and second volume of L'Academie des Inscriptions, &c. — from which the preceding account is taken. The reader may also look into Warton (Diss. 11, vol. i., sign. f. 2); who adds, on the authority of Boivin's Mem. Lit., tom. ii., p. 747, that the Duke of Bedford, regent of France, "in the year 1425 (when the English became masters of Paris) sent his whole library, then consisting of only 853 volumes, and valued at 2223 livres, into England," &c. I have little doubt but that Richard De Bury had a glimpse of this infantine royal collection, from the following passage — which occurs immediately after an account of his ambassadorial excursion —"O beate Deus Deorum in Syon, quantus impetus fluminis voluptatis lætificavit cor nostrum, quoties Paradisum mundi Parisios visitare vacavimus ibi moraturi? Ubi nobis semper dies pauci, præ amoris magnitudine, videbantur. Ibi Bibliothecæ jucundæ super sellas aromatum redolentes; ibi virens viridarium universorum voluminum," &c. Philobiblion; p. 31, edit. 1559.
266 After having intruded, I fear, by the preceding note respecting French Bibliomania, there is only room left to say of our De Bury— that he was the friend and correspondent of Petrarch — and that Mons. Sade, in his Memoirs of Petrarch, tells us that "the former did in England, what the latter all his life was doing in France, Italy, and Germany, towards the discovery of the best ancient writers, and making copies of them under his own superintendence." De Bury bequeathed a valuable library of MSS. to Durham, now Trinity College, Oxford. The books of this library were first packed up in chests; but upon the completion of the room to receive them, "they were put into pews or studies, and chained to them." Wood's History of the University of Oxford, vol. ii., p. 911. Gutch's edit. De Bury's Philobiblion, from which so much has been extracted, is said by Morhof to "savor somewhat of the rudeness of the age, but is rather elegantly written; and many things are well expressed in it relating to bibliothecism." Polyhist. Literar., vol. i., 187. The real author is supposed to have been Robert Holcott, a Dominican friar. I am, however, loth to suppress a part of what Warton has so pleasantly written (as above alluded to by Lysander) respecting such a favourite as De Bury. "Richard de Bury, otherwise called Richard Aungervylle, is said to have alone possessed more books than all the bishops of England together. Beside the fixed libraries which he had formed in his several palaces, the floor of his common apartment was so covered with books that those who entered could not with due reverence approach his presence. He kept binders, illuminators, and writers, in his palaces. Petrarch says that he had once a conversation with him, concerning the island called by the ancients Thule; calling him 'virum ardentis ingenii.' While chancellor and treasurer, instead of the usual presents and new-year's gifts appendant to his office, he chose to receive those perquisites in books. By the favour of Edward III. he gained access to the libraries of most of the capital monasteries; where he shook off the dust from volumes, preserved in chests and presses, which had not been opened for many ages." Philobiblion, cap. 29, 30. — Warton also quotes, in English, a part of what had been already presented to the reader in its original Latin form. Hist. Engl. Poetry, vol. i., Diss. ii., note g., sign. h. 4. Prettily painted as is this picture, by Warton, the colouring might have been somewhat heightened, and the effect rendered still more striking, in consequence, if the authority and the words of Godwyn had been a little attended to. In this latter's Catalogue of the Bishops of England, p. 524-5, edit. 1601, we find that De Bury was the son of one Sir Richard Angaruill, knight: "that he saith of himselfe 'exstatico quodam librorum amore potenter se abreptum'— that he was mightily carried away, and even beside himself, with immoderate love of bookes and desire of reading. He had alwaies in his house many chaplaines, all great schollers. His manner was, at dinner and supper-time, to haue some good booke read unto him, whereof he would discourse with his chaplaines a great part of the day following, if busines interrupted not his course. He was very bountiful unto the poore. Weekely he bestowed for their reliefe, 8 quarters of wheat made into bread, beside the offall and fragments of his tables. Riding betweene Newcastle and Durham he would give 8l. in almes; from Durham to Stocton, 5l.: from Durham to Aukland, 5 marks; from Durham to Middleham, 5l." &c. This latter is the "pars melior" of every human being; and bibliomaniacs seem to have possessed it as largely as any other tribe of mortals. I have examined Richardson's magnificent reprint of Godwyn's book, in the Latin tongue, London, 1743, folio; p. 747; and find nothing worth adding to the original text.
Loren. The task we have imposed upon you, my good Lysander, would be severe indeed if you were to notice, with minute exactness, all the book-anecdotes of the middle ages. You have properly introduced the name and authority of Warton; but if you suffered yourself to be beguiled by his enchanting style, into all the bibliographical gossiping of this period, you would have no mercy upon your lungs, and there would be no end to the disquisition.
Lysand. Forgive me, if I have transgressed the boundaries of good sense or good breeding: it was not my intention to make a "Concio ad Aulam"— as worthy old Bishop Saunderson was fond of making — but simply to state facts, or indulge in book chit-chat, as my memory served me.
Lis. Nay, Lorenzo, do not disturb the stream of Lysander's eloquence. I could listen 'till "Jocund day stood tip-toe on the mountain."
Phil. You are a little unconscionable, Lisardo: but I apprehend Lorenzo meant only to guard Lysander against that minuteness of narration which takes us into every library and every study of the period at which we are arrived. If I recollect aright, Warton was obliged to restrain himself in the same cause.267
267 The part alluded to, in Warton, is at the commencement of his second Dissertation "On the Introduction of Learning into Great Britain." After rambling with the utmost felicity, among the libraries, and especially the monastic ones, of the earlier and middle ages — he thus checks himself by saying, that "in pursuit of these anecdotes, he is imperceptibly seduced into later periods, or rather is deviating from his subject."
Loren. It belongs to me, Lysander, to solicit your forgiveness. If you are not tired with the discussion of such a various and extensive subject (and more particularly from the energetic manner in which it is conducted on your part), rely upon it that your auditors cannot possibly feel ennui. Every thing before us partakes of your enthusiasm: the wine becomes mellower, and sparkles with a ruddier glow; the flavour of the fruit is improved; and the scintillations of your conversational eloquence are scattered amidst my books, my busts, and my pictures. Proceed, I entreat you; but first, accept my libation offered up at the shrine of an offended deity.
Lysand. You do me, and the Bibliomania, too much honour. If my blushes do not overpower me, I will proceed: but first, receive the attestation of the deity that he is no longer affronted with you. I drink to your health and long life! — and proceed:
If, among the numerous and gorgeous books which now surround us, it should be my good fortune to put my hand upon one, however small or imperfect, which could give us some account of the History of British Libraries, it would save me a great deal of trouble, by causing me to maintain at least a chronological consistency in my discourse. But, since this cannot be — since, with all our love of books and of learning, we have this pleasing desideratum yet to be supplied — I must go on, in my usual desultory manner, in rambling among libraries, and discoursing about books and book-collectors. As we enter upon the reign of Henry IV., we cannot avoid the mention of that distinguished library hunter, and book describer, John Boston of Bury;268 who may justly be considered the Leland of his day. Gale, if I recollect rightly, unaccountably describes his bibliomaniacal career as having taken place in the reign of Henry VII.; but Bale and Pits, from whom Tanner has borrowed his account, unequivocally affix the date of 1410 to Boston's death; which is three years before the death of Henry. It is allowed, by the warmest partizans of the reformation, that the dissolution of the monastic libraries has unfortunately rendered the labours of Boston of scarcely any present utility.
268 It is said of Boston that he visited almost every public library, and described the titles of every book therein, with punctilious accuracy. Pits (593) calls him "vir pius, litteratus, et bonarum litterarum fautor ac promotor singularis." Bale (p. 549, edit. 1559) has even the candour to say, "mirâ sedulitate et diligentia omnes omnium regni monasteriorum bibliothecas invisit: librorum collegit titulos, et authorum eorum nomina: quæ omnia alphabetico disposuit ordine, et quasi unam omnium bibliothecam fecit." What Lysander observes above is very true: "non enim dissimulanda (says Gale) monasteriorum subversio, quæ brevi spatio subsecuta est — libros omnes dispersit et Bostoni providam diligentiam, maxima ex parte, inutilem reddidit." Rer. Anglicar. Scrip. Vet., vol. iii., præf. p. 1. That indefatigable antiquary, Thomas Hearne, acknowledges that, in spite of all his researches in the Bodleian library, he was scarcely able to discover any thing of Boston's which related to Benedictus Abbas — and still less of his own compositions. Bened. Abbat. vol. i., præf. p. xvii. It is a little surprising that Leland should have omitted to notice him. But the reader should consult Tanner's Bibl. Britan., p. xvii., 114.
There is a curious anecdote of this period in Rymer's Fœdera,269 about taking off the duty upon six barrels of books, sent by a Roman Cardinal to the prior of the Conventual church of St. Trinity, Norwich. These barrels, which lay at the custom-house, were imported duty free; and I suspect that Henry's third son, the celebrated John Duke of Bedford, who was then a lad, and just beginning to feed his bibliomaniacal appetite, had some hand in interceding with his father for the redemption of the duty.
269 Vol. viii., p. 501. It is a Clause Roll of the 9th of Henry IV. A.D. 1407: "De certis Libris, absque Custumenda solvenda, liberandis;" and affords too amusing a specimen of custom-house latinity to be withheld from the reader. "Mandamus vobis, quod certos libros in sex Barellis contentos, Priori qt Conventui Ecclesiæ Sanctæ Trinitatis Norwici, per quendam Adam nuper Cardinalem legatos, et in portum civitatis nostræ predictæ (Londinensis) ab urbe Romanâ jam adductos, præfato, Priori, absque Custuma seu subsidio inde ad opus nostrum capiendis, liberetis indilate," &c.
Lis. This Duke of Bedford was the most notorious bibliomaniac as well as warrior of his age; and, when abroad, was indefatigable in stirring up the emulation of Flemish and French artists, to execute for him the most splendid books of devotion. I have heard great things of what goes by the name of The Bedford Missal!270
270 This missal, executed under the eye and for the immediate use of the famous John, Duke of Bedford (regent of France), and Jane (the daughter of the Duke of Burgundy) his wife, was, at the beginning of the 18th century, in the magnificent library of Harley, Earl of Oxford. It afterwards came into the collection of his daughter, the well-known Duchess of Portland; at whose sale, in 1786, it was purchased by Mr. Edwards for 215 guineas; and 500 guineas have been, a few years ago, offered for this identical volume. It is yet the property of this last mentioned gentleman. Among the pictures in it, there is an interesting one of the whole length portraits of the Duke and Duchess — the head of the former of which has been enlarged and engraved by Vertue for his portraits to illustrate the History of England. The missal frequently displays the arms of these noble personages; and also affords a pleasing testimony of the affectionate gallantry of the pair; the motto of the former being "a vous entier:" that of the latter, "j'en suis contente." There is a former attestation in the volume, of its having been given by the Duke to his nephew, Henry VI. as "a most suitable present." But the reader shall consult (if he can procure it) Mr. Gough's curious little octavo volume written expressly upon the subject.
Lysand. And not greater than what merits to be said of it. I have seen this splendid bijou in the charming collection of our friend ——. It is a small thick folio, highly illuminated; and displaying, as well in the paintings as in the calligraphy, the graphic powers of that age, which had not yet witnessed even the dry pencil of Perugino. More gorgeous, more beautifully elaborate, and more correctly graceful, missals may be in existence; but a more curious, interesting, and perfect specimen, of its kind, is no where to be seen: the portraits of the Duke and of his royal brother Henry V. being the best paintings known of the age. 'Tis, in truth, a lovely treasure in the book way; and it should sleep every night upon an eider-down pillow encircled with emeralds!
Lis. Hear him — hear him! Lysander must be a collateral descendant of this noble bibliomaniac, whose blood, now circulating in his veins, thus moves him to "discourse most eloquently."
Lysand. Banter as you please; only "don't disturb the stream of my eloquence."
The period of this distinguished nobleman was that in which book-collecting began to assume a fixed and important character in this country. Oxford saw a glimmering of civilization dawning in her obscured atmosphere. A short but dark night had succeeded the patriotic efforts of De Bury; whose curious volumes, bequeathed to Trinity College, had laid in a melancholy and deserted condition 'till they were kept company by those of Cobham, Bishop of Worcester, Rede, Bishop of Chichester, and Humphrey the good Duke of Gloucester.271 Now began the fashion (and may it never fall to decay!) of making presents to public libraries:— but, during the short and splendid career of Henry V., learning yielded to arms: the reputation of a scholar to that of a soldier. I am not aware of any thing at this period, connected with the subject of our discourse, that deserves particular mention; although we ought never to name this illustrious monarch, or to think of his matchless prowess in arms, without calling to mind how he adorned the rough character of a soldier by the manners of a prince, the feelings of a Christian, and, I had almost said, the devotion of a saint.
271 We will first notice Cobham, Bishop of Worcester: who "having had a great desire to show some love to his mother the university of Oxford, began, about the year 1320, to build, or at least to make some reparations for a Library, over the old congregation house in the north church-yard of St. Mary's; but he dying soon after, before any considerable matter was done therein, left certain moneys for the carrying on of the work, and all his books, with others that had been lately procured, to be, with those belonging to the university (as yet kept in chests) reposed therein." Some controversy afterwards arising between the University and Oriel College, to which latter Cobham belonged, the books lay in dreary and neglected state till 1367; when a room having been built for their reception, it was settled that they "should be reposed and chained in the said room or solar; that the scholars of the University should have free ingress and regress, at certain times, to make proficiency in them; that certain of the said books, of greater price, should be sold, till the sum of l. 40 was obtained for them (unless other remedy could be found) with which should be bought an yearly rent of l. 3, for the maintenance of a chaplain, that should pray for the soul of the said bishop, and other benefactors of the University both living and dead, and have the custody or oversight of the said books, and of those in the ancient chest of books, and chest of rolls." Wood's Hist. of the University of Oxford, vol. ii., pt. ii., 911. Gutch's edit. William Rede, or Read, bishop of Chichester, "sometimes Fellow (of Merton College) gave a chest with l. 100 in gold in it, to be borrowed by the Fellows for their relief; bond being first given in by them to repay it at their departure from the college; or, in case they should die, to be paid by their executors: A.D. 1376. He also built, about the same time, a Library in the college; being the first that the society enjoyed, and gave books thereunto." Wood's History of the Colleges and Halls, p. 15, Gutch's edit. In Mr. Nicholl's Appendix to the History of Leicester, p. 105, note 20, I find some account of this distinguished literary character, taken from Tanner's Bibl. Britan., p. 618. He is described, in both authorities, as being a very learned Fellow of Merton College, where he built and furnished a noble library; on the wall of which was painted his portrait, with this inscription: "Gulielmus Redæus, episcopus Cicestrensis, Magister in theologia, profundus astronomus, quondam socius istius collegii, qui hanc librariam fieri fecit." Many of Read's mathematical instruments, as well as his portrait, were preserved in the library when Harrison wrote his description of England, prefix'd to Holinshed's Chronicles; some of the former of which came into the possession of the historian. For thus writes Harrison: "William Read, sometime fellow of Merteine college in Oxford, doctor of divinitie, and the most profound astronomer that liued in his time, as appeareth by his collection, which some time I did possesse; his image is yet in the librarie there; and manie instruments of astronomie reserued in that house," &c. Chronicles (1587), edit. 1807, vol. i., p. 237. In the year 1808, when I visited the ancient and interesting brick-floored library of Merton College, for the purpose of examining early printed books, I looked around in vain for the traces, however faded, of Read's portrait: nor could I discover a single vestige of the Bibliotheca Readiana! The memory of this once celebrated bishop lives therefore only in what books have recorded of him; and this brief and verbal picture of Read is here drawn — as was the more finished resemblance of Chaucer by the pencil, which Occleve has left behind —
That thei that have of him lost thoute and mynde
By this peinture may ageine him fynde.
Humphrey, Duke of Gloucester, "commonly called the good, was youngest brother to Henry V. and the first founder of the university library in Oxford, which was pillaged of the greater part of its books in the reign of Edward the Sixth." Park's edit. of the Royal and Noble Authors; vol. i., 198. "As for the books which he gave (says Wood) they were very many, more by far than authors report; for whereas 'tis said he gave 129, you shall find anon that they were more than treble the number." The Duke's first gift, in 1439, of one hundred and twenty-nine treatises, was worth, according to Wood, a thousand pounds. All his book presents, "amounting to above 600 (mostly treating of divinity, physic, history, and humanity) which were from several parts of the world obtained, were transmitted to the university, and for the present laid up in chests in Cobham's library. The catalogue also of them which were then sent, and the indentures for the receipt of the said books, were laid up in the chest called Cista Librorum et Rotulorum." History (or Annals) of the University of Oxford; vol. ii., pt. ii., 914. Gutch's edit. Consult also the recent and very amusing History of the same University, by Mr. A. Chalmers, vol. ii., p. 459. Leland has not forgotten this distinguished bibliomaniac; for he thus lauds him in roman verse:
Tam clari meminit viri togata
Rectè Gallia; tum chorus suavis
Cygnorum Isidis ad vadum incolentûm
Cui magnum numerum dedit bonorum
Librorum, statuitque sanctiori
Divinus studio scholæ theatrum;
Nostro quale quidem videtur esse
Magnum tempore, forsan et futuro
Cygn. Cant. Vide Lelandi Itinerarium
Curâ Hearne; edit. 1770, vol. ix., p. 17.
The reign of his successor, Henry VI., was the reign of trouble and desolation. It is not to be wondered that learning drooped, and religion "waxed faint," 'midst the din of arms and the effusion of human blood. Yet towards the close of this reign some attempt was made to befriend the book cause; for the provost and fellows of Eton and Cambridge petitioned the king to assist them in increasing the number of books in their libraries;272 but the result of this petition has never, I believe, been known.
272 In the manuscript history of Eton College, in the British Museum (MSS. Donat. 4840, p. 154.), the Provost and Fellows of Eton and Cambridge are stated, in the 25th of Henry the Sixth, to have petitioned the king that, as these new colleges were not sufficiently seised of books for divine service, and for their libraries, he would be pleased to order one of his chaplains, Richard Chestre, "to take to him such men as shall be seen to him expedient in order to get knowledge where such bookes may be found, paying a reasonable price for the same, and that the sayd men might have the first choice of such bookes, ornaments, &c., before any man, and in especiall of all manner of bookes, ornaments, and other necessaries as now late were perteynyng to the Duke of Gloucester, and that the king would particular(ly) cause to be employed herein John Pye his stacioner of London." For this anecdote I am indebted to Sir H. Ellis. See also the interesting note in Warton's Hist. Engl. Poet., diss. ii., sign. f. 2.
I had nearly passed through the reign of Henry the Sixth without noticing the very meritorious labours of a sort of precursor of Dean Colet; I mean, Sir Walter Sherington. He was a most assiduous bibliomaniac;273 and, in the true spirit of ancient monachism, conceived that no cathedral could be perfect without a library. Accordingly, he not only brought together an extraordinary number of curious books, but framed laws or regulations concerning the treatment of the books, and the hours of perusing them; which, if I can trust to my memory, are rather curious, and worth your examination. They are in Hearne's edition of the Antiquities of Glastonbury, composed in our own language.
273 "Over the east quadrant of this (great) cloyster (on the north side of this church) was a fayre librarie, builded at the costes and charges of (Sir) Waltar Sherington, chancellor of the duchie of Lancaster, in the raigne of Henrie the 6. which hath beene well furnished with faire written books in vellem: but few of them now do remaine there." Antiquities of Glastonbury; Hearne's edit. 1722; p. 308.
"Quodque dicta libraria, hostiis ipsius per præfatos capellanos custodes ejusdem, et eorum successores, aut alterum ipsorum, apertis singulis diebus profestis annuatim á festo Nativ. beat. Mar. Virg. usque festum Annunciacionis ejusdem, ob ortu solis, donec hora nona post altam missam de servicio diei in dicta ecclesiâ cathedrali finiatur: et iterum ab hora prima post meridiem usque ad finem completorii in eadem ecclesia cathedrali, vel saltem usque ad occasum solis per eosdem, seu eorum alterum, sic continue diligenter custodiatur. Et eciam singulis diebus profestis annuatim, ab eodem festo Annunciacionis beatæ Mariæ Virginis usque ad prædictum festum nativitatis ejusdem, ab hora diei sexta, donec hora nona post altam missam in dicta ecclesia cathedrali, et iterum ab hora prima post meridiem quosque completorium in eadem ecclesia cathedrali finiatur, per præfatos capellanos, seu eorum alterum et successores suos custodes dictæ librariæ debitè et diligenter aperta, custodiatur, nisi causa racionabilis hoc fieri impediat. Ita quod nullum dampnum eidem librariæ aut in libris, aut in hostiis, seruris vel fenestris vitreis ejusdem, ex negligencia dictorum capellanorum aut successorum suorum custodum dictæ librariæ evenire contingat. Et si quid dampnum hujusmodi in præmissis, seu aliquo præmissorum, per negligenciam ipsorum capellanorum, seu eorum alterius, aut successorum suorum quoque modo imposterum evenerit, id vel ipsa dampnum aut dampna recompensare, emendare et satisfacere, tociens quociens contigerit, de salariis seu stipendiis suis propriis, auctoritate et judicio dictorum Decani et Capituli, debeant et teneantur, ut est justum. Ceteris vero diebus, noctibus et temporibus hostia prædicta, cum eorum seruris et clavibus, omnino sint clausa et secure serata." Id.: p. 193.
We now enter upon the reign of an active and enterprising monarch; who, though he may be supposed to have cut his way to the throne by his sword, does not appear to have persecuted the cause of learning; but rather to have looked with a gracious eye upon its operations by means of the press. In the reign of Edward IV., our venerable and worthy Caxton fixed the first press that ever was set to work in this country, in the abbey of Westminster. Yes, Lorenzo; now commenced more decidedly, the æra of Bibliomania! Now the rich, and comparatively poor, began to build them small Book Rooms or Libraries. At first, both the architecture and furniture were sufficiently rude, if I remember well the generality of wood cuts of ancient book-boudoirs:— a few simple implements only being deemed necessary; and a three-legged stool, "in fashion square or round," as Cowper274 says, was thought luxury sufficient for the hard student to sit upon. Now commenced a general love and patronage of books: now (to borrow John Fox's language) "tongues became known, knowledge grew, judgment increased, books were dispersed, the scripture was read, stories were opened, times compared, truth discerned, falsehood detected, and with finger pointed (at)— and all, through the benefit of printing."275
274 The entire passage is worth extraction: as it well describes many an old stool which has served for many a studious philosopher:
"Joint stools were then created: on three legs
Upborne they stood. Three legs upholding firm
A massy slab, in fashion square or round.
On such a stool immortal Alfred sat,
And sway'd the sceptre of his infant realms.
And such in ancient halls and mansions drear
May still be seen; but perforated sore,
And drilled in holes, the solid oak is found,
By worms voracious eating through and through."
Task: b. i., v. 19, &c.
It had escaped the amiable and sagacious author of these verses that such tripodical seats were frequently introduced into old book-rooms; as the subjoined print — which gives us also a curious picture of one of the libraries alluded to by Lysander — may serve to shew:
Revelaciones Sancte Birgitte; ed. 1521, sign. z. 3 rev.
275 Book of Martyrs, vol. i., p. 927; edit. 1641.
Lis. Now you have arrived at this period, pray concentrate your anecdotes into a reasonable compass. As you have inveigled us into the printing-office of Caxton, I am fearful, from your strong attachment to him, that we shall not get over the threshhold of it, into the open air again, until midnight.
Phil. Order, order, Lisardo! This is downright rudeness. I appeal to the chair! —
Lorenz. Lisardo is unquestionably reprehensible. His eagerness makes him sometimes lose sight of good breeding.
Lysand. I was going to mention some Vellum and Presentation copies — but I shall hurry forward.
Lis. Nay, if you love me, omit nothing about "vellum and presentation copies." Speak at large upon these glorious subjects.
Lysand. Poor Lisardo! — we must build an iron cage to contain such a book-madman as he promises to become!
Phil. Proceed, dear Lysander, and no longer heed these interruptions.
Lysand. Nay, I was only about to observe that, as Caxton is known to have printed upon vellum,276 it is most probable that one of his presentation copies of the romances of Jason and Godfrey of Boulogne (executed under the patronage of Edward IV.), might have been printed in the same manner. Be this as it may, it seems reasonable to conclude that Edward the Fourth was not only fond of books, as objects of beauty or curiosity, but that he had some affection for literature and literary characters; for how could the firm friend and generous patron of Tiptoft, Earl of Worcester— with whom this monarch had spent many a studious, as well as jovial, hour — be insensible to the charms of intellectual refinement! Pause we here for one moment — and let us pour the juice of the blackest grape upon the votive tablet, consecrated to the memory of this illustrious nobleman! and, as Caxton has become so fashionable277 among us, I will read to you, from yonder beautiful copy of his English edition of "Tully upon Friendship," a part of our printer's affecting eulogy upon the translator:—"O good blessed Lord God, what great loss was it of that noble, virtuous, and well-disposed lord! When I remember and advertise his life, his science, and his virtue, me thinketh God not displeased over a great loss of such a man, considering his estate and cunning," &c. "At his death every man that was there, might learn to die and take his (own) death patiently; wherein I hope and doubt not, but that God received his soul into his everlasting bliss. For as I am informed he right advisedly ordained all his things, as well for his last will of worldly goods, as for his soul's health; and patiently, and holily, without grudging, in charity, to fore that he departed out of this world: which is gladsome and joyous to hear."— What say you to this specimen of Caxtonian eloquence?
276 Consult the recent edition of the Typographical Antiquities of our own country: vol. i., p. 56, 137, 268.
277 As a proof of the ardour with which the books printed by him are now sought after, the reader shall judge for himself — when he is informed that an imperfect copy of the Golden Legend, one of Caxton's commonest productions, produced at a book sale, a few months ago, the sum of twenty-seven guineas!
Lis. It has a considerable merit; but my attention has been a good deal diverted, during your appropriate recital of it, to the beautiful condition of the copy. Thrice happy Lorenzo! what sum will convey this volume to my own library!
Loren. No offer, in the shape of money, shall take it hence. I am an enthusiast in the cause of Tiptoft; and am always upon the watch to discover any volume, printed by Caxton, which contains the composition of the hapless Earl of Worcester! Dr. Henry has spoken so handsomely of him, and Mr. Park, in his excellent edition of Walpole's Royal and Noble Authors,278 has made his literary character so interesting that, considering the dearth of early good English authors,279 I know of no other name that merits greater respect and admiration.
278 Vol i., p. 200, &c. History of Great Britain, by Dr. Henry, vol. x., p. 143, &c.
279 "In the library of Glastonbury abbey, in 1248, there were but four books in Engleish, &c. We have not a single historian, in Engleish prose, before the reign of Richard the Second; when John Treviza translateëd the Polychronicon of Randal Higden. Boston of Bury, who seems to have consulted all the monasterys in Engleland, does not mention one author who had written in Engleish; and Bale, at a lateër period, has, comparatively, but an insignificant number: nor was Leland so fortunate as to find above two or three Engleish books, in the monastick and other librarys, which he rummage'd, and explore'd, under the king's commission." Ritson's Dissertation on Romance and Minstrelsy: prefixed to his Ancient Engleish Metrical Romanceës, vol. i., p. lxxxi.
Lysand. True; and this nobleman's attention to the acquisition of fine and useful books, when he was abroad, for the benefit of his own country,280 gives him a distinguished place in the list of Bibliomaniacs. I dare say Lisardo would give some few hundred guineas for his bust, executed by Flaxman, standing upon a pedestal composed of the original editions of his works, bound in grave-coloured morocco by his favourite Faulkener?281
280 Dr. Henry's History of Great Britain; ibid.: from which a copious note has been given in the new edition of our Typographical Antiquities; vol. i., p. 127, &c.
281 Henry Faulkener, no. 4, George Court, near the Adelphi, in the Strand. An honest, industrious, and excellent book-binder: who, in his mode of re-binding ancient books is not only scrupulously particular in the preservation of that important part of a volume, the margin; but, in his ornaments of tooling, is at once tasteful and exact. Notwithstanding these hard times, and rather a slender bodily frame, and yet more slender purse — with five children, and the prospect of five more — honest Mr. Faulkener is in his three-pair-of-stairs confined workshop by five in the morning winter and summer, and oftentimes labours 'till twelve at night. Severer toil, with more uniform good humour and civility in the midst of all his embarrassments, were never perhaps witnessed in a brother of the ancient and respectable craft of Book-binding!
Lis. I entreat you not to inflame my imagination by such tantalizing pictures! You know this must ever be a fiction: the most successful bibliomaniac never attained to such human happiness.
Phil. Leave Lisardo to his miseries, and proceed.
Lysand. I have supposed Edward to have spent some jovial hours with this unfortunate nobleman. It is thought that our monarch and he partook of the superb feast which was given by the famous Nevell, archbishop of York, at the inthronization of the latter; and I am curious to know of what the library of such a munificent ecclesiastical character was composed! But perhaps this feast itself282 is one of Lisardo's fictions.
282 Lysander is perfectly correct about the feast which was given at the archbishop's inthronization; as the particulars of it —"out of an old paper roll in the archives of the Bodleian library," are given by Hearne in the sixth volume of Leland's Collectanea, p. 1-14: and a most extraordinary and amusing bill of fare it is. The last twenty dinners given by the Lord Mayors at Guildhall, upon the first day of their mayoralties, were only sandwiches— compared with such a repast! What does the reader think of 2000 chickens, 4000 pigeons, 4000 coneys, 500 "and mo," stags, bucks, and roes, with 4000 "pasties of venison colde?"— and these barely an 18th part of the kind of meats served up! At the high table our amiable Earl of Worcester was seated, with the Archbishop, three Bishops, the Duke of Suffolk, and the Earl of Oxford. The fictitious archiepiscopal feast was the one intended to be given by Nevell to Edward IV.; when the latter "appointed a day to come to hunt in More in Hertfordshire, and make merry with him." Nevell made magnificent preparations for the royal visit; but instead of receiving the monarch as a guest, he was saluted by some of his officers, who "arrested him for treason," and imprisoned him at Calais and Guisnes. The cause of this sudden, and apparently monstrous, conduct, on the part of Edward, has not been told by Stow (Chronicles, p. 426; edit. 1615), nor by Godwyn, (Catalogue of the Bishops of England, p. 481, edit. 1601): both of whom relate the fact with singular naiveté. I have a strong suspicion that Nevell was so far a bibliomaniac as to have had a curious collection of astrological books; for "there was greate correspondency betweene this Archbishop and the Hermetique philosophers of his time; and this is partly confirmed to me from Ripley's dedication of his 'Medulla' to him, ann. 1746; as also the presentation of Norton's 'Ordinall,'" &c. Thus writes Ashmole, in his Theatrum Chemicum, p. 455.
Enough has probably been said of Edward. We will stop, therefore, but a minute, to notice the completion of the Humphrey Library, and the bibliomaniacal spirit of master Richard Courtney,283 during the same reign; and give but another minute to the mention of the statute of Richard III. in protection of English printers,284 when we reach the Augustan book-age, in the reign of Henry VII.
283 Speaking of the public library of Oxford, at this period, Hearne tells us, from a letter sent by him to Thomas Baker, that there was "a chaplein of the Universitie chosen, after the maner of a Bedell, and to him was the custodie of the librarye committed, his stipend — cvis. and viiid. his apparell found him de secta generosorum. No man might come in to studdie but graduats and thoes of 8 years contynuance in the Universitie, except noblemen. All that come in must firste sweare to use the bookes well, and not to deface theim, and everye one after at his proceedings must take the licke othe. Howers apoynted when they shuld come in to studdie, viz. betwene ix and xi aforenoone, and one and four afternoone, the keper geving attendaunce: yet a prerogative was graunted the chancelour Mr. Richard Courtney to come in when he pleased, during his own lieffe, so it was in the day-tyme: and the cause seemeth, that he was cheiffe cawser and setter on of the librarye." Curious Discourses by Eminent Antiquaries; vol. ii., p. 410., edit. 1775.
284 See page 114, ante. When Lysander talks, above, of the reign of Henry the Seventh being the "Augustan age for books," he must be supposed to allude to the facility and beauty of publishing them by means of the press: for at this period, abroad, the typographical productions of Verard, Eustace, Vostre, Bonfons, Pigouchet, Regnier, and many others ("quæ nunc perscribere longum est") were imitated, and sometimes equalled by W. de Worde, Pynson, and Notary, at home. In regard to intellectual fame, if my authority be good, "in the reign of Henry VII. Greek was a stranger in both universities; and so little even of Latin had Cambridge, of its own growth, that it had not types sufficient to furnish out the common letters and epistles of the University. They usually employed an Italian, one Caius Auberinus, to compose them, whose ordinarry fee was twentypence a letter." (MSS. in Benet College Library, lib. P. p. 194,) Ridley's Life of Ridley, p. 22. "Greek began to be taught in both universities: quietly at Cambridge, but ('Horresco referens!') with some tumult at Oxford!" ibid.
Phil. Before we proceed to discuss the bibliomaniacal ravages of this age, we had better retire, with Lorenzo's leave, to the drawing-room; to partake of a beverage less potent than that which is now before us.
Lorenz. Just as you please. But I should apprehend that Lysander could hold out 'till he reached the Reformation — and, besides, I am not sure whether our retreat be quite ready for us.
Lis. Pray let us not take leave of all these beauteous books, and busts, and pictures, just at present. If Lysander's lungs will bear him out another twenty minutes, we shall, by that time, have reached the Reformation; and then "our retreat," as Lorenzo calls it, may be quite ready for our reception.
Lysand. Settle it between yourselves. But I think I could hold out for another twenty minutes — since you will make me your only book-orator.
Lorenz. Let it be so, then. I will order the lamps to be lit; so that Lisardo may see his favourite Wouvermans and Berghems, in company with my romances, (which latter are confined in my satin-wood book-case) to every possible degree of perfection!
Lysand. Provided you indulge me also with a sight of these delightful objects, you shall have what you desire:— and thus I proceed:
Of the great passion of Henry the VIIth for fine books, even before he ascended the throne of England,285 there is certainly no doubt. And while he was king, we may judge, even from the splendid fragments of his library, which are collected in the British Museum, of the nicety of his taste, and of the soundness of his judgment. That he should love extravagant books of devotion,286 as well as histories and chronicles, must be considered the fault of the age, rather than of the individual. I will not, however, take upon me to say that the slumbers of this monarch were disturbed in consequence of the extraordinary and frightful passages, which, accompanied with bizarre cuts,287 were now introduced into almost every work, both of ascetic divinity and also of plain practical morality. His predecessor, Richard, had in all probability been alarmed by the images which the reading of these books had created; and I guess that it was from such frightful objects, rather than from the ghosts of his murdered brethren, that he was compelled to pass a sleepless night before the memorable battle of Bosworth Field. If one of those artists who used to design the horrible pictures which are engraved in many old didactic volumes of this period had ventured to take a peep into Richard's tent, I question whether he would not have seen, lying upon an oaken table, an early edition of some of those fearful works of which he had himself aided in the embellishment, and of which Heinecken has given us such curious fac-similes:288— and this, in my humble apprehension, is quite sufficient to account for all the terrible workings in Richard, which Shakespeare has so vividly described.
285 Mr. Heber has a fine copy of one of the volumes of a black-letter edition of Froissart, printed by Eustace, upon the exterior of the binding of which are Henry's arms, with his name —Henricvs Dvx Richmvndiæ. The very view of such a book, while it gives comfort to a low-spirited bibliomaniac, adds energy to the perseverance of a young collector! the latter of whom fondly, but vainly, thinks he may one day be blessed with a similar treasure!
286 The possession of such a volume as "The Revelations of the monk of Euesham" (vide vol. ii., of the new edition of Brit. Typog. Antiquities), is evidence sufficient of Henry's attachment to extravagant books of devotion.
287 It is certainly one of the comforts of modern education, that girls and boys have nothing to do, even in the remotest villages, with the perusal of such books as were put into the juvenile hands of those who lived towards the conclusion of the 15th century. One is at a loss to conceive how the youth of that period could have ventured at night out of doors, or slept alone in a darkened room, without being frightened out of their wits! Nor could maturer life be uninfluenced by reading such volumes as are alluded to in the text: and as to the bed of death —that must have sometimes shaken the stoutest faith, and disturbed the calmest piety. For what can be more terrible, and at the same time more audacious, than human beings arrogating to themselves the powers of the deity, and denouncing, in equivocal cases, a certainty and severity of future punishment, equally revolting to scripture and common sense? To drive the timid into desperation, and to cut away the anchor of hope from the rational believer, seem, among other things, to have been the objects of these "ascetic" authors; while the pictures, which were suffered to adorn their printed works, confirmed the wish that, where the reader might not comprehend the text, he could understand its illustration by means of a print. I will give two extracts, and one of these "bizarre cuts," in support of the preceding remarks. At page 168, ante, the reader will find a slight mention of the subject: he is here presented with a more copious illustration of it. "In likewise there is none that may declare the piteous and horrible cries and howlings the which that is made in hell, as well of devils as of other damned. And if that a man demand what they say in crying; the answer: All the damned curseth the Creator. Also they curse together as their father and their mother, and the hour that they were begotten, and that they were born, and that they were put unto nourishing, and those that them should correct and teach, and also those the which have been the occasion of their sins, as the bawd, cursed be the bawd, and also of other occasions in diverse sins. The second cause of the cry of them damned is for the consideration that they have of the time of mercy, the which is past, in the which they may do penance and purchase paradise. The third cause is of their cry for by cause of the horrible pains of that they endure. As we may consider that if an hundred persons had every of them one foot and one hand in the fire, or in the water seething without power to die, what bruit and what cry they should make; but that should be less than nothing in comparison of devils and of other damned, for they ben more than an hundred thousand thousands, the which all together unto them doeth noysaunce, and all in one thunder crying and braying horribly."—Thordynary of Crysten Men, 1506, 4to., k k. ii., rect. Again: from a French work written "for the amusement of all worthy ladies and gentlemen:"
De la flamme tousiours esprise
De feu denfer qui point ne brise
De busches nest point actise
Ne de soufflemens embrase
Le feu denfer, mais est de Dieu
Cree pour estre en celuy lieu
Des le premier commencement
Sans jamais pendre finement
Illec nya point de clarte
Mais de tenebres obscurte
De peine infinie durte
De miseres eternite
Pleur et estraignement de dens
Chascun membre aura la dedans
Tourmmens selon ce qua forfait
La peine respondra au fait,
&c. &c. &c.
Le passe tempe de tout home, et de toute femme; sign. q. ii., rev.
Printed by Verard in 8vo., without date: (from a copy, printed upon vellum, in the possession of John Lewis Goldsmyd, Esq.)— The next extract is from a book which was written to amuse and instruct the common people: being called by Warton a "universal magazine of every article of salutary and useful knowledge." Hist. Engl. Poetry: vol. ii., 195.
In hell is great mourning
Great trouble of crying
Of thunder noises roaring
with plenty of wild fire
Beating with great strokes like guns
with a great frost in water runs
And after a bitter wind comes
which goeth through the souls with ire
There is both thirst and hunger
fiends with hooks putteth their flesh asunder
They fight and curse and each on other wonder
with the fight of the devils dreadable
There is shame and confusion
Rumour of conscience for evil living
They curse themself with great crying
In smoak and stink they be evermore lying
with other pains innumerable.
Kalendar of Shepherds. Sign G. vij. rev. Pynson's edit., fol.
Specimens of some of the tremendous cuts which are crowded into this thin folio will be seen in the second volume of the new edition of the Typographical Antiquities. However, that the reader's curiosity may not here be disappointed, he is presented with a similar specimen, on a smaller scale, of one of the infernal tortures above described. It is taken from a book whose title conveys something less terrific; and describes a punishment which is said to be revealed by the Almighty to St. Bridget against those who have "ornamenta indecentia in capitibus et pedibus, et reliquis membris, ad provocandum luxuriam et irritandum deum, in strictis vestibus, ostensione mamillarum, unctionibus," &c. Revelaciones sancte Birgitte; edit. Koeberger, 1521, fol., sign. q., 7, rev.
288 See many of the cuts in that scarce and highly coveted volume, entitled, "Idée Generale d'une Collection complètte d'Estampes." Leips. 1771, 8vo.
Lis. This is, at least, an original idea; and has escaped the sagacity of every commentator in the last twenty-one volume edition of the works of our bard.
Lysand. But to return to Henry. I should imagine that his mind was not much affected by the perusal of this description of books: but rather that he was constantly meditating upon some old arithmetical work — the prototype of Cocker — which, in the desolation of the ensuing half century, has unfortunately perished. Yet, if this monarch be accused of avaricious propensities — if, in consequence of speculating deeply in large paper and vellum copies, he made his coffers to run over with gold — it must be remembered that he was, at the same time, a patron as well as judge of architectural artists; and while the completion of the structure of King's college Chapel, Cambridge, and the building of his own magnificent chapel289 at Westminster (in which latter, I suspect, he had a curiously-carved gothic closet for the preservation of choice copies from Caxton's neighbouring press), afford decisive proofs of Henry's skill in matters of taste, the rivalship of printers and of book-buyers shews that the example of the monarch was greatly favourable to the propagation of the Bibliomania. Indeed, such was the progress of the book-disease that, in the very year of Henry's death, appeared, for the first time in this country, an edition of The Ship of Fools— in which work, ostentatious and ignorant book-collectors290 are, amongst other characters, severely satirized.
289 Harpsfield speaks with becoming truth and spirit of Henry's great attention to ecclesiastical establishments: "Splendidum etiam illud sacellum westmonasterij, magno sumptu atque magnificentia ab eodem est conditum. In quod cœnobium valde fuit liberalis et munificus. Nullumque fere fuit in tota Anglia monachorum, aut fratrum cœnobium, nullum collegium, cujus preces, ad animam ipsius Deo post obitum commendandam, sedulo non expetierat. Legavit autem singulorum præfectis sex solidos et octo denarios, singulis autem eorundem presbyteris, tres solidos et quatuor denarios: ceteris non presbyteris viginti denarios." Hist. Eccles. Anglic., p. 606, edit. 1622, fol.
290 The reader is here introduced to his old acquaintance, who appeared in the title-page to my first "Bibliomania:"—
I am the firste fole of all the hole navy
To kepe the pompe, the helme, and eke the sayle:
For this is my mynde, this one pleasoure have I—
Of bokes to haue great plenty and aparayle.
I take no wysdome by them: nor yet avayle
Nor them perceyve nat: And then I them despyse.
Thus am I a foole, and all that serue that guyse.
Shyp of Folys, &c., Pynson's edit., 1509, fol.
We have now reached the threshhold of the reign of Henry VIII.— and of the era of the Reformation. An era in every respect most important, but, in proportion to its importance, equally difficult to describe — as it operates upon the history of the Bibliomania. Now blazed forth, but blazed for a short period, the exquisite talents of Wyatt, Surrey, Vaux, Fischer, More, and, when he made his abode with us, the incomparable Erasmus. But these in their turn.
Phil. You omit Wolsey. Surely he knew something about books?
Lysand. I am at present only making the sketch of my grand picture. Wolsey, I assure you, shall stand in the foreground. Nor shall the immortal Leland be treated in a less distinguished manner. Give me only "ample room and verge enough," and a little time to collect my powers, and then —
Lis. "Yes, and then"— you will infect us from top to toe with the book-disease!
Phil. In truth I already begin to feel the consequence of the innumerable miasma of it, which are floating in the atmosphere of this library. I move that we adjourn to a purer air.
Lysand. I second the motion: for, having reached the commencement of Henry's reign, it will be difficult to stop at any period in it previous to that of the Reformation.
Lis. Agreed. Thanks to the bacchanalian bounty of Lorenzo, we are sufficiently enlivened to enter yet further, and more enthusiastically, into this congenial discourse. Dame nature and good sense equally admonish us now to depart. Let us, therefore, close the apertures of these gorgeous decanters:—
"Claudite jam rivos, pueri: sat prata bibêrunt!"
The striking device of M. Morin, Printer, Rouen.
Last updated Tuesday, August 25, 2015 at 14:05