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The University of Adelaide Library
University of Adelaide
South Australia 5005
Madame, it is no modish thing,
The bookman’s tribute that I bring;
A talk of antiquaries grey,
Dust unto dust this many a day,
Gossip of texts and bindings old,
Of faded type, and tarnish’d gold!
Can ladies care for this to-do
With Payne, Derome, and Padeloup?
Can they resign the rout, the ball,
For lonely joys of shelf and stall?
The critic thus, serenely wise;
But you can read with other eyes,
Whose books and bindings treasured are
‘Midst mingled spoils of peace and war;
Shields from the fights the Mahdi lost,
And trinkets from the Golden Coast,
And many things divinely done
By Chippendale and Sheraton,
And trophies of Egyptian deeds,
And fans, and plates, and Aggrey beads,
Pomander boxes, assegais,
And sword-hilts worn in Marlbro’s days.
In this pell-mell of old and new,
Of war and peace, my essays, too,
For long in serials tempest-tost,
Are landed now, and are not lost:
Nay, on your shelf secure they lie,
As in the amber sleeps the fly.
’Tis true, they are not “rich nor rare;”
Enough, for me, that they are — there!
The essays in this volume have, for the most part, already appeared in an American edition (Combes, New York, 1886). The Essays on ‘Old French Title–Pages’ and ‘Lady Book–Lovers’ take the place of ‘Book Binding’ and ‘Bookmen at Rome;’ ‘Elzevirs’ and ‘Some Japanese Bogie–Books’ are reprinted, with permission of Messrs. Cassell, from the Magazine of Art; ‘Curiosities of Parish Registers’ from the Guardian; ‘Literary Forgeries’ from the Contemporary Review; ‘Lady Book–Lovers’ from the Fortnightly Review; ‘A Bookman’s Purgatory’ and two of the pieces of verse from Longman’s Magazine — with the courteous permission of the various editors. All the chapters have been revised, and I have to thank Mr. H. Tedder for his kind care in reading the proof sheets, and Mr. Charles Elton, M.P., for a similar service to the Essay on ‘Parish Registers.’
The Countryman. “You know how much, for some time past, the editions of the Elzevirs have been in demand. The fancy for them has even penetrated into the country. I am acquainted with a man there who denies himself necessaries, for the sake of collecting into a library (where other books are scarce enough) as many little Elzevirs as he can lay his hands upon. He is dying of hunger, and his consolation is to be able to say, ‘I have all the poets whom the Elzevirs printed. I have ten examples of each of them, all with red letters, and all of the right date.’ This, no doubt, is a craze, for, good as the books are, if he kept them to read them, one example of each would be enough.”
The Parisian. “If he had wanted to read them, I would not have advised him to buy Elzevirs. The editions of minor authors which these booksellers published, even editions ‘of the right date,’ as you say, are not too correct. Nothing is good in the books but the type and the paper. Your friend would have done better to use the editions of Gryphius or Estienne.”
This fragment of a literary dialogue I translate from ‘Entretiens sur les Contes de Fees,’ a book which contains more of old talk about books and booksellers than about fairies and folk-lore. The ‘Entretiens’ were published in 1699, about sixteen years after the Elzevirs ceased to be publishers. The fragment is valuable: first, because it shows us how early the taste for collecting Elzevirs was fully developed, and, secondly, because it contains very sound criticism of the mania. Already, in the seventeenth century, lovers of the tiny Elzevirian books waxed pathetic over dates, already they knew that a ‘Caesar’ of 1635 was the right ‘Caesar,’ already they were fond of the red-lettered passages, as in the first edition of the ‘Virgil’ of 1636. As early as 1699, too, the Parisian critic knew that the editions were not very correct, and that the paper, type, ornaments, and FORMAT were their main attractions. To these we must now add the rarity of really good Elzevirs.
Though Elzevirs have been more fashionable than at present, they are still regarded by novelists as the great prize of the book collector. You read in novels about “priceless little Elzevirs,” about books “as rare as an old Elzevir.” I have met, in the works of a lady novelist (but not elsewhere), with an Elzevir ‘Theocritus.’ The late Mr. Hepworth Dixon introduced into one of his romances a romantic Elzevir Greek Testament, “worth its weight in gold.” Casual remarks of this kind encourage a popular delusion that all Elzevirs are pearls of considerable price. When a man is first smitten with the pleasant fever of book-collecting, it is for Elzevirs that he searches. At first he thinks himself in amazing luck. In Booksellers’ Row and in Castle Street he “picks up,” for a shilling or two, Elzevirs, real or supposed. To the beginner, any book with a sphere on the title-page is an Elzevir. For the beginner’s instruction, two copies of spheres are printed here. The second is a sphere, an ill-cut, ill-drawn sphere, which is not Elzevirian at all. The mark was used in the seventeenth century by many other booksellers and printers. The first, on the other hand, is a true Elzevirian sphere, from a play of Moliere’s, printed in 1675. Observe the comparatively neat drawing of the first sphere, and be not led away after spurious imitations.
Beware, too, of the vulgar error of fancying that little duodecimos with the mark of the fox and the bee’s nest, and the motto “Quaerendo,” come from the press of the Elzevirs. The mark is that of Abraham Wolfgang, which name is not a pseudonym for Elzevir. There are three sorts of Elzevir pseudonyms. First, they occasionally reprinted the full title-page, publisher’s name and all, of the book they pirated. Secondly, when they printed books of a “dangerous” sort, Jansenist pamphlets and so forth, they used pseudonyms like “Nic. Schouter,” on the ‘Lettres Provinciales’ of Pascal. Thirdly, there are real pseudonyms employed by the Elzevirs. John and Daniel, printing at Leyden (1652–1655), used the false name “Jean Sambix.” The Elzevirs of Amsterdam often placed the name “Jacques le Jeune” on their title-pages. The collector who remembers these things must also see that his purchases have the right ornaments at the heads of chapters, the right tail-pieces at the ends. Two of the most frequently recurring ornaments are the so-called “Tete de Buffle” and the “Sirene.” More or less clumsy copies of these and the other Elzevirian ornaments are common enough in books of the period, even among those printed out of the Low Countries; for example, in books published in Paris.
A brief sketch of the history of the Elzevirs may here be useful. The founder of the family, a Flemish bookbinder, Louis, left Louvain and settled in Leyden in 1580. He bought a house opposite the University, and opened a book-shop. Another shop, on college ground, was opened in 1587. Louis was a good bookseller, a very ordinary publisher. It was not till shortly before his death, in 1617, that his grandson Isaac bought a set of types and other material. Louis left six sons. Two of these, Matthew and Bonaventure, kept on the business, dating ex officina Elzeviriana. In 1625 Bonaventure and Abraham (son of Matthew) became partners. The “good dates” of Elzevirian books begin from 1626. The two Elzevirs chose excellent types, and after nine years’ endeavours turned out the beautiful ‘Caesar’ of 1635.
Their classical series in petit format was opened with ‘Horace’ and ‘Ovid’ in 1629. In 1641 they began their elegant piracies of French plays and poetry with ‘Le Cid.’ It was worth while being pirated by the Elzevirs, who turned you out like a gentleman, with fleurons and red letters, and a pretty frontispiece. The modern pirate dresses you in rags, prints you murderously, and binds you, if he binds you at all, in some hideous example of “cloth extra,” all gilt, like archaic gingerbread. Bonaventure and Abraham both died in 1652. They did not depart before publishing (1628), in grand format, a desirable work on fencing, Thibault’s ‘Academie de l’Espee.’ This Tibbald also killed by the book. John and Daniel Elzevir came next. They brought out the ‘Imitation’ (Thomae a Kempis canonici regularis ord. S. Augustini De Imitatione Christi, libri iv.); I wish by taking thought I could add eight millimetres to the stature of my copy. In 1655 Daniel joined a cousin, Louis, in Amsterdam, and John stayed in Leyden. John died in 1661; his widow struggled on, but her son Abraham (1681) let all fall into ruins. Abraham died 1712. The Elzevirs of Amsterdam lasted till 1680, when Daniel died, and the business was wound up. The type, by Christopher Van Dyck, was sold in 1681, by Daniel’s widow. Sic transit gloria.
After he has learned all these matters the amateur has still a great deal to acquire. He may now know a real Elzevir from a book which is not an Elzevir at all. But there are enormous differences of value, rarity, and excellence among the productions of the Elzevirian press. The bookstalls teem with small, “cropped,” dingy, dirty, battered Elzevirian editions of the classics, NOT “of the good date.” On these it is not worth while to expend a couple of shillings, especially as Elzevirian type is too small to be read with comfort by most modern eyes. No, let the collector save his money; avoid littering his shelves with what he will soon find to be rubbish, and let him wait the chance of acquiring a really beautiful and rare Elzevir.
Meantime, and before we come to describe Elzevirs of the first flight, let it be remembered that the “taller” the copy, the less harmed and nipped by the binder’s shears, the better. “Men scarcely know how beautiful fire is,” says Shelley; and we may say that most men hardly know how beautiful an Elzevir was in its uncut and original form. The Elzevirs we have may be “dear,” but they are certainly “dumpy twelves.” Their fair proportions have been docked by the binder. At the Beckford sale there was a pearl of a book, a ‘Marot;’ not an Elzevir, indeed, but a book published by Wetstein, a follower of the Elzevirs. This exquisite pair of volumes, bound in blue morocco, was absolutely unimpaired, and was a sight to bring happy tears into the eyes of the amateur of Elzevirs. There was a gracious svelte elegance about these tomes, an appealing and exquisite delicacy of proportion, that linger like sweet music in the memory. I have a copy of the Wetstein ‘Marot’ myself, not a bad copy, though murderously bound in that ecclesiastical sort of brown calf antique, which goes well with hymn books, and reminds one of cakes of chocolate. But my copy is only some 128 millimetres in height, whereas the uncut Beckford copy (it had belonged to the great Pixerecourt) was at least 130 millimetres high. Beside the uncut example mine looks like Cinderella’s plain sister beside the beauty of the family.
Now the moral is that only tall Elzevirs are beautiful, only tall Elzevirs preserve their ancient proportions, only tall Elzevirs are worth collecting. Dr. Lemuel Gulliver remarks that the King of Lilliput was taller than any of his court by almost the breadth of a nail, and that his altitude filled the minds of all with awe. Well, the Philistine may think a few millimetres, more or less, in the height of an Elzevir are of little importance. When he comes to sell, he will discover the difference. An uncut, or almost uncut, copy of a good Elzevir may be worth fifty or sixty pounds or more; an ordinary copy may bring fewer pence. The binders usually pare down the top and bottom more than the sides. I have a ‘Rabelais’ of the good date, with the red title (1663), and some of the pages have never been opened, at the sides. But the height is only some 122 millimetres, a mere dwarf. Anything over 130 millimetres is very rare. Therefore the collector of Elzevirs should have one of those useful ivory-handled knives on which the French measures are marked, and thus he will at once be able to satisfy himself as to the exact height of any example which he encounters.
Let us now assume that the amateur quite understands what a proper Elzevir should be: tall, clean, well bound if possible, and of the good date. But we have still to learn what the good dates are, and this is matter for the study and practice of a well-spent life. We may gossip about a few of the more famous Elzevirs, those without which no collection is complete. Of all Elzevirs the most famous and the most expensive is an old cookery book, “‘Le Pastissier Francois.’ Wherein is taught the way to make all sorts of pastry, useful to all sorts of persons. Also the manner of preparing all manner of eggs, for fast-days, and other days, in more than sixty fashions. Amsterdam, Louys, and Daniel Elsevier. 1665.” The mark is not the old “Sage,” but the “Minerva” with her owl. Now this book has no intrinsic value any more than a Tauchnitz reprint of any modern volume on cooking. The ‘Pastissier’ is cherished because it is so very rare. The tract passed into the hands of cooks, and the hands of cooks are detrimental to literature. Just as nursery books, fairy tales, and the like are destroyed from generation to generation, so it happens with books used in the kitchen. The ‘Pastissier,’ to be sure, has a good frontispiece, a scene in a Low Country kitchen, among the dead game and the dainties. The buxom cook is making a game pie; a pheasant pie, decorated with the bird’s head and tail-feathers, is already made. 1
Not for these charms, but for its rarity, is the ‘Pastissier’ coveted. In an early edition of the ‘Manuel’ (1821) Brunet says, with a feigned brutality (for he dearly loved an Elzevir), “Till now I have disdained to admit this book into my work, but I have yielded to the prayers of amateurs. Besides, how could I keep out a volume which was sold for one hundred and one francs in 1819?” One hundred and one francs! If I could only get a ‘Pastissier’ for one hundred and one francs! But our grandfathers lived in the Bookman’s Paradise. “Il n’est pas jusqu’aux Anglais,” adds Brunet —“the very English themselves — have a taste for the ‘Pastissier.’” The Duke of Marlborough’s copy was actually sold for 1 pound 4s. It would have been money in the ducal pockets of the house of Marlborough to have kept this volume till the general sale of all their portable property at which our generation is privileged to assist. No wonder the ‘Pastissier’ was thought rare. Berard only knew two copies. Pietiers, writing on the Elzevirs in 1843, could cite only five ‘Pastissiers,’ and in his ‘Annales’ he had found out but five more. Willems, on the other hand, enumerates some thirty, not including Motteley’s. Motteley was an uncultivated, untaught enthusiast. He knew no Latin, but he had a FLAIR for uncut Elzevirs. “Incomptis capillis,” he would cry (it was all his lore) as he gloated over his treasures. They were all burnt by the Commune in the Louvre Library.
A few examples may be given of the prices brought by ‘Le Pastissier’ in later days. Sensier’s copy was but 128 millimetres in height, and had the old ordinary vellum binding — in fact, it closely resembled a copy which Messrs. Ellis and White had for sale in Bond Street in 1883. The English booksellers asked, I think, about 1,500 francs for their copy. Sensier’s was sold for 128 francs in April, 1828; for 201 francs in 1837. Then the book was gloriously bound by Trautz–Bauzonnet, and was sold with Potier’s books in 1870, when it fetched 2,910 francs. At the Benzon sale (1875) it fetched 3,255 francs, and, falling dreadfully in price, was sold again in 1877 for 2,200 francs. M. Dutuit, at Rouen, has a taller copy, bound by Bauzonnet. Last time it was sold (1851) it brought 251 francs. The Duc de Chartres has now the copy of Pieters, the historian of the Elzevirs, valued at 3,000 francs.
About thirty years ago no fewer than three copies were sold at Brighton, of all places. M. Quentin Bauchart had a copy only 127 millimetres in height, which he swopped to M. Paillet. M. Chartener, of Metz, had a copy now bound by Bauzonnet which was sold for four francs in 1780. We call this the age of cheap books, but before the Revolution books were cheaper. It is fair to say, however, that this example of the ‘Pastissier’ was then bound up with another book, Vlacq’s edition of ‘Le Cuisinier Francois,’ and so went cheaper than it would otherwise have done. M. de Fontaine de Resbecq declares that a friend of his bought six original pieces of Moliere’s bound up with an old French translation of Garth’s ‘Dispensary.’ The one faint hope left to the poor book collector is that he may find a valuable tract lurking in the leaves of some bound collection of trash. I have an original copy of Moliere’s ‘Les Fascheux’ bound up with a treatise on precious stones, but the bookseller from whom I bought it knew it was there! That made all the difference.
But, to return to our ‘Pastissier,’ here is M. de Fontaine de Resbecq’s account of how he wooed and won his own copy of this illustrious Elzevir. “I began my walk today,” says this haunter of ancient stalls, “by the Pont Marie and the Quai de la Greve, the pillars of Hercules of the book-hunting world. After having viewed and reviewed these remote books, I was going away, when my attention was caught by a small naked volume, without a stitch of binding. I seized it, and what was my delight when I recognised one of the rarest of that famed Elzevir collection whose height is measured as minutely as the carats of the diamond. There was no indication of price on the box where this jewel was lying; the book, though unbound, was perfectly clean within. ‘How much?’ said I to the bookseller. ‘You can have it for six sous,’ he answered; ‘is it too much?’ ‘No,’ said I, and, trembling a little, I handed him the thirty centimes he asked for the ‘Pastissier Francois.’ You may believe, my friend, that after such a piece of luck at the start, one goes home fondly embracing the beloved object of one’s search. That is exactly what I did.”
Can this tale be true? Is such luck given by the jealous fates mortalibus aegris? M. de Resbecq’s find was made apparently in 1856, when trout were plenty in the streams, and rare books not so very rare. To my own knowledge an English collector has bought an original play of Moliere’s, in the original vellum, for eighteenpence. But no one has such luck any longer. Not, at least, in London. A more expensive ‘Pastissier’ than that which brought six sous was priced in Bachelin–Deflorenne’s catalogue at 240 pounds. A curious thing occurred when two uncut ‘Pastissiers’ turned up simultaneously in Paris. One of them Morgand and Fatout sold for 400 pounds. Clever people argued that one of the twin uncut ‘Pastissiers’ must be an imitation, a facsimile by means of photogravure, or some other process. But it was triumphantly established that both were genuine; they had minute points of difference in the ornaments.
M. Willems, the learned historian of the Elzevirs, is indignant at the successes of a book which, as Brunet declares, is badly printed. There must be at least forty known ‘Pastissiers’ in the world. Yes; but there are at least 4,000 people who would greatly rejoice to possess a ‘Pastissier,’ and some of these desirous ones are very wealthy. While this state of the market endures, the ‘Pastissier’ will fetch higher prices than the other varieties. Another extremely rare Elzevir is ‘L’Illustre Theatre de Mons. Corneille’ (Leyden, 1644). This contains ‘Le Cid,’ ‘Les Horaces,’ ‘Le Cinna,’ ‘La Mort de Pompee,’ ‘Le Polyeucte.’ The name, ‘L’Illustre Theatre,’ appearing at that date has an interest of its own. In 1643–44, Moliere and Madeleine Bejart had just started the company which they called ‘L’Illustre Theatre.’ Only six or seven copies of the book are actually known, though three or four are believed to exist in England, probably all covered with dust in the library of some lord. “He has a very good library,” I once heard some one say to a noble earl, whose own library was famous. “And what can a fellow do with a very good library?” answered the descendant of the Crusaders, who probably (being a youth light-hearted and content) was ignorant of his own great possessions. An expensive copy of ‘L’Illustre Theatre,’ bound by Trautz–Bauzonnet, was sold for 300 pounds.
Among Elzevirs desirable, yet not hopelessly rare, is the ‘Virgil’ of 1636. Heinsius was the editor of this beautiful volume, prettily printed, but incorrect. Probably it is hard to correct with absolute accuracy works in the clear but minute type which the Elzevirs affected. They have won fame by the elegance of their books, but their intention was to sell good books cheap, like Michel Levy. The small type was required to get plenty of “copy” into little bulk. Nicholas Heinsius, the son of the editor of the ‘Virgil,’ when he came to correct his father’s edition, found that it contained so many coquilles, or misprints, as to be nearly the most incorrect copy in the world. Heyne says, “Let the ‘Virgil’ be one of the rare Elzevirs, if you please, but within it has scarcely a trace of any good quality.” Yet the first edition of this beautiful little book, with its two passages of red letters, is so desirable that, till he could possess it, Charles Nodier would not profane his shelves by any ‘Virgil’ at all.
Equally fine is the ‘Caesar’ of 1635, which, with the ‘Virgil’ of 1636 and the ‘Imitation’ without date, M. Willems thinks the most successful works of the Elzevirs, “one of the most enviable jewels in the casket of the bibliophile.” It may be recognised by the page 238, which is erroneously printed 248. A good average height is from 125 to 128 millimetres. The highest known is 130 millimetres. This book, like the ‘Imitation,’ has one of the pretty and ingenious frontispieces which the Elzevirs prefixed to their books. So farewell, and good speed in your sport, ye hunters of Elzevirs, and may you find perhaps the rarest Elzevir of all, ‘L’Aimable Mere de Jesus.’
1 See illustrations, pp. 114, 115.
O visions of salmon tremendous,
Of trout of unusual weight,
Of waters that wander as Ken does,
Ye come through the Ivory Gate!
But the skies that bring never a “spate,”
But the flies that catch up in a thorn,
But the creel that is barren of freight,
Through the portals of horn!
O dreams of the Fates that attend us
With prints in the earliest state,
O bargains in books that they send us,
Ye come through the Ivory Gate!
But the tome that has never a mate,
But the quarto that’s tattered and torn,
And bereft of a title and date,
Through the portals of horn!
O dreams of the tongues that commend us,
Of crowns for the laureate pate,
Of a public to buy and befriend us,
Ye come through the Ivory Gate!
But the critics that slash us and slate, 2
But the people that hold us in scorn,
But the sorrow, the scathe, and the hate,
Through the portals of horn!
Fair dreams of things golden and great,
Ye come through the Ivory Gate;
But the facts that are bleak and forlorn,
Through the portals of horn!
2 “Slate” is a professional term for a severe criticism. Clearly the word is originally “slat,” a narrow board of wood, with which a person might be beaten.
There are three classes of persons who are deeply concerned with parish registers — namely, villains, antiquaries, and the sedulous readers, “parish clerks and others,” of the second or “agony” column of the Times. Villains are probably the most numerous of these three classes. The villain of fiction dearly loves a parish register: he cuts out pages, inserts others, intercalates remarks in a different coloured ink, and generally manipulates the register as a Greek manages his hand at ecarte, or as a Hebrew dealer in Moabite bric-a-brac treats a synagogue roll. We well remember one villain who had locked himself into the vestry (he was disguised as an archaeologist), and who was enjoying his wicked pleasure with the register, when the vestry somehow caught fire, the rusty key would not turn in the door, and the villain was roasted alive, in spite of the disinterested efforts to save him made by all the virtuous characters in the story. Let the fate of this bold, bad man be a warning to wicked earls, baronets, and all others who attempt to destroy the record of the marriage of a hero’s parents. Fate will be too strong for them in the long run, though they bribe the parish clerk, or carry off in white wax an impression of the keys of the vestry and of the iron chest in which a register should repose.
There is another and more prosaic danger in the way of villains, if the new bill, entitled “The Parish Registers Preservation Act,” ever becomes law. The bill provides that every register earlier than 1837 shall be committed to the care of the Master of the Rolls, and removed to the Record Office. Now the common villain of fiction would feel sadly out of place in the Register Office, where a more watchful eye than that of a comic parish clerk would be kept on his proceedings. Villains and local antiquaries will, therefore, use all their parliamentary influence to oppose and delay this bill, which is certainly hard on the parish archaeologist. The men who grub in their local registers, and slowly compile parish or county history, deserve to be encouraged rather than depressed. Mr. Chester Waters, therefore, has suggested that copies of registers should be made, and the comparatively legible copy left in the parish, while the crabbed original is conveyed to the Record Office in London. Thus the local antiquary would really have his work made more easy for him (though it may be doubted whether he would quite enjoy that condescension), while the villain of romance would be foiled; for it is useless (as a novel of Mr. Christie Murray’s proves) to alter the register in the keeping of the parish when the original document is safe in the Record Office. But previous examples of enforced transcription (as in 1603) do not encourage us to suppose that the copies would be very scrupulously made. Thus, after the Reformation, the prayers for the dead in the old registers were omitted by the copyist, who seemed to think (as the contractor for “sandwich men” said to the poor fellows who carried the letter H), “I don’t want you, and the public don’t want you, and you’re no use to nobody.” Again, when Laurence Fletcher was buried in St. Saviour’s, Southwark, in 1608, the old register described him as “a player, the King’s servant.” But the clerk, keeping a note-book, simply called Laurence Fletcher “a man,” and (in 1625) he also styled Mr. John Fletcher “a man.” Now, the old register calls Mr. John Fletcher “a poet.” To copy all the parish registers in England would be a very serious task, and would probably be but slovenly performed. If they were reproduced, again, by any process of photography, the old difficult court hand would remain as hard as ever. But this is a minor objection, for the local antiquary revels in the old court hand.
From the little volume by Mr. Chester Waters, already referred to (‘Parish Registers in England;’ printed for the author by F. J. Roberts, Little Britain, E.C.), we proceed to appropriate such matters of curiosity as may interest minds neither parochial nor doggedly antiquarian. Parish registers among the civilised peoples of antiquity do not greatly concern us. It seems certain that many Polynesian races have managed to record (in verse, or by some rude marks) the genealogies of their chiefs through many hundreds of years. These oral registers are accepted as fairly truthful by some students, yet we must remember that Pindar supposed himself to possess knowledge of at least twenty-five generations before his own time, and that only brought him up to the birth of Jason. Nobody believes in Jason and Medea, and possibly the genealogical records of Maoris and Fijians are as little trustworthy as those of Pindaric Greece. However, to consider thus is to consider too curiously. We only know for certain that genealogy very soon becomes important, and, therefore, that records are early kept, in a growing civilisation. “After Nehemiah’s return from the captivity in Babylon, the priests at Jerusalem whose register was not found were as polluted put from the priesthood.” Rome had her parish registers, which were kept in the temple of Saturn. But modern parish registers were “discovered” (like America) in 1497, when Cardinal Ximenes found it desirable to put on record the names of the godfathers and godmothers of baptised children. When these relations of “gossip,” or God’s kin (as the word literally means), were not certainly known, married persons could easily obtain divorces, by pretending previous spiritual relationship.
But it was only during the reign of Mary, (called the Bloody) that this rule of registering godfathers and godmothers prevailed in England. Henry VIII. introduced the custom of parish registers when in a Protestant humour. By the way, how curiously has Madame de Flamareil (la femme de quarante ans, in Charles de Bernard’s novel) anticipated the verdict of Mr. Froude on Henry VIII.! ‘On accuse Henri VIII.,’ dit Madame de Flamareil, “moi je le comprends, et je l’absous; c’etait un coeur genereux, lorsqu’il ne les aimait plus, il les tuait.’” The public of England mistrusted, in the matter of parish registers, the generous heart of Henry VIII. It is the fixed conviction of the public that all novelties in administration mean new taxes. Thus the Croatian peasantry were once on the point of revolting because they imagined that they were to be taxed in proportion to the length of their moustaches. The English believed, and the insurgents of the famous Pilgrimage of Grace declared, that baptism was to be refused to all children who did not pay a “trybette” (tribute) to the king. But Henry, or rather his minister, Cromwell, stuck to his plan, and (September 29, 1538) issued an injunction that a weekly register of weddings, christenings, and burials should be kept by the curate of every parish. The cost of the book (twopence in the case of St. Margaret’s, Westminster) was defrayed by the parishioners. The oldest extant register books are those thus acquired in 1597 or 1603. These volumes were of parchment, and entries were copied into them out of the old books on paper. The copyists, as we have seen, were indolent, and omitted characteristic points in the more ancient records.
In the civil war parish registers fell into some confusion, and when the clergy did make entries they commonly expressed their political feelings in a mixture of Latin and English. Latin, by the way, went out as Protestantism came in, but the curate of Rotherby, in Leicestershire, writes, “Bellum, Bellum, Bellum, interruption! persecution!” At St. Bridget’s, in Chester, is the quaint entry, “1643. Here the register is defective till 1653. The tymes were SUCH!” At Hilton, in Dorset, William Snoke, minister, entered his opinion that persons whose baptism and marriage were not registered “will be made uncapable of any earthly inheritance if they live. This I note for the satisfaction of any that do:” though we may doubt whether these parishioners found the information thus conveyed highly satisfactory.
The register of Maid’s Moreton, Bucks, tells how the reading-desk (a spread eagle, gilt) was “doomed to perish as an abominable idoll;” and how the cross on the steeple nearly (but not quite) knocked out the brains of the Puritan who removed it. The Puritans had their way with the registers as well as with the eagle (“the vowl,” as the old country people call it), and laymen took the place of parsons as registrars in 1653. The books from 1653 to 1660, while this regime lasted, “were kept exceptionally well,” new brooms sweeping clean. The books of the period contain fewer of the old Puritan Christian names than we might have expected. We find, “REPENTE Kytchens,” so styled before the poor little thing had anything but original sin to repent of. “FAINT NOT Kennard” is also registered, and “FREEGIFT Mabbe.”
A novelty was introduced into registers in 1678. The law required (for purposes of protecting trade) that all the dead should be buried in woollen winding-sheets. The price of the wool was the obolus paid to the Charon of the Revenue. After March 25, 1667, no person was to be “buried in any shirt, shift, or sheet other that should be made of woole only.” Thus when the children in a little Oxfordshire village lately beheld a ghost, “dressed in a long narrow gown of woollen, with bandages round the head and chin,” it is clear that the ghost was much more than a hundred years old, for the act “had fallen into disuse long before it was repealed in 1814.” But this has little to do with parish registers. The addition made to the duties of the keeper of the register in 1678 was this — he had to take and record the affidavit of a kinsman of the dead, to the effect that the corpse was actually buried in woollen fabric. The upper classes, however, preferred to bury in linen, and to pay the fine of 5L. When Mistress Oldfield, the famous actress, was interred in 1730, her body was arrayed “in a very fine Brussels lace headdress, a holland shift with a tucker and double ruffles of the same lace, and a pair of new kid gloves.”
In 1694 an empty exchequer was replenished by a tax on marriages, births, and burials, the very extortion which had been feared by the insurgents in the Pilgrimage of Grace. The tax collectors had access without payment of fee to the registers. The registration of births was discontinued when the Taxation Acts expired. An attempt to introduce the registration of births was made in 1753, but unsuccessfully. The public had the old superstitious dread of anything like a census. Moreover, the custom was denounced as “French,” and therefore abominable. In the same way it was thought telling to call the cloture “the French gag” during some recent discussions of parliamentary rules. In 1783 the parish register was again made the instrument of taxation, and threepence was charged on every entry. Thus “the clergyman was placed in the invidious light of a tax collector, and as the poor were often unable or unwilling to pay the tax, the clergy had a direct inducement to retain their good-will by keeping the registers defective.”
It is easy to imagine the indignation in Scotland when “bang went saxpence” every time a poor man had twins! Of course the Scotch rose up against this unparalleled extortion. At last, in 1812, “Rose’s Act” was passed. It is styled “an Act for the better regulating and preserving registers of births,” but the registration of births is altogether omitted from its provisions. By a stroke of the wildest wit the penalty of transportation for fourteen years, for making a false entry, “is to be divided equally between the informer and the poor of the parish.” A more casual Act has rarely been drafted.
Without entering into the modern history of parish registers, we may borrow a few of the ancient curiosities to be found therein, the blunders and the waggeries of forgotten priests, and curates, and parish clerks. In quite recent times (1832) it was thought worth while to record that Charity Morrell at her wedding had signed her name in the register with her right foot, and that the ring had been placed on the fourth toe of her left foot; for poor Charity was born without arms. Sometimes the time of a birth was recorded with much minuteness, that the astrologers might draw a more accurate horoscope. Unlucky children, with no acknowledged fathers, were entered in a variety of odd ways. In Lambeth (1685), George Speedwell is put down as “a merry begot;” Anne Twine is “filia uniuscujusque.” At Croydon, a certain William is “terraefilius” (1582), an autochthonous infant. Among the queer names of foundlings are “Nameless,” “Godsend,” “Subpoena,” and “Moyses and Aaron, two children found,” not in the bulrushes, but “in the street.”
The rule was to give the foundling for surname the name of the parish, and from the Temple Church came no fewer than one hundred and four foundlings named “Temple,” between 1728 and 1755. These Temples are the plebeian gens of the patrician house which claims descent from Godiva. The use of surnames as Christian names is later than the Reformation, and is the result of a reaction against the exclusive use of saints’ names from the calendar. Another example of the same reaction is the use of Old Testament names, and “Ananias and Sapphira were favourite names with the Presbyterians.” It is only fair to add that these names are no longer popular with Presbyterians, at any rate in the Kirk of Scotland. The old Puritan argument was that you would hardly select the name of too notorious a scriptural sinner, “as bearing testimony to the triumph of grace over original sin.” But in America a clergyman has been known to decline to christen a child “Pontius Pilate,” and no wonder.
Entries of burials in ancient times often contained some biographical information about the deceased. But nothing could possibly be vaguer than this: “1615, February 28, St. Martin’s, Ludgate, was buried an anatomy from the College of Physicians.” Man, woman, or child, sinner or saint, we know not, only that “an anatomy” found Christian burial in St. Martin’s, Ludgate. How much more full and characteristic is this, from St. Peter’s-inthe-East, Oxford (1568): ‘There was buried Alyce, the wiff of a naughty fellow whose name is Matthew Manne.’ There is immortality for Matthew Manne, and there is, in short-hand, the tragedy of “Alyce his wiff.” The reader of this record knows more of Matthew than in two hundred years any one is likely to know of us who moralise over Matthew! At Kyloe, in Northumberland, the intellectual defects of Henry Watson have, like the naughtiness of Manne, secured him a measure of fame. (1696.) “Henry was so great a fooll, that he never could put on his own close, nor never went a quarter of a mile off the house,” as Voltaire’s Memnon resolved never to do, and as Pascal partly recommends.
What had Mary Woodfield done to deserve the alias which the Croydon register gives her of “Queen of Hell”? (1788.) Distinguished people were buried in effigy, in all the different churches with which they were connected, and each sham burial service was entered in the parish registers, a snare and stumbling-block to the historian. This curious custom is very ancient. Thus we read in the Odyssey that when Menelaus heard in Egypt of the death of Agamemnon he reared for him a cenotaph, and piled an empty barrow “that the fame of the dead man might never be quenched.” Probably this old usage gave rise to the claims of several Greek cities to possess the tomb of this or that ancient hero. A heroic tomb, as of Cassandra for example, several towns had to show, but which was the true grave, which were the cenotaphs? Queen Elizabeth was buried in all the London churches, and poor Cassandra had her barrow in Argos, Mycenae, and Amyclae.
“A drynkyng for the soul” of the dead, a [Greek text] or funeral feast, was as common in England before the Reformation as in ancient Greece. James Cooke, of Sporle, in Norfolk (1528), left six shillings and eightpence to pay for this “drynkyng for his soul;” and the funeral feast, which long survived in the distribution of wine, wafers, and rosemary, still endures as a slight collation of wine and cake in Scotland. What a funeral could be, as late as 1731, Mr. Chester Waters proves by the bill for the burial of Andrew Card, senior bencher of Gray’s Inn. The deceased was brave in a “superfine pinked shroud” (cheap at 1L. 5S. 6D.), and there were eight large plate candle-sticks on stands round the dais, and ninety-six buckram escutcheons. The pall-bearers wore Alamode hatbands covered with frizances, and so did the divines who were present at the melancholy but gorgeous function. A hundred men in mourning carried a hundred white wax branch lights, and the gloves of the porters in Gray’s Inn were ash-coloured with black points. Yet the wine cost no more than 1L. 19S. 6D.; a “deal of sack,” by no means “intolerable.”
Leaving the funerals, we find that the parish register sometimes records ancient and obsolete modes of death. Thus, martyrs are scarce now, but the register of All Saints’, Derby, 1556, mentions “a poor blinde woman called Joan Waste, of this parish, a martyr, burned in Windmill pit.” She was condemned by Ralph Baynes, Bishop of Coventry and Lichfield. In 1558, at Richmond, in Yorkshire, we find “Richard Snell, b’rnt, bur. 9 Sept.” At Croydon, in 1585, Roger Shepherd probably never expected to be eaten by a lioness. Roger was not, like Wyllyam Barker, “a common drunkard and blasphemer,” and we cannot regard the Croydon lioness, like the Nemean lion, as a miraculous monster sent against the county of Surrey for the sins of the people. The lioness “was brought into the town to be seen of such as would give money to see her. He” (Roger) “was sore wounded in sundry places, and was buried the 26th Aug.”
In 1590, the register of St. Oswald’s, Durham, informs us that “Duke, Hyll, Hogge, and Holiday” were hanged and burned for “there horrible offences.” The arm of one of these horrible offenders was preserved at St. Omer as the relic of a martyr, “a most precious treasure,” in 1686. But no one knew whether the arm belonged originally to Holiday, Hyll, Duke, or Hogge. The coals, when these unfortunate men were burned, cost sixpence; the other items in the account of the abominable execution are, perhaps, too repulsive to be quoted.
According to some critics of the British government, we do not treat the Egyptians well. But our conduct towards the Fellahs has certainly improved since this entry was made in the register of St. Nicholas, Durham (1592, August 8th): ‘Simson, Arington, Featherston, Fenwick, and Lancaster, WERE HANGED FOR BEING EGYPTIANS.’ They were, in fact, gypsies, or had been consorting with gypsies, and they suffered under 5 Eliz. c. 20. In 1783 this statute was abolished, and was even considered “a law of excessive severity.” For even a hundred years ago “the puling cant of sickly humanitarianism” was making itself heard to the injury of our sturdy old English legislation. To be killed by a poet is now an unusual fate, but the St. Leonard’s, Shoreditch, register (1598) mentions how “Gabriel Spencer, being slayne, was buried.” Gabriel was “slayne” by Rare Ben Jonson, in Hoxton Fields.
The burning of witches is, naturally, not an uncommon item in parish registers, and is set forth in a bold, business-like manner. On August 21 (1650) fifteen women and one man were executed for the imaginary crime of witchcraft. “A grave, for a witch, sixpence,” is an item in the municipal accounts. And the grave was a cheap haven for the poor woman who had been committed to the tender mercies of a Scotch witch-trier. Cetewayo’s medicine-men, who “smelt out” witches, were only some two centuries in the rear of our civilisation. Three hundred years ago Bishop Jewell, preaching before Elizabeth, was quite of the mind of Cetewayo and Saul, as to the wickedness of suffering a witch to live. As late as 1691, the register of Holy Island, Northumberland, mentions “William Cleugh, bewitched to death,” and the superstition is almost as powerful as ever among the rural people. Between July 13 and July 24 (1699) the widow Comon, in Essex, was thrice swum for a witch. She was not drowned, but survived her immersion for only five months. A singular homicide is recorded at Newington Butts, 1689. “John Arris and Derwick Farlin in one grave, being both Dutch soldiers; one killed the other drinking brandy.” But who slew the slayer? The register is silent; but “often eating a shoulder of mutton or a peck of hasty pudding at a time caused the death of James Parsons,” at Teddington, in Middlesex, 1743. Parsons had resisted the effects of shoulders of mutton and hasty pudding till the age of thirty-six.
And so the registers run on. Sometimes they tell of the death of a glutton, sometimes of a GRACE WYFE (grosse femme). Now the bell tolls for the decease of a duke, now of a “dog-whipper.” “Lutenists” and “Saltpetremen”— the skeleton of the old German allegory whispers to each and twitches him by the sleeve. “Ellis Thompson, insipiens,” leaves Chester-le-Street, where he had gabbled and scrabbled on the doors, and follows “William, foole to my Lady Jerningham,” and “Edward Errington, the Towne’s Fooll” (Newcastle-on-Tyne) down the way to dusty death. Edward Errington died “of the pest,” and another idiot took his place and office, for Newcastle had her regular town fools before she acquired her singularly advanced modern representatives. The “aquavity man” dies (in Cripplegate), and the “dumb-man who was a fortune-teller” (Stepney, 1628), and the “King’s Falkner,” and Mr. Gregory Isham, who combined the professions, not frequently united, of “attorney and husbandman,” in Barwell, Leicestershire (1655). “The lame chimney-sweeper,” and the “King of the gypsies,” and Alexander Willis, “qui calographiam docuit,” the linguist, and the Tom o’ Bedlam, the comfit-maker, and the panyer-man, and the tack-maker, and the suicide, they all found death; or, if they sought him, the churchyard where they were “hurled into a grave” was interdicted, and purified, after a fortnight, with “frankincense and sweet perfumes, and herbs.”
Sometimes people died wholesale of pestilence, and the Longborough register mentions a fresh way of death, “the swat called New Acquaintance, alias Stoupe Knave, and know thy master.” Another malady was ‘the posting swet, that posted from towne to towne through England.’ The plague of 1591 was imported in bales of cloth from the Levant, just as British commerce still patriotically tries to introduce cholera in cargoes of Egyptian rags. The register of Malpas, in Cheshire (Aug. 24, 1625), has this strange story of the plague:—
“Richard Dawson being sicke of the plague, and perceiving he must die at yt time, arose out of his bed, and made his grave, and caused his nefew, John Dawson, to cast strawe into the grave which was not farre from the house, and went and lay’d him down in the say’d grave, and caused clothes to be lay’d uppon and so dep’ted out of this world; this he did because he was a strong man, and heavier than his said nefew and another wench were able to bury.”
And John Dawson died, and Rose Smyth, the “wench” already spoken of, died, the last of the household.
Old customs survive in the parish registers. Scolding wives were ducked, and in Kingston-on-Thames, 1572, the register tells how the sexton’s wife “was sett on a new cukking-stoole, and brought to Temes brydge, and there had three duckings over head and eres, because she was a common scold and fighter.” The cucking-stool, a very elaborate engine of the law, cost 1L. 3S. 4D. Men were ducked for beating their wives, and if that custom were revived the profession of cucking-stool maker would become busy and lucrative. Penances of a graver sort are on record in the registers. Margaret Sherioux, in Croydon (1597), was ordered to stand three market days in the town, and three Sundays in the church, in a white sheet. The sin imputed to her was a dreadful one. “She stood one Saturday, and one Sunday, and died the next.” Innocent or guilty, this world was no longer a fit abiding-place for Margaret Sherioux. Occasionally the keeper of the register entered any event which seemed out of the common. Thus the register of St. Nicholas, Durham (1568), has this contribution to natural history:—
“A certaine Italian brought into the cittie of Durham a very greate strange and monstrous serpent, in length sixteen feet, in quantitie and dimentions greater than a greate horse, which was taken and killed by special policie, in Ethiopia within the Turkas dominions. But before it was killed, it had devoured (as is credibly thought) more than 1,000 persons, and destroyed a great country.”
This must have been a descendant of the monster that would have eaten Andromeda, and was slain by Perseus in the country of the blameless Ethiopians. Collections of money are recorded occasionally, as in 1680, when no less than one pound eight shillings was contributed “for redemption of Christians (taken by ye Turkish pyrates) out of Turkish slavery.” Two hundred years ago the Turk was pretty “unspeakable” still. Of all blundering Dogberries, the most confused kept (in 1670) the parish register at Melton Mowbray:—
“Here [he writes] is a bill of Burton Lazareth’s people, which was buried, and which was and maried above 10 years old, for because the clarke was dead, and therefore they was not set down according as they was, but they all set down sure enough one among another here in this place.”
“They all set down sure enough,” nor does it matter much now to know whom they married, and how long they lived in Melton Mowbray. The following entry sufficed for the great Villiers that expired “in the worst inn’s worst room,”—“Kirkby Moorside, Yorkshire, 1687. Georges vilaris Lord dooke of Bookingham, bur. 17. April.”
“So much for Buckingham!”
BALLADE EN GUISE DE RONDEAU
The Rowfant books, how fair they shew,
The Quarto quaint, the Aldine tall,
Print, autograph, portfolio!
Back from the outer air they call,
The athletes from the Tennis ball,
This Rhymer from his rod and hooks,
Would I could sing them one and all,
The Rowfant books!
The Rowfant books! In sun and snow
They’re dear, but most when tempests fall;
The folio towers above the row
As once, o’er minor prophets — Saul!
What jolly jest books and what small
“Dear dumpy Twelves” to fill the nooks.
You do not find on every stall
The Rowfant books!
The Rowfant books! These long ago
Were chained within some College hall;
These manuscripts retain the glow
Of many a coloured capital
While yet the Satires keep their gall,
While the Pastissier puzzles cooks,
Theirs is a joy that does not pall,
The Rowfant books!
The Rowfant books — ah magical
As famed Armida’s “golden looks,”
They hold the rhymer for their thrall,
The Rowfant books.
I mind that Forest Shepherd’s saw,
For, when men preached of Heaven, quoth he,
“It’s a’ that’s bricht, and a’ that’s braw,
But Bourhope’s guid eneuch for me!”
Beneath the green deep-bosomed hills
That guard Saint Mary’s Loch it lies,
The silence of the pasture fills
That shepherd’s homely paradise.
Enough for him his mountain lake,
His glen the burn went singing through,
And Rowfant, when the thrushes wake,
May well seem good enough for you.
For all is old, and tried, and dear,
And all is fair, and round about
The brook that murmurs from the mere
Is dimpled with the rising trout.
But when the skies of shorter days
Are dark and all the ways are mire,
How bright upon your books the blaze
Gleams from the cheerful study fire,
On quartos where our fathers read,
Enthralled, the book of Shakespeare’s play,
On all that Poe could dream of dread,
And all that Herrick sang of gay!
Fair first editions, duly prized,
Above them all, methinks, I rate
The tome where Walton’s hand revised
His wonderful receipts for bait!
Happy, who rich in toys like these
Forgets a weary nation’s ills,
Who from his study window sees
The circle of the Sussex hills!
There is or used to be a poem for infant minds of a rather Pharisaical character, which was popular in the nursery when I was a youngster. It ran something like this:—.
I thank my stars that I was born
A little British child.
Perhaps these were not the very words, but that was decidedly the sentiment. Look at the Japanese infants, from the pencil of the famous Hokusai. Though they are not British, were there ever two jollier, happier small creatures? Did Leech, or Mr. Du Maurier, or Andrea della Robbia ever present a more delightful view of innocent, well-pleased childhood? Well, these Japanese children, if they are in the least inclined to be timid or nervous, must have an awful time of it at night in the dark, and when they make that eerie “northwest passage” bedwards through the darkling house of which Mr. Stevenson sings the perils and the emotions. All of us who did not suffer under parents brought up on the views of Mr. Herbert Spencer have endured, in childhood, a good deal from ghosts. But it is nothing to what Japanese children bear, for our ghosts are to the spectres of Japan as moonlight is to sunlight, or as water unto whisky. Personally I may say that few people have been plagued by the terror that walketh in darkness more than myself. At the early age of ten I had the tales of the ingenious Mr. Edgar Poe and of Charlotte Bronte “put into my hands” by a cousin who had served as a Bashi Bazouk, and knew not the meaning of fear. But I DID, and perhaps even Nelson would have found out “what fear was,” or the boy in the Norse tale would have “learned to shiver,” if he had been left alone to peruse ‘Jane Eyre,’ and the ‘Black Cat,’ and the ‘Fall of the House of Usher,’ as I was. Every night I expected to wake up in my coffin, having been prematurely buried; or to hear sighs in the area, followed by light, unsteady footsteps on the stairs, and then to see a lady all in a white shroud stained with blood and clay stagger into my room, the victim of too rapid interment. As to the notion that my respected kinsman had a mad wife concealed on the premises, and that a lunatic aunt, black in the face with suppressed mania, would burst into my chamber, it was comparatively a harmless fancy, and not particularly disturbing. Between these and the ‘Yellow Dwarf,’ who (though only the invention of the Countess D’Aulnoy) might frighten a nervous infant into hysterics, I personally had as bad a time of it in the night watches as any happy British child has survived. But our ogres are nothing to the bogies which make not only night but day terrible to the studious infants of Japan and China.
Chinese ghosts are probably much the same as Japanese ghosts. The Japanese have borrowed most things, including apparitions and awesome sprites and grisly fiends, from the Chinese, and then have improved on the original model. Now we have a very full, complete, and horror-striking account of Chinese harnts (as the country people in Tennessee call them) from Mr. Herbert Giles, who has translated scores of Chinese ghost stories in his ‘Strange Tales from a Chinese Studio’ (De la Rue, 1880). Mr. Giles’s volumes prove that China is the place for Messrs. Gurney and Myers, the secretaries of the Psychical Society.
Ghosts do not live a hole-and-corner life in China, but boldly come out and take their part in the pleasures and business of life. It has always been a question with me whether ghosts, in a haunted house, appear when there is no audience. What does the spectre in the tapestried chamber do when the house is NOT full, and no guest is put in the room to bury strangers in, the haunted room? Does the ghost sulk and complain that there is “no house,” and refuse to rehearse his little performance, in a conscientious and disinterestedly artistic spirit, when deprived of the artist’s true pleasure, the awakening of sympathetic emotion in the mind of the spectator? We give too little thought and sympathy to ghosts, who in our old castles and country houses often find no one to appear to from year’s end to year’s-end. Only now and then is a guest placed in the “haunted room.” Then I like to fancy the glee of the lady in green or the radiant boy, or the headless man, or the old gentleman in snuff-coloured clothes, as he, or she, recognises the presence of a spectator, and prepares to give his or her best effects in the familiar style.
Now in China and Japan certainly a ghost does not wait till people enter the haunted room: a ghost, like a person of fashion, “goes everywhere.” Moreover, he has this artistic excellence, that very often you don’t know him from an embodied person. He counterfeits mortality so cleverly that he (the ghost) has been known to personate a candidate for honours, and pass an examination for him. A pleasing example of this kind, illustrating the limitations of ghosts, is told in Mr. Giles’s book. A gentleman of Huai Shang named Chou-t’ien-i had arrived at the age of fifty, but his family consisted of but one son, a fine boy, “strangely averse from study,” as if there were anything strange in THAT. One day the son disappeared mysteriously, as people do from West Ham. In a year he came back, said he had been detained in a Taoist monastery, and, to all men’s amazement, took to his books. Next year he obtained is B.A. degree, a First Class. All the neighbourhood was overjoyed, for Huai Shang was like Pembroke College (Oxford), where, according to the poet, “First Class men are few and far between.” It was who should have the honour of giving his daughter as bride to this intellectual marvel. A very nice girl was selected, but most unexpectedly the B.A. would not marry. This nearly broke his father’s heart. The old gentleman knew, according to Chinese belief, that if he had no grandchild there would be no one in the next generation to feed his own ghost and pay it all the little needful attentions. “Picture then the father naming and insisting on the day;” till K’o-ch’ang, B.A., got up and ran away. His mother tried to detain him, when his clothes “came off in her hand,” and the bachelor vanished! Next day appeared the real flesh and blood son, who had been kidnapped and enslaved. The genuine K’o-ch’ang was overjoyed to hear of his approaching nuptials. The rites were duly celebrated, and in less than a year the old gentleman welcomed his much-longed-for grand child. But, oddly enough, K’o-ch’ang, though very jolly and universally beloved, was as stupid as ever, and read nothing but the sporting intelligence in the newspapers. It was now universally admitted that the learned K’o-ch’ang had been an impostor, a clever ghost. It follows that ghosts can take a very good degree; but ladies need not be afraid of marrying ghosts, owing to the inveterate shyness of these learned spectres.
The Chinese ghost is by no means always a malevolent person, as, indeed, has already been made clear from the affecting narrative of the ghost who passed an examination. Even the spectre which answers in China to the statue in ‘Don Juan,’ the statue which accepts invitations to dinner, is anything but a malevolent guest. So much may be gathered from the story of Chu and Lu. Chu was an undergraduate of great courage and bodily vigour, but dull of wit. He was a married man, and his children (as in the old Oxford legend) often rushed into their mother’s presence, shouting, “Mamma! mammal papa’s been plucked again!” Once it chanced that Chu was at a wine party, and the negus (a favourite beverage of the Celestials) had done its work. His young friends betted Chu a bird’s-nest dinner that he would not go to the nearest temple, enter the room devoted to coloured sculptures representing the torments of Purgatory, and carry off the image of the Chinese judge of the dead, their Osiris or Rhadamanthus. Off went old Chu, and soon returned with the august effigy (which wore “a green face, a red beard, and a hideous expression”) in his arms. The other men were frightened, and begged Chu to restore his worship to his place on the infernal bench. Before carrying back the worthy magistrate, Chu poured a libation on the ground and said, “Whenever your excellency feels so disposed, I shall be glad to take a cup of wine with you in a friendly way.” That very night, as Chu was taking a stirrup cup before going to bed, the ghost of the awful judge came to the door and entered. Chu promptly put the kettle on, mixed the negus, and made a night of it with the festive fiend. Their friendship was never interrupted from that moment. The judge even gave Chu a new heart (literally) whereby he was enabled to pass examinations; for the heart, in China, is the seat of all the intellectual faculties. For Mrs. Chu, a plain woman with a fine figure, the ghost provided a new head, of a handsome girl recently slain by a robber. Even after Chu’s death the genial spectre did not neglect him, but obtained for him an appointment as registrar in the next world, with a certain rank attached.
The next world, among the Chinese, seems to be a paradise of bureaucracy, patent places, jobs, mandarins’ buttons and tails, and, in short, the heaven of officialism. All civilised readers are acquainted with Mr. Stockton’s humorous story of ‘The Transferred Ghost.’ In Mr. Stockton’s view a man does not always get his own ghostship; there is a vigorous competition among spirits for good ghostships, and a great deal of intrigue and party feeling. It may be long before a disembodied spectre gets any ghostship at all, and then, if he has little influence, he may be glad to take a chance of haunting the Board of Trade, or the Post Office, instead of “walking” in the Foreign Office. One spirit may win a post as White Lady in the imperial palace, while another is put off with a position in an old college library, or perhaps has to follow the fortunes of some seedy “medium” through boarding-houses and third-rate hotels. Now this is precisely the Chinese view of the fates and fortunes of ghosts. Quisque suos patimur manes.
In China, to be brief, and to quote a ghost (who ought to know what he was speaking about), “supernaturals are to be found everywhere.” This is the fact that makes life so puzzling and terrible to a child of a believing and trustful character. These Oriental bogies do not appear in the dark alone, or only in haunted houses, or at cross-roads, or in gloomy woods. They are everywhere: every man has his own ghost, every place has its peculiar haunting fiend, every natural phenomenon has its informing spirit; every quality, as hunger, greed, envy, malice, has an embodied visible shape prowling about seeking what it may devour. Where our science, for example, sees (or rather smells) sewer gas, the Japanese behold a slimy, meagre, insatiate wraith, crawling to devour the lives of men. Where we see a storm of snow, their livelier fancy beholds a comic snow-ghost, a queer, grinning old man under a vast umbrella.
The illustrations in this paper are only a few specimens chosen out of many volumes of Japanese bogies. We have not ventured to copy the very most awful spectres, nor dared to be as horrid as we can. These native drawings, too, are generally coloured regardless of expense, and the colouring is often horribly lurid and satisfactory. This embellishment, fortunately perhaps, we cannot reproduce. Meanwhile, if any child looks into this essay, let him (or her) not be alarmed by the pictures he beholds. Japanese ghosts do not live in this country; there are none of them even at the Japanese Legation. Just as bears, lions, and rattlesnakes are not to be seriously dreaded in our woods and commons, so the Japanese ghost cannot breathe (any more than a slave can) in the air of England or America. We do not yet even keep any ghostly zoological garden in which the bogies of Japanese, Australians, Red Indians, and other distant peoples may be accommodated. Such an establishment is perhaps to be desired in the interests of psychical research, but that form of research has not yet been endowed by a cultivated and progressive government.
The first to attract our attention represents, as I understand, the common ghost, or simulacrum vulgare of psychical science. To this complexion must we all come, according to the best Japanese opinion. Each of us contains within him “somewhat of a shadowy being,” like the spectre described by Dr. Johnson: something like the Egyptian “Ka,” for which the curious may consult the works of Miss Amelia B. Edwards and other learned Orientalists. The most recent French student of these matters, the author of ‘L’Homme Posthume,’ is of opinion that we do not all possess this double, with its power of surviving our bodily death. He thinks, too, that our ghost, when it does survive, has but rarely the energy and enterprise to make itself visible to or audible by “shadow-casting men.” In some extreme cases the ghost (according to our French authority, that of a disciple of M. Comte) feeds fearsomely on the bodies of the living. In no event does he believe that a ghost lasts much longer than a hundred years. After that it mizzles into spectre, and is resolved into its elements, whatever they may be.
A somewhat similar and (to my own mind) probably sound theory of ghosts prevails among savage tribes, and among such peoples as the ancient Greeks, the modern Hindoos, and other ancestor worshippers. When feeding, as they all do, or used to do, the ghosts of the ancestral dead, they gave special attention to the claims of the dead of the last three generations, leaving ghosts older than the century to look after their own supplies of meat and drink. The negligence testifies to a notion that very old ghosts are of little account, for good or evil. On the other hand, as regards the longevity of spectres, we must not shut our eyes to the example of the bogie in ancient armour which appears in Glamis Castle, or to the Jesuit of Queen Elizabeth’s date that haunts the library (and a very nice place to haunt: I ask no better, as a ghost in the Pavilion at Lord’s might cause a scandal) of an English nobleman. With these instantiae contradictoriae, as Bacon calls them, present to our minds, we must not (in the present condition of psychical research) dogmatise too hastily about the span of life allotted to the simulacrum vulgare. Very probably his chances of a prolonged existence are in inverse ratio to the square of the distance of time which severs him from our modern days. No one has ever even pretended to see the ghost of an ancient Roman buried in these islands, still less of a Pict or Scot, or a Palaeolithic man, welcome as such an apparition would be to many of us. Thus the evidence does certainly look as if there were a kind of statute of limitations among ghosts, which, from many points of view, is not an arrangement at which we should repine.
The Japanese artist expresses his own sense of the casual and fluctuating nature of ghosts by drawing his spectre in shaky lines, as if the model had given the artist the horrors. This simulacrum rises out of the earth like an exhalation, and groups itself into shape above the spade with which all that is corporeal of its late owner has been interred. Please remark the uncomforted and dismal expression of the simulacrum. We must remember that the ghost or “Ka” is not the “soul,” which has other destinies in the future world, good or evil, but is only a shadowy resemblance, condemned, as in the Egyptian creed, to dwell in the tomb and hover near it. The Chinese and Japanese have their own definite theory of the next world, and we must by no means confuse the eternal fortunes of the permanent, conscious, and responsible self, already inhabiting other worlds than ours, with the eccentric vagaries of the semi-material tomb-haunting larva, which so often develops a noisy and bear-fighting disposition quite unlike the character of its proprietor in life.
The next bogie, so limp and washed-out as he seems, with his white, drooping, dripping arms and hands, reminds us of that horrid French species of apparition, “la lavandiere de la nuit,” who washes dead men’s linen in the moonlit pools and rivers. Whether this simulacrum be meant for the spirit of the well (for everything has its spirit in Japan), or whether it be the ghost of some mortal drowned in the well, I cannot say with absolute certainty; but the opinion of the learned tends to the former conclusion. Naturally a Japanese child, when sent in the dusk to draw water, will do so with fear and trembling, for this limp, floppy apparition might scare the boldest. Another bogie, a terrible creation of fancy, I take to be a vampire, about which the curious can read in Dom Calmet, who will tell them how whole villages in Hungary have been depopulated by vampires; or he may study in Fauriel’s ‘Chansons de la Grece Moderne’ the vampires of modern Hellas.
Another plan, and perhaps even more satisfactory to a timid or superstitious mind, is to read in a lonely house at midnight a story named ‘Carmilla,’ printed in Mr. Sheridan Le Fanu’s ‘In a Glass Darkly.’ That work will give you the peculiar sentiment of vampirism, will produce a gelid perspiration, and reduce the patient to a condition in which he will be afraid to look round the room. If, while in this mood, some one tells him Mr. Augustus Hare’s story of Crooglin Grange, his education in the practice and theory of vampires will be complete, and he will be a very proper and well-qualified inmate of Earlswood Asylum. The most awful Japanese vampire, caught red-handed in the act, a hideous, bestial incarnation of ghoulishness, we have carefully refrained from reproducing.
Scarcely more agreeable is the bogie, or witch, blowing from her mouth a malevolent exhalation, an embodiment of malignant and maleficent sorcery. The vapour which flies and curls from the mouth constitutes “a sending,” in the technical language of Icelandic wizards, and is capable (in Iceland, at all events) of assuming the form of some detestable supernatural animal, to destroy the life of a hated rival. In the case of our last example it is very hard indeed to make head or tail of the spectre represented. Chinks and crannies are his domain; through these he drops upon you. He is a merry but not an attractive or genial ghost. Where there are such “visions about” it may be admitted that children, apt to believe in all such fancies, have a youth of variegated and intense misery, recurring with special vigour at bed-time. But we look again at our first picture, and hope and trust that Japanese boys and girls are as happy as these jolly little creatures appear.
Suppose, when now the house is dumb,
When lights are out, and ashes fall —
Suppose their ancient owners come
To claim our spoils of shop and stall,
Ah me! within the narrow hall
How strange a mob would meet and go,
What famous folk would haunt them all,
Octavo, quarto, folio!
The great Napoleon lays his hand
Upon this eagle-headed N,
That marks for his a pamphlet banned
By all but scandal-loving men, —
A libel from some nameless den
Of Frankfort — Arnaud a la Sphere,
Wherein one spilt, with venal pen,
Lies o’er the loves of Moliere. 3
Another shade — he does not see
“Boney,” the foeman of his race —
The great Sir Walter, this is he
With that grave homely Border face.
He claims his poem of the chase
That rang Benvoirlich’s valley through;
And THIS, that doth the lineage trace
And fortunes of the bold Buccleuch; 4
For these were his, and these he gave
To one who dwelt beside the Peel,
That murmurs with its tiny wave
To join the Tweed at Ashestiel.
Now thick as motes the shadows wheel,
And find their own, and claim a share
Of books wherein Ribou did deal,
Or Roulland sold to wise Colbert. 5
What famous folk of old are here!
A royal duke comes down to us,
And greatly wants his Elzevir,
His Pagan tutor, Lucius. 6
And Beckford claims an amorous
Old heathen in morocco blue; 7
And who demands Eobanus
But stately Jacques Auguste de Thou! 8
They come, the wise, the great, the true,
They jostle on the narrow stair,
The frolic Countess de Verrue,
Lamoignon, ay, and Longepierre,
The new and elder dead are there —
The lords of speech, and song, and pen,
Drummond of haunted Hawthornden. 11
Ah, and with those, a hundred more,
Whose names, whose deeds, are quite forgot:
Brave “Smiths” and “Thompsons” by the score,
Scrawled upon many a shabby “lot.”
This playbook was the joy of Pott 12 —
Pott, for whom now no mortal grieves.
Our names, like his, remembered not,
Like his, shall flutter on fly-leaves!
At least in pleasant company
We bookish ghosts, perchance, may flit;
A man may turn a page, and sigh,
Seeing one’s name, to think of it.
Beauty, or Poet, Sage, or Wit,
May ope our book, and muse awhile,
And fall into a dreaming fit,
As now we dream, and wake, and smile!
3 Histoire des Intrigues Amoureuses de Moliere, et de celles de sa femme. (A la Sphere.) A Francfort, chez Frederic Arnaud, MDCXCVII. This anonymous tract has actually been attributed to Racine. The copy referred to is marked with a large N in red, with an eagle’s head.
4 The Lady of the Lake, 1810.
The Lay of the Last Minstrel, 1806.
“To Mrs. Robert Laidlaw, Peel. From the Author.”
5 Dictys Cretensis. Apud Lambertum Roulland. Lut. Paris., 1680. In red morocco, with the arms of Colbert.
6 L. Annaei Senecae Opera Omnia. Lug. Bat., apud Elzevirios. 1649. With book-plate of the Duke of Sussex.
7 Stratonis Epigrammata. Altenburgi, 1764. Straton bound up in one volume with Epictetus! From the Beckford library.
8 Opera Helii Eobani Hessi. Yellow morocco, with the first arms of De Thou. Includes a poem addressed “LANGE, decus meum.” Quantity of penultimate “Eobanus” taken for granted, metri gratia.
9 La Journee du Chretien. Coutances, 1831. With inscription, “Leon Gambetta. Rue St. Honore. Janvier 1, 1848.”
10 Villoison’s Homer. Venice, 1788. With Tessier’s ticket and Schlegel’s book-plate.
11 Les Essais de Michel, Seigneur de Montaigne. “Pour Francois le Febvre de Lyon, 1695.” With autograph of Gul. Drummond, and cipresso e palma.
12 “The little old foxed Moliere,” once the property of William Pott, unknown to fame.
In the whole amusing history of impostures, there is no more diverting chapter than that which deals with literary frauds. None contains a more grotesque revelation of the smallness and the complexity of human nature, and none — not even the records of the Tichborne trial, nor of general elections — displays more pleasantly the depths of mortal credulity. The literary forger is usually a clever man, and it is necessary for him to be at least on a level with the literary knowledge and critical science of his time. But how low that level commonly appears to be! Think of the success of Ireland, a boy of eighteen; think of Chatterton; think of Surtees of Mainsforth, who took in the great Sir Walter himself, the father of all them that are skilled in ballad lore. How simple were the artifices of these ingenious impostors, their resources how scanty; how hand-to-mouth and improvised was their whole procedure! Times have altered a little. Jo Smith’s revelation and famed ‘Golden Bible’ only carried captive the polygamous populus qui vult decipi, reasoners a little lower than even the believers in Anglo–Israel. The Moabite Ireland, who once gave Mr. Shapira the famous MS. of Deuteronomy, but did not delude M. Clermont–Ganneau, was doubtless a smart man; he was, however, a little too indolent, a little too easily satisfied. He might have procured better and less recognisable materials than his old “synagogue rolls;” in short, he took rather too little trouble, and came to the wrong market. A literary forgery ought first, perhaps, to appeal to the credulous, and only slowly should it come, with the prestige of having already won many believers, before the learned world. The inscriber of the Phoenician inscriptions in Brazil (of all places) was a clever man. His account of the voyage of Hiram to South America probably gained some credence in Brazil, while in England it only carried captive Mr. Day, author of ‘The Prehistoric Use of Iron and Steel.’ But the Brazilians, from lack of energy, have dropped the subject, and the Phoenician inscriptions of Brazil are less successful, after all, than the Moabite stone, about which one begins to entertain disagreeable doubts.
The motives of the literary forger are curiously mixed; but they may, perhaps, be analysed roughly into piety, greed, “push,” and love of fun. Many literary forgeries have been pious frauds, perpetrated in the interests of a church, a priesthood, or a dogma. Then we have frauds of greed, as if, for example, a forger should offer his wares for a million of money to the British Museum; or when he tries to palm off his Samaritan Gospel on the “Bad Samaritan” of the Bodleian. Next we come to playful frauds, or frauds in their origin playful, like (perhaps) the Shakespearian forgeries of Ireland, the supercheries of Prosper Merimee, the sham antique ballads (very spirited poems in their way) of Surtees, and many other examples. Occasionally it has happened that forgeries, begun for the mere sake of exerting the imitative faculty, and of raising a laugh against the learned, have been persevered with in earnest. The humorous deceits are, of course, the most pardonable, though it is difficult to forgive the young archaeologist who took in his own father with false Greek inscriptions. But this story may be a mere fable amongst archaeologists, who are constantly accusing each other of all manner of crimes. Then there are forgeries by “pushing” men, who hope to get a reading for poems which, if put forth as new, would be neglected. There remain forgeries of which the motives are so complex as to remain for ever obscure. We may generally ascribe them to love of notoriety in the forger; such notoriety as Macpherson won by his dubious pinchbeck Ossian. More difficult still to understand are the forgeries which real scholars have committed or connived at for the purpose of supporting some opinion which they held with earnestness. There is a vein of madness and self-deceit in the character of the man who half-persuades himself that his own false facts are true. The Payne Collier case is thus one of the most difficult in the world to explain, for it is equally hard to suppose that Mr. Payne Collier was taken in by the notes on the folio he gave the world, and to hold that he was himself guilty of forgery to support his own opinions.
The further we go back in the history of literary forgeries, the more (as is natural) do we find them to be of a pious or priestly character. When the clergy alone can write, only the clergy can forge. In such ages people are interested chiefly in prophecies and warnings, or, if they are careful about literature, it is only when literature contains some kind of title-deeds. Thus Solon is said to have forged a line in the Homeric catalogue of the ships for the purpose of proving that Salamis belonged to Athens. But the great antique forger, the “Ionian father of the rest,” is, doubtless, Onomacritus. There exists, to be sure, an Egyptian inscription professing to be of the fourth, but probably of the twenty-sixth, dynasty. The Germans hold the latter view; the French, from patriotic motives, maintain the opposite opinion. But this forgery is scarcely “literary.”
I never can think of Onomacritus without a certain respect: he began the forging business so very early, and was (apart from this failing) such an imposing and magnificently respectable character. The scene of the error and the detection of Onomacritus presents itself always to me in a kind of pictorial vision. It is night, the clear, windless night of Athens; not of the Athens whose ruins remain, but of the ancient city that sank in ashes during the invasion of Xerxes. The time is the time of Pisistratus the successful tyrant; the scene is the ancient temple, the stately house of Athene, the fane where the sacred serpent was fed on cakes, and the primeval olive-tree grew beside the well of Posidon. The darkness of the temple’s inmost shrine is lit by the ray of one earthen lamp. You dimly discern the majestic form of a venerable man stooping above a coffer of cedar and ivory, carved with the exploits of the goddess, and with boustrophedon inscriptions. In his hair this archaic Athenian wears the badge of the golden grasshopper. He is Onomacritus, the famous poet, and the trusted guardian of the ancient oracles of Musaeus and Bacis.
What is he doing? Why, he takes from the fragrant cedar coffer certain thin stained sheets of lead, whereon are scratched the words of doom, the prophecies of the Greek Thomas the Rhymer. From his bosom he draws another thin sheet of lead, also stained and corroded. On this he scratches, in imitation of the old “Cadmeian letters,” a prophecy that “the Isles near Lemnos shall disappear under the sea.” So busy is he in this task, that he does not hear the rustle of a chiton behind, and suddenly a man’s hand is on his shoulder! Onomacritus turns in horror. Has the goddess punished him for tampering with the oracles? No; it is Lasus, the son of Hermiones, a rival poet, who has caught the keeper of the oracles in the very act of a pious forgery. (Herodotus, vii. 6.)
Pisistratus expelled the learned Onomacritus from Athens, but his conduct proved, in the long run, highly profitable to the reputations of Musaeus and Bacis. Whenever one of their oracles was not fulfilled, people said, “Oh, THAT is merely one of the interpolations of Onomacritus!” and the matter was passed over. This Onomacritus is said to have been among the original editors of Homer under Pisistratus. 13 He lived long, never repented, and, many years later, deceived Xerxes into attempting his disastrous expedition. This he did by “keeping back the oracles unfavourable to the barbarians,” and putting forward any that seemed favourable. The children of Pisistratus believed in him as spiritualists go on giving credit to exposed and exploded “mediums.”
Having once practised deceit, it is to be feared that Onomacritus acquired a liking for the art of literary forgery, which, as will be seen in the case of Ireland, grows on a man like dram-drinking. Onomacritus is generally charged with the authorship of the poems which the ancients usually attributed to Orpheus, the companion of Jason. Perhaps the most interesting of the poems of Orpheus to us would have been his ‘Inferno,’ or [Greek text], in which the poet gave his own account of his descent to Hades in search of Eurydice. But only a dubious reference to one adventure in the journey is quoted by Plutarch. Whatever the exact truth about the Orphic poems may be (the reader may pursue the hard and fruitless quest in Lobeck’s ‘Aglaophamus’ 14), it seems certain that the period between Pisistratus and Pericles, like the Alexandrian time, was a great age for literary forgeries. But of all these frauds the greatest (according to the most “advanced” theory on the subject) is the “Forgery of the Iliad and Odyssey!” The opinions of the scholars who hold that the Iliad and Odyssey, which we know and which Plato knew, are not the epics known to Herodotus, but later compositions, are not very clear nor consistent. But it seems to be vaguely held that about the time of Pericles there arose a kind of Greek Macpherson. This ingenious impostor worked on old epic materials, but added many new ideas of his own about the gods, converting the Iliad (the poem which we now possess) into a kind of mocking romance, a Greek Don Quixote. He also forged a number of pseudo-archaic words, tenses, and expressions, and added the numerous references to iron, a metal practically unknown, it is asserted, to Greece before the sixth century. If we are to believe, with Professor Paley, that the chief incidents of the Iliad and Odyssey were unknown to Sophocles, AEschylus, and the contemporary vase painters, we must also suppose that the Greek Macpherson invented most of the situations in the Odyssey and Iliad. According to this theory the ‘cooker’ of the extant epics was far the greatest and most successful of all literary impostors, for he deceived the whole world, from Plato downwards, till he was exposed by Mr. Paley. There are times when one is inclined to believe that Plato must have been the forger himself, as Bacon (according to the other hypothesis) was the author of Shakespeare’s plays. Thus “Plato the wise, and large-browed Verulam,” would be “the first of those who” forge! Next to this prodigious imposture, no doubt, the false ‘Letters of Phalaris’ are the most important of classical forgeries. And these illustrate, like most literary forgeries, the extreme worthlessness of literary taste as a criterion of the authenticity of writings. For what man ever was more a man of taste than Sir William Temple, “the most accomplished writer of the age,” whom Mr. Boyle never thought of without calling to mind those happy lines of Lucretius, —
Quem tu, dea, tempore in omni
Omnibus ornatum voluisti excellere rebus.
Well, the ornate and excellent Temple held that “the Epistles of Phalaris have more race, more spirit, more force of wit and genius, than any others he had ever seen, either ancient or modern.” So much for what Bentley calls Temple’s “Nicety of Tast.” The greatest of English scholars readily proved that Phalaris used (in the spirit of prophecy) an idiom which did not exist to write about matters in his time not invented, but “many centuries younger than he.” So let the Nicety of Temple’s Tast and its absolute failure be a warning to us when we read (if read we must) German critics who deny Homer’s claim to this or that passage, and Plato’s right to half his accepted dialogues, on grounds of literary taste. And farewell, as Herodotus would have said, to the Letters of Phalaris, of Socrates, of Plato; to the Lives of Pythagoras and of Homer, and to all the other uncounted literary forgeries of the classical world, from the Sibylline prophecies to the battle of the frogs and mice.
Early Christian frauds were, naturally, pious. We have the apocryphal Gospels, and the works of Dionysius the Areopagite, which were not exposed till Erasmus’s time. Perhaps the most important of pious forgeries (if forgery be exactly the right word in this case) was that of ‘The False Decretals.’ “Of a sudden,” says Milman, speaking of the pontificate of Nicholas I. (ob. 867 A.D.), “Of a sudden was promulgated, unannounced, without preparation, not absolutely unquestioned, but apparently over-awing at once all doubt, a new Code, which to the former authentic documents added fifty-nine letters and decrees of the twenty oldest Popes from Clement to Melchiades, and the donation of Constantine, and in the third part, among the decrees of the Popes and of the Councils from Sylvester to Gregory II., thirty-nine false decrees, and the acts of several unauthentic Councils.” “The whole is composed,” Milman adds, “with an air of profound piety and reverence.” The False Decretals naturally assert the supremacy of the Bishop of Rome. “They are full and minute on Church Property” (they were sure to be that); in fact, they remind one of another forgery, pious and Aryan, ‘The Institutes of Vishnu.’ “Let him not levy any tax upon Brahmans,” says the Brahman forger of the Institutes, which “came from the mouths of Vishnu,” as he sat “clad in a yellow robe, imperturbable, decorated with all kinds of gems, while Lakshmi was stroking his feet with her soft palms.” The Institutes took excellent care of Brahmans and cows, as the Decretals did of the Pope and the clergy, and the earliest Popes had about as much hand in the Decretals as Vishnu had in his Institutes. Hommenay, in ‘Pantagruel,’ did well to have the praise of the Decretals sung by filles belles, blondelettes, doulcettes, et de bonne grace. And then Hommenay drank to the Decretals and their very good health. “O dives Decretales, tant par vous est le vin bon bon trouve”—“O divine Decretals, how good you make good wine taste!” “The miracle would be greater,” said Pantagruel, “if they made bad wine taste good.” The most that can now be done by the devout for the Decretals is “to palliate the guilt of their forger,” whose name, like that of the Greek Macpherson, is unknown.
If the early Christian centuries, and the Middle Ages, were chiefly occupied with pious frauds, with forgeries of gospels, epistles, and Decretals, the impostors of the Renaissance were busy, as an Oxford scholar said, when he heard of a new MS. of the Greek Testament, “with something really important,” that is with classical imitations. After the Turks took Constantinople, when the learned Greeks were scattered all over Southern Europe, when many genuine classical manuscripts were recovered by the zeal of scholars, when the plays of Menander were seen once, and then lost for ever, it was natural that literary forgery should thrive. As yet scholars were eager rather than critical; they were collecting and unearthing, rather than minutely examining the remains of classic literature. They had found so much, and every year were finding so much more, that no discovery seemed impossible. The lost books of Livy and Cicero, the songs of Sappho, the perished plays of Sophocles and AEschylus might any day be brought to light. This was the very moment for the literary forger; but it is improbable that any forgery of the period has escaped detection. Three or four years ago some one published a book to show that the ‘Annals of Tacitus’ were written by Poggio Bracciolini. This paradox gained no more converts than the bolder hypothesis of Hardouin. The theory of Hardouin was all that the ancient classics were productions of a learned company which worked, in the thirteenth century, under Severus Archontius. Hardouin made some exceptions to his sweeping general theory. Cicero’s writings were genuine, he admitted, so were Pliny’s, of Virgil the Georgics; the satires and epistles of Horace; Herodotus, and Homer. All the rest of the classics were a magnificent forgery of the illiterate thirteenth century, which had scarce any Greek, and whose Latin, abundant in quantity, in quality left much to be desired.
Among literary forgers, or passers of false literary coin, at the time of the Renaissance, Annius is the most notorious. Annius (his real vernacular name was Nanni) was born at Viterbo, in 1432. He became a Dominican, and (after publishing his forged classics) rose to the position of Maitre du Palais to the Pope, Alexander Borgia. With Caesar Borgia it is said that Annius was never on good terms. He persisted in preaching “the sacred truth” to his highness and this (according to the detractors of Annius) was the only use he made of the sacred truth. There is a legend that Caesar Borgia poisoned the preacher (1502), but people usually brought that charge against Caesar when any one in any way connected with him happened to die. Annius wrote on the History and Empire of the Turks, who took Constantinople in his time; but he is better remembered by his ‘Antiquitatum Variarum Volumina XVII. cum comment. Fr. Jo. Annii.’ These fragments of antiquity included, among many other desirable things, the historical writings of Fabius Pictor, the predecessor of Livy. One is surprised that Annius, when he had his hand in, did not publish choice extracts from the ‘Libri Lintei,’ the ancient Roman annals, written on linen and preserved in the temple of Juno Moneta. Among the other discoveries of Annius were treatises by Berosus, Manetho, Cato, and poems by Archilochus. Opinion has been divided as to whether Annius was wholly a knave, or whether he was himself imposed upon. Or, again, whether he had some genuine fragments, and eked them out with his own inventions. It is observed that he did not dovetail the really genuine relics of Berosus and Manetho into the works attributed to them. This may be explained as the result of ignorance or of cunning; there can be no certain inference. “Even the Dominicans,” as Bayle says, admit that Annius’s discoveries are false, though they excuse them by averring that the pious man was the dupe of others. But a learned Lutheran has been found to defend the ‘Antiquitates’ of the Dominican.
It is amusing to remember that the great and erudite Rabelais was taken in by some pseudo-classical fragments. The joker of jokes was hoaxed. He published, says Mr. Besant, “a couple of Latin forgeries, which he proudly called ‘Ex reliquiis venerandae antiquitatis,’ consisting of a pretended will and a contract.” The name of the book is ‘Ex reliquiis venerandae antiquitatis. Lucii Cuspidii Testamentum. Item contractus venditionis antiquis Romanorum temporibus initus. Lugduni apud Gryphium (1532).’ Pomponius Laetus and Jovianus Pontanus were apparently authors of the hoax.
Socrates said that he “would never lift up his hand against his father Parmenides.” The fathers of the Church have not been so respectfully treated by literary forgers during the Renaissance. The ‘Flowers of Theology’ of St. Bernard, which were to be a primrose path ad gaudia Paradisi (Strasburg, 1478), were really, it seems, the production of Jean de Garlande. Athanasius, his ‘Eleven Books concerning the Trinity,’ are attributed to Vigilius, a colonial Bishop in Northern Africa. Among false classics were two comic Latin fragments with which Muretus beguiled Scaliger. Meursius has suffered, posthumously, from the attribution to him of a very disreputable volume indeed. In 1583, a book on ‘Consolations,’ by Cicero, was published at Venice, containing the reflections with which Cicero consoled himself for the death of Tullia. It might as well have been attributed to Mrs. Blimber, and described as replete with the thoughts by which that lady supported herself under the affliction of never having seen Cicero or his Tusculan villa. The real author was Charles Sigonius, of Modena. Sigonius actually did discover some Ciceronian fragments, and, if he was not the builder, at least he was the restorer of Tully’s lofty theme. In 1693, Francois Nodot, conceiving the world had not already enough of Petronius Arbiter, published an edition, in which he added to the works of that lax though accomplished author. Nodot’s story was that he had found a whole MS. of Petronius at Belgrade, and he published it with a translation of his own Latin into French. Still dissatisfied with the existing supply of Petronius’ humour was Marchena, a writer of Spanish books, who printed at Bale a translation and edition of a new fragment. This fragment was very cleverly inserted in a presumed lacuna. In spite of the ironical style of the preface many scholars were taken in by this fragment, and their credulity led Marchena to find a new morsel (of Catullus this time) at Herculaneum. Eichstadt, a Jena professor, gravely announced that the same fragment existed in a MS. in the university library, and, under pretence of giving various readings, corrected Marchena’s faults in prosody. Another sham Catullus, by Corradino, a Venetian, was published in 1738.
The most famous forgeries of the eighteenth century were those of Macpherson, Chatterton, and Ireland. Space (fortunately) does not permit a discussion of the Ossianic question. That fragments of Ossianic legend (if not of Ossianic poetry) survive in oral Gaelic traditions, seems certain. How much Macpherson knew of these, and how little he used them in the bombastic prose which Napoleon loved (and spelled “Ocean”), it is next to impossible to discover. The case of Chatterton is too well known to need much more than mention. The most extraordinary poet for his years who ever lived began with the forgery of a sham feudal pedigree for Mr. Bergum, a pewterer. Ireland started on his career in much the same way, unless Ireland’s ‘Confessions’ be themselves a fraud, based on what he knew about Chatterton. Once launched in his career, Chatterton drew endless stores of poetry from “Rowley’s MS.” and the muniment chest in St. Mary Redcliffe’s. Jacob Bryant believed in them and wrote an ‘Apology’ for the credulous. Bryant, who believed in his own system of mythology, might have believed in anything. When Chatterton sent his “discoveries” to Walpole (himself somewhat of a mediaeval imitator), Gray and Mason detected the imposture, and Walpole, his feelings as an antiquary injured took no more notice of the boy. Chatterton’s death was due to his precocity. Had his genius come to him later, it would have found him wiser, and better able to command the fatal demon of intellect, for which he had to find work, like Michael Scott in the legend.
The end of the eighteenth century, which had been puzzled or diverted by the Chatterton and Macpherson frauds, witnessed also the great and famous Shakespearian forgeries. We shall never know the exact truth about the fabrication of the Shakespearian documents, and ‘Vortigern’ and the other plays. We have, indeed, the confession of the culprit: habemus confitentem reum, but Mr. W. H. Ireland was a liar and a solicitor’s clerk, so versatile and accomplished that we cannot always trust him, even when he is narrating the tale of his own iniquities. The temporary but wide and turbulent success of the Ireland forgeries suggests the disagreeable reflection that criticism and learning are (or a hundred years ago were) worth very little as literary touchstones. A polished and learned society, a society devoted to Shakespeare and to the stage, was taken in by a boy of eighteen. Young Ireland not only palmed off his sham prose documents, most makeshift imitations of the antique, but even his ridiculous verses on the experts. James Boswell went down on his knees and thanked Heaven for the sight of them, and, feeling thirsty after these devotions, drank hot brandy and water. Dr. Parr was not less readily gulled, and probably the experts, like Malone, who held aloof, were as much influenced by jealousy as by science. The whole story of young Ireland’s forgeries is not only too long to be told here, but forms the topic of a novel (‘The Talk of the Town’) by Mr. James Payn. The frauds in his hands lose neither their humour nor their complicated interest of plot. To be brief, then, Mr. Samuel Ireland was a gentleman extremely fond of old literature and old books. If we may trust the ‘Confessions’ (1805) of his candid son, Mr. W. H. Ireland, a more harmless and confiding old person than Samuel never collected early English tracts. Living in his learned society, his son, Mr. W. H. Ireland, acquired not only a passion for black letters, but a desire to emulate Chatterton. His first step in guilt was the forgery of an autograph on an old pamphlet, with which he gratified Samuel Ireland. He also wrote a sham inscription on a modern bust of Cromwell, which he represented as an authentic antique. Finding that the critics were taken in, and attributed this new bust to the old sculptor Simeon, Ireland conceived a very low and not unjustifiable opinion of critical tact. Critics would find merit in anything which seemed old enough. Ireland’s next achievement was the forgery of some legal documents concerning Shakespeare. Just as the bad man who deceived the guileless Mr. Shapira forged his ‘Deuteronomy’ on the blank spaces of old synagogue rolls, so young Ireland used the cut-off ends of old rent rolls. He next bought up quantities of old fly-leaves of books, and on this ancient paper he indicted a sham confession of faith, which he attributed to Shakespeare. Being a strong “evangelical,” young Mr. Ireland gave a very Protestant complexion to this edifying document. And still the critics gaped and wondered and believed.
Ireland’s method was to write in an ink made by blending various liquids used in the marbling of paper for bookbinding. This stuff was supplied to him by a bookbinder’s apprentice. When people asked questions as to whence all the new Shakespeare manuscripts came, he said they were presented to him by a gentleman who wished to remain anonymous. Finally, the impossibility of producing this gentleman was one of the causes of the detection of the fraud. According to himself, Ireland performed prodigies of acuteness. Once he had forged, at random, the name of a contemporary of Shakespeare. He was confronted with a genuine signature, which, of course, was quite different. He obtained leave to consult his “anonymous gentleman,” rushed home, forged the name again on the model of what had been shown to him, and returned with this signature as a new gift from his benefactor. That nameless friend had informed him (he swore) that there were two persons of the same name, and that both signatures were genuine. Ireland’s impudence went the length of introducing an ancestor of his own, with the same name as himself, among the companions of Shakespeare. If ‘Vortigern’ had succeeded (and it was actually put on the stage with all possible pomp), Ireland meant to have produced a series of pseudo-Shakespearian plays from William the Conqueror to Queen Elizabeth. When busy with ‘Vortigern,’ he was detected by a friend of his own age, who pounced on him while he was at work, as Lasus pounced on Onomacritus. The discoverer, however, consented to “stand in” with Ireland, and did not divulge his secret. At last, after the fiasco of ‘Vortigern,’ suspicion waxed so strong, and disagreeable inquiries for the anonymous benefactor were so numerous, that Ireland fled from his father’s house. He confessed all, and, according to his own account, fell under the undying wrath of Samuel Ireland. Any reader of Ireland’s confessions will be likely to sympathise with old Samuel as the dupe of his son. The whole story is told with a curious mixture of impudence and humour, and with great plausibility. Young Ireland admits that his “desire for laughter” was almost irresistible, when people — learned, pompous, sagacious people — listened attentively to the papers. One feels half inclined to forgive the rogue for the sake of his youth, his cleverness, his humour. But the ‘Confessions’ are, not improbably, almost as apocryphal as the original documents. They were written for the sake of money, and it is impossible to say how far the same mercenary motive actuated Ireland in his forgeries. Dr. Ingleby, in his ‘Shakespeare Fabrications,’ takes a very rigid view of the conduct, not only of William, but of old Samuel Ireland. Sam, according to Dr. Ingleby, was a partner in the whole imposture, and the confession was only one element in the scheme of fraud. Old Samuel was the Fagin of a band of young literary Dodgers. He “positively trained his whole family to trade in forgery,” and as for Mr. W. H. Ireland, he was “the most accomplished liar that ever lived,” which is certainly a distinction in its way. The point of the joke is that, after the whole conspiracy exploded, people were anxious to buy examples of the forgeries. Mr. W. H. Ireland was equal to the occasion. He actually forged his own, or (according to Dr. Ingleby) his father’s forgeries, and, by thus increasing the supply, he deluged the market with sham shams, with imitations of imitations. If this accusation be correct, it is impossible not to admire the colossal impudence of Mr. W. H. Ireland. Dr. Ingleby, in the ardour of his honest indignation, pursues William into his private life, which, it appears, was far from exemplary. But literary criticism should be content with a man’s works; his domestic life is matter, as Aristotle often says, “for a separate kind of investigation.” Old Ritson used to say that “every literary impostor deserved hanging as much as a common thief.” W. H. Ireland’s merits were never recognised by the law.
How old Ritson would have punished “the old corrector,” it is “better only guessing,” as the wicked say, according to Clough, in regard to their own possible chastisement. The difficulty is to ascertain who the apocryphal old corrector really was. The story of his misdeeds was recently brought back to mind by the death, at an advanced age, of the learned Shakespearian, Mr. J. Payne Collier. Mr. Collier was, to put it mildly, the Shapira of the old corrector. He brought that artist’s works before the public; but WHY? how deceived, or how influenced, it is once more “better only guessing.” Mr. Collier first introduced to the public notice his singular copy of a folio Shakespeare (second edition), loaded with ancient manuscript emendations, in 1849. His account of this book was simple and plausible. He chanced, one day, to be in the shop of Mr. Rudd, the bookseller, in Great Newport Street, when a parcel of second-hand volumes arrived from the country. When the parcel was opened, the heart of the Bibliophile began to sing, for the packet contained two old folios, one of them an old folio Shakespeare of the second edition (1632). The volume (mark this) was “much cropped,” greasy, and imperfect. Now the student of Mr. Hamilton’s ‘Inquiry’ into the whole affair is already puzzled. In later days, Mr. Collier said that his folio had previously been in the possession of a Mr. Parry. On the other hand, Mr. Parry (then a very aged man) failed to recognise his folio in Mr. Collier’s, for HIS copy was “cropped,” whereas the leaves of Mr. Collier’s example were NOT mutilated. Here, then (‘Inquiry,’ pp. 12, 61), we have two descriptions of the outward aspect of Mr. Collier’s dubious treasure. In one account it is “much cropped” by the book-binder’s cruel shears; in the other, its unmutilated condition is contrasted with that of a copy which has been “cropped.” In any case, Mr. Collier hoped, he says, to complete an imperfect folio he possessed, with leaves taken from the folio newly acquired for thirty shillings. But the volumes happened to have the same defects, and the healing process was impossible. Mr. Collier chanced to be going into the country, when in packing the folio he had bought of Rudd he saw it was covered with manuscript corrections in an old hand. These he was inclined to attribute to one Thomas Perkins, whose name was written on the fly-leaf, and who might have been a connection of Richard Perkins, the actor (flor. 1633) The notes contained many various readings, and very numerous changes in punctuation. Some of these Mr. Collier published in his ‘Notes and Emendations’ (1852), and in an edition of the ‘Plays.’ There was much discussion, much doubt, and the folio of the old corrector (who was presumed to have marked the book in the theatre during early performances) was exhibited to the Society of Antiquaries. Then Mr. Collier presented the treasure to the Duke of Devonshire, who again lent it for examination to the British Museum. Mr. Hamilton published in the Times (July, 1859) the results of his examination of the old corrector. It turned out that the old corrector was a modern myth. He had first made his corrections in pencil and in a modern hand, and then he had copied them over in ink, and in a forged ancient hand. The same word sometimes recurred in both handwritings. The ink, which looked old, was really no English ink at all, not even Ireland’s mixture. It seemed to be sepia, sometimes mixed with a little Indian ink. Mr. Hamilton made many other sad discoveries. He pointed out that Mr. Collier had published, from a Dulwich MS., a letter of Mrs. Alleyne’s (the actor’s wife), referring to Shakespeare as “Mr. Shakespeare of the Globe.” Now the Dulwich MS. was mutilated and blank in the very place where this interesting reference should have occurred. Such is a skeleton history of the old corrector, his works and ways. It is probable that — thanks to his assiduities — new Shakespearian documents will in future be received with extreme scepticism; and this is all the fruit, except acres of newspaper correspondence, which the world has derived from Mr. Collier’s greasy and imperfect but unique “corrected folio.”
The recency and (to a Shakespearian critic) the importance of these forgeries obscures the humble merit of Surtees, with his ballads of the ‘Slaying of Antony Featherstonhaugh,’ and of ‘Bartram’s Dirge.’ Surtees left clever lacunae in these songs, ‘collected from oral tradition,’ and furnished notes so learned that they took in Sir Walter Scott. There are moments when I half suspect “the Shirra himsel” (who blamelessly forged so many extracts from ‘Old Plays’) of having composed ‘Kinmont Willie.’ To compare old Scott of Satchell’s account of Kinmont Willie with the ballad is to feel uncomfortable doubts. But this is a rank impiety. The last ballad forgery of much note was the set of sham Macedonian epics and popular songs (all about Alexander the Great, and other heroes) which a schoolmaster in the Rhodope imposed on M. Verkovitch. The trick was not badly done, and the imitation of “ballad slang” was excellent. The ‘Oera Linda’ book, too, was successful enough to be translated into English. With this latest effort of the tenth muse, the crafty muse of Literary Forgery, we may leave a topic which could not be exhausted in a ponderous volume. We have not room even for the forged letters of Shelley, to which Mr. Browning, being taken in thereby, wrote a preface, nor for the forged letters of Mr. Ruskin, which occasionally hoax all the newspapers.
The love of books for their own sake, for their paper, print, binding, and for their associations, as distinct from the love of literature, is a stronger and more universal passion in France than elsewhere in Europe. In England publishers are men of business; in France they aspire to be artists. In England people borrow what they read from the libraries, and take what gaudy cloth-binding chance chooses to send them. In France people buy books, and bind them to their heart’s desire with quaint and dainty devices on the morocco covers. Books are lifelong friends in that country; in England they are the guests of a week or of a fortnight. The greatest French writers have been collectors of curious editions; they have devoted whole treatises to the love of books. The literature and history of France are full of anecdotes of the good and bad fortunes of bibliophiles, of their bargains, discoveries, disappointments. There lies before us at this moment a small library of books about books — the ‘Bibliophile Francais,’ in seven large volumes, ‘Les Sonnets d’un Bibliophile,’ ‘La Bibliomanie en 1878,’ ‘La Bibliotheque d’un Bibliophile’ (1885) and a dozen other works of Janin, Nodier, Beraldi, Pieters, Didot, great collectors who have written for the instruction of beginners and the pleasure of every one who takes delight in printed paper.
The passion for books, like other forms of desire, has its changes of fashion. It is not always easy to justify the caprices of taste. The presence or absence of half an inch of paper in the “uncut” margin of a book makes a difference of value that ranges from five shillings to a hundred pounds. Some books are run after because they are beautifully bound; some are competed for with equal eagerness because they never have been bound at all. The uninitiated often make absurd mistakes about these distinctions. Some time ago the Daily Telegraph reproached a collector because his books were “uncut,” whence, argued the journalist, it was clear that he had never read them. “Uncut,” of course, only means that the margins have not been curtailed by the binders’ plough. It is a point of sentiment to like books just as they left the hands of the old printers — of Estienne, Aldus, or Louis Elzevir.
It is because the passion for books is a sentimental passion that people who have not felt it always fail to understand it. Sentiment is not an easy thing to explain. Englishmen especially find it impossible to understand tastes and emotions that are not their own — the wrongs of Ireland, (till quite recently) the aspirations of Eastern Roumelia, the demands of Greece. If we are to understand the book-hunter, we must never forget that to him books are, in the first place, RELICS. He likes to think that the great writers whom he admires handled just such pages and saw such an arrangement of type as he now beholds. Moliere, for example, corrected the proofs for this edition of the ‘Precieuses Ridicules,’ when he first discovered “what a labour it is to publish a book, and how GREEN (NEUF) an author is the first time they print him.” Or it may be that Campanella turned over, with hands unstrung, and still broken by the torture, these leaves that contain his passionate sonnets. Here again is the copy of Theocritus from which some pretty page may have read aloud to charm the pagan and pontifical leisure of Leo X. This Gargantua is the counterpart of that which the martyred Dolet printed for (or pirated from, alas!) Maitre Francois Rabelais. This woeful ballade, with the woodcut of three thieves hanging from one gallows, came near being the “Last Dying Speech and Confession of Francois Villon.” This shabby copy of ‘The Eve of St. Agnes’ is precisely like that which Shelley doubled up and thrust into his pocket when the prow of the piratical felucca crashed into the timbers of the Don Juan. Some rare books have these associations, and they bring you nearer to the authors than do the modern reprints. Bibliophiles will tell you that it is the early READINGS they care for — the author’s first fancies, and those more hurried expressions which he afterwards corrected. These READINGS have their literary value, especially in the masterpieces of the great; but the sentiment after all is the main thing.
Other books come to be relics in another way. They are the copies which belonged to illustrious people — to the famous collectors who make a kind of catena (a golden chain of bibliophiles) through the centuries since printing was invented. There are Grolier (1479–1565) — not a bookbinder, as an English newspaper supposed (probably when Mr. Sala was on his travels) — De Thou (1553–1617), the great Colbert, the Duc de la Valliere (1708–1780), Charles Nodier, a man of yesterday, M. Didot, and the rest, too numerous to name. Again, there are the books of kings, like Francis I., Henri III., and Louis XIV. These princes had their favourite devices. Nicolas Eve, Padeloup, Derome, and other artists arrayed their books in morocco,- -tooled with skulls, cross-bones, and crucifixions for the voluptuous pietist Henri III., with the salamander for Francis I., and powdered with fleurs de lys for the monarch who “was the State.” There are relics also of noble beauties. The volumes of Marguerite d’Angouleme are covered with golden daisies. The cipher of Marie Antoinette adorns too many books that Madame du Barry might have welcomed to her hastily improvised library. The three daughters of Louis XV. had their favourite colours of morocco, citron, red, and olive, and their books are valued as much as if they bore the bees of De Thou, or the intertwined C’s of the illustrious and ridiculous Abbe Cotin, the Trissotin of the comedy. Surely in all these things there is a human interest, and our fingers are faintly thrilled, as we touch these books, with the far-off contact of the hands of kings and cardinals, scholars and coquettes, pedants, poets, and precieuses, the people who are unforgotten in the mob that inhabited dead centuries.
So universal and ardent has the love of magnificent books been in France, that it would be possible to write a kind of bibliomaniac history of that country. All her rulers, kings, cardinals, and ladies have had time to spare for collecting. Without going too far back, to the time when Bertha span and Charlemagne was an amateur, we may give a few specimens of an anecdotical history of French bibliolatry, beginning, as is courteous, with a lady. “Can a woman be a bibliophile?” is a question which was once discussed at the weekly breakfast party of Guilbert de Pixerecourt, the famous book-lover and playwright, the “Corneille of the Boulevards.” The controversy glided into a discussion as to “how many books a man can love at a time;” but historical examples prove that French women (and Italian, witness the Princess d’Este) may be bibliophiles of the true strain. Diane de Poictiers was their illustrious patroness. The mistress of Henri II. possessed, in the Chateau d’Anet, a library of the first triumphs of typography. Her taste was wide in range, including songs, plays, romances, divinity; her copies of the Fathers were bound in citron morocco, stamped with her arms and devices, and closed with clasps of silver. In the love of books, as in everything else, Diane and Henri II. were inseparable. The interlaced H and D are scattered over the covers of their volumes; the lily of France is twined round the crescents of Diane, or round the quiver, the arrows, and the bow which she adopted as her cognisance, in honour of the maiden goddess. The books of Henri and of Diane remained in the Chateau d’Anet till the death of the Princesse de Conde in 1723, when they were dispersed. The son of the famous Madame de Guyon bought the greater part of the library, which has since been scattered again and again. M. Leopold Double, a well-known bibliophile, possessed several examples. 15
Henry III. scarcely deserves, perhaps, the name of a book-lover, for he probably never read the works which were bound for him in the most elaborate way. But that great historian, Alexandre Dumas, takes a far more friendly view of the king’s studies, and, in ‘La Dame de Monsoreau,’ introduces us to a learned monarch. Whether he cared for the contents of his books or not, his books are among the most singular relics of a character which excites even morbid curiosity. No more debauched and worthless wretch ever filled a throne; but, like the bad man in Aristotle, Henri III. was “full of repentance.” When he was not dancing in an unseemly revel, he was on his knees in his chapel. The board of one of his books, of which an engraving lies before me, bears his cipher and crown in the corners; but the centre is occupied in front with a picture of the Annunciation, while on the back is the crucifixion and the breeding heart through which the swords have pierced. His favourite device was the death’s-head, with the motto Memento Mori, or Spes mea Deus. While he was still only Duc d’Anjou, Henri loved Marie de Cleves, Princesse de Conde. On her sudden death he expressed his grief, as he had done his piety, by aid of the petits fers of the bookbinder. Marie’s initials were stamped on his book-covers in a chaplet of laurels. In one corner a skull and cross-bones were figured; in the other the motto Mort m’est vie; while two curly objects, which did duty for tears, filled up the lower corners. The books of Henri III., even when they are absolutely worthless as literature, sell for high prices; and an inane treatise on theology, decorated with his sacred emblems, lately brought about 120 pounds in a London sale.
Francis I., as a patron of all the arts, was naturally an amateur of bindings. The fates of books were curiously illustrated by the story of the copy of Homer, on large paper, which Aldus, the great Venetian printer, presented to Francis I. After the death of the late Marquis of Hastings, better known as an owner of horses than of books, his possessions were brought to the hammer. With the instinct, the flair, as the French say, of the bibliophile, M. Ambroise Firmin Didot, the biographer of Aldus, guessed that the marquis might have owned something in his line. He sent his agent over to England, to the country town where the sale was to be held. M. Didot had his reward. Among the books which were dragged out of some mouldy store-room was the very Aldine Homer of Francis I., with part of the original binding still clinging to the leaves. M. Didot purchased the precious relic, and sent it to what M. Fertiault (who has written a century of sonnets on bibliomania) calls the hospital for books.
Le dos humide, je l’eponge;
Ou manque un coin, vite une allonge,
Pour tous j’ai maison de sante.
M. Didot, of course, did not practise this amateur surgery himself, but had the arms and devices of Francis I. restored by one of those famous binders who only work for dukes, millionnaires, and Rothschilds.
During the religious wars and the troubles of the Fronde, it is probable that few people gave much time to the collection of books. The illustrious exceptions are Richelieu and Cardinal Mazarin, who possessed a “snuffy Davy” of his own, an indefatigable prowler among book-stalls and dingy purlieus, in Gabriel Naude. In 1664, Naude, who was a learned and ingenious writer, the apologist for “great men suspected of magic,” published the second edition of his ‘Avis pour dresser une Bibliotheque,’ and proved himself to be a true lover of the chase, a mighty hunter (of books) before the Lord. Naude’s advice to the collector is rather amusing. He pretends not to care much for bindings, and quotes Seneca’s rebuke of the Roman bibliomaniacs, Quos voluminum suorum frontes maxime placent titulique — who chiefly care for the backs and lettering of their volumes. The fact is that Naude had the wealth of Mazarin at his back, and we know very well, from the remains of the Cardinal’s library which exist, that he liked as well as any man to see his cardinal’s hat glittering on red or olive morocco in the midst of the beautiful tooling of the early seventeenth century. When once he got a book, he would not spare to give it a worthy jacket. Naude’s ideas about buying were peculiar. Perhaps he sailed rather nearer the wind than even Monkbarns would have cared to do. His favourite plan was to buy up whole libraries in the gross, “speculative lots” as the dealers call them. In the second place, he advised the book-lover to haunt the retreats of Libraires fripiers, et les vieux fonds et magasins. Here he truly observes that you may find rare books, broches — that is, unbound and uncut,- -just as Mr. Symonds bought two uncut copies of ‘Laon and Cythna’ in a Bristol stall for a crown. “You may get things for four or five crowns that would cost you forty or fifty elsewhere,” says Naude. Thus a few years ago M. Paul Lacroix bought for two francs, in a Paris shop, the very copy of ‘Tartuffe’ which had belonged to Louis XIV. The example may now be worth perhaps 200 pounds. But we are digressing into the pleasures of the modern sportsman.
It was not only in second-hand bookshops that Naude hunted, but among the dealers in waste paper. “Thus did Poggio find Quintilian on the counter of a wood-merchant, and Masson picked up ‘Agobardus’ at the shop of a binder, who was going to use the MS. to patch his books withal.” Rossi, who may have seen Naude at work, tells us how he would enter a shop with a yard-measure in his hand, buying books, we are sorry to say, by the ell. “The stalls where he had passed were like the towns through which Attila or the Tartars had swept, with ruin in their train — ut non hominis unius sedulitas, sed calamitas quaedam per omnes bibliopolarum tabernas pervasisse videatur!” Naude had sorrows of his own. In 1652 the Parliament decreed the confiscation of the splendid library of Mazarin, which was perhaps the first free library in Europe — the first that was open to all who were worthy of right of entrance. There is a painful description of the sale, from which the book-lover will avert his eyes. On Mazarin’s return to power he managed to collect again and enrich his stores, which form the germ of the existing Bibliotheque Mazarine.
Among princes and popes it is pleasant to meet one man of letters, and he the greatest of the great age, who was a bibliophile. The enemies and rivals of Moliere — De Vise, De Villiers, and the rest — are always reproaching him — with his love of bouquins. There is some difference of opinion among philologists about the derivation of bouquin, but all book-hunters know the meaning of the word. The bouquin is the “small, rare volume, black with tarnished gold,” which lies among the wares of the stall-keeper, patient in rain and dust, till the hunter comes who can appreciate the quarry. We like to think of Moliere lounging through the narrow streets in the evening, returning, perhaps, from some noble house where he has been reading the proscribed ‘Tartuffe,’ or giving an imitation of the rival actors at the Hotel Bourgogne. Absent as the contemplateur is, a dingy book-stall wakens him from his reverie. His lace ruffles are soiled in a moment with the learned dust of ancient volumes. Perhaps he picks up the only work out of all his library that is known to exist — un ravissant petit Elzevir, ‘De Imperio Magni Mogolis’ (Lugd. Bat. 1651). On the title-page of this tiny volume, one of the minute series of ‘Republics’ which the Elzevirs published, the poet has written his rare signature, “J. B. P. Moliere,” with the price the book cost him, “1 livre, 10 sols.” “Il n’est pas de bouquin qui s’echappe de ses mains,” says the author of ‘La Guerre Comique,’ the last of the pamphlets which flew about during the great literary quarrel about “L’Ecole des Femmes.” Thanks to M. Soulie the catalogue of Moliere’s library has been found, though the books themselves have passed out of view. There are about three hundred and fifty volumes in the inventory, but Moliere’s widow may have omitted as valueless (it is the foible of her sex) many rusty bouquins, now worth far more than their weight in gold. Moliere owned no fewer than two hundred and forty volumes of French and Italian comedies. From these he took what suited him wherever he found it. He had plenty of classics, histories, philosophic treatises, the essays of Montaigne, a Plutarch, and a Bible.
We know nothing, to the regret of bibliophiles, of Moliere’s taste in bindings. Did he have a comic mask stamped on the leather (that device was chased on his plate), or did he display his cognizance and arms, the two apes that support a shield charged with three mirrors of Truth? It is certain — La Bruyere tells us as much — that the sillier sort of book-lover in the seventeenth century was much the same sort of person as his successor in our own time. “A man tells me he has a library,” says La Bruyere (De la Mode); “I ask permission to see it. I go to visit my friend, and he receives me in a house where, even on the stairs, the smell of the black morocco with which his books are covered is so strong that I nearly faint. He does his best to revive me; shouts in my ear that the volumes ‘have gilt edges,’ that they are ‘elegantly tooled,’ that they are ‘of the good edition,’ . . . and informs me that ‘he never reads,’ that ‘he never sets foot in this part of his house,’ that he ‘will come to oblige me!’ I thank him for all his kindness, and have no more desire than himself to see the tanner’s shop that he calls his library.”
Colbert, the great minister of Louis XIV., was a bibliophile at whom perhaps La Bruyere would have sneered. He was a collector who did not read, but who amassed beautiful books, and looked forward, as business men do, to the day when he would have time to study them. After Grolier, De Thou, and Mazarin, Colbert possessed probably the richest private library in Europe. The ambassadors of France were charged to procure him rare books and manuscripts, and it is said that in a commercial treaty with the Porte he inserted a clause demanding a certain quantity of Levant morocco for the use of the royal bookbinders. England, in those days, had no literature with which France deigned to be acquainted. Even into England, however, valuable books had been imported; and we find Colbert pressing the French ambassador at St. James’s to bid for him at a certain sale of rare heretical writings. People who wanted to gain his favour approached him with presents of books, and the city of Metz gave him two real curiosities — the famous “Metz Bible” and the Missal of Charles the Bald. The Elzevirs sent him their best examples, and though Colbert probably saw more of the gilt covers of his books than of their contents, at least he preserved and handed down many valuable works. As much may be said for the reprobate Cardinal Dubois, who, with all his faults, was a collector. Bossuet, on the other hand, left little or nothing of interest except a copy of the 1682 edition of Moliere, whom he detested and condemned to “the punishment of those who laugh.” Even this book, which has a curious interest, has slipped out of sight, and may have ceased to exist.
If Colbert and Dubois preserved books from destruction, there are collectors enough who have been rescued from oblivion by books. The diplomacy of D’Hoym is forgotten; the plays of Longepierre, and his quarrels with J. B. Rousseau, are known only to the literary historian. These great amateurs have secured an eternity of gilt edges, an immortality of morocco. Absurd prices are given for any trash that belonged to them, and the writer of this notice has bought for four shillings an Elzevir classic, which when it bears the golden fleece of Longepierre is worth about 100 pounds. Longepierre, D’Hoym, McCarthy, and the Duc de la Valliere, with all their treasures, are less interesting to us than Graille, Coche and Loque, the neglected daughters of Louis XV. They found some pale consolation in their little cabinets of books, in their various liveries of olive, citron, and red morocco.
A lady amateur of high (book-collecting) reputation, the Comtesse de Verrue, was represented in the Beckford sale by one of three copies of ‘L’Histoire de Melusine,’ of Melusine, the twy-formed fairy, and ancestress of the house of Lusignan. The Comtesse de Verrue, one of the few women who have really understood book-collecting, 16 was born January 18, 1670, and died November 18, 1736. She was the daughter of Charles de Luynes and of his second wife, Anne de Rohan. When only thirteen she married the Comte de Verrue, who somewhat injudiciously presented her, a fleur de quinze ans, as Ronsard says, at the court of Victor Amadeus of Savoy. It is thought that the countess was less cruel than the fleur Angevine of Ronsard. For some reason the young matron fled from the court of Turin and returned to Paris, where she built a magnificent hotel, and received the most distinguished company. According to her biographer, the countess loved science and art jusqu’au delire, and she collected the furniture of the period, without neglecting the blue china of the glowing Orient. In ebony bookcases she possessed about eighteen thousand volumes, bound by the greatest artists of the day. “Without care for the present, without fear of the future, doing good, pursuing the beautiful, protecting the arts, with a tender heart and open hand, the countess passed through life, calm, happy, beloved, and admired.” She left an epitaph on herself, thus rudely translated:—
Here lies, in sleep secure,
A dame inclined to mirth,
Who, by way of making sure,
Chose her Paradise on earth.
During the Revolution, to like well-bound books was as much as to proclaim one an aristocrat. Condorcet might have escaped the scaffold if he had only thrown away the neat little Horace from the royal press, which betrayed him for no true Republican, but an educated man. The great libraries from the chateaux of the nobles were scattered among all the book-stalls. True sons of freedom tore off the bindings, with their gilded crests and scutcheons. One revolutionary writer declared, and perhaps he was not far wrong, that the art of binding was the worst enemy of reading. He always began his studies by breaking the backs of the volumes he was about to attack. The art of bookbinding in these sad years took flight to England, and was kept alive by artists robust rather than refined, like Thompson and Roger Payne. These were evil days, when the binder had to cut the aristocratic coat of arms out of a book cover, and glue in a gilt cap of liberty, as in a volume in an Oxford amateur’s collection.
When Napoleon became Emperor, he strove in vain to make the troubled and feverish years of his power produce a literature. He himself was one of the most voracious readers of novels that ever lived. He was always asking for the newest of the new, and unfortunately even the new romances of his period were hopelessly bad. Barbier, his librarian, had orders to send parcels of fresh fiction to his majesty wherever he might happen to be, and great loads of novels followed Napoleon to Germany, Spain, Italy, Russia. The conqueror was very hard to please. He read in his travelling carriage, and after skimming a few pages would throw a volume that bored him out of the window into the highway. He might have been tracked by his trail of romances, as was Hop-o’-my-Thumb, in the fairy tale, by the white stones he dropped behind him. Poor Barbier, who ministered to a passion for novels that demanded twenty volumes a day, was at his wit’s end. He tried to foist on the Emperor the romances of the year before last; but these Napoleon had generally read, and he refused, with imperial scorn, to look at them again. He ordered a travelling library of three thousand volumes to be made for him, but it was proved that the task could not be accomplished in less than six years. The expense, if only fifty copies of each example had been printed, would have amounted to more than six million francs. A Roman emperor would not have allowed these considerations to stand in his way; but Napoleon, after all, was a modern. He contented himself with a selection of books conveniently small in shape, and packed in sumptuous cases. The classical writers of France could never content Napoleon, and even from Moscow in 1812, he wrote to Barbier clamorous for new books, and good ones. Long before they could have reached Moscow, Napoleon was flying homeward before Kotousoff and Benningsen.
Napoleon was the last of the book-lovers who governed France. The Duc d’Aumale, a famous bibliophile, has never “come to his own,” and of M. Gambetta it is only known that his devotional library, at least, has found its way into the market. We have reached the era of private book-fanciers: of Nodier, who had three libraries in his time, but never a Virgil; and of Pixerecourt, the dramatist, who founded the Societe des Bibliophiles Francais. The Romantic movement in French literature brought in some new fashions in book-hunting. The original editions of Ronsard, Des Portes, Belleau, and Du Bellay became invaluable; while the writings of Gautier, Petrus Borel, and others excited the passion of collectors. Pixerecourt was a believer in the works of the Elzevirs. On one occasion, when he was outbid by a friend at an auction, he cried passionately, “I shall have that book at your sale!” and, the other poor bibliophile soon falling into a decline and dying, Pixerecourt got the volume which he so much desired. The superstitious might have been excused for crediting him with the gift of jettatura — of the evil eye. On Pixerecourt himself the evil eye fell at last; his theatre, the Gaiete, was burned down in 1835, and his creditors intended to impound his beloved books. The bibliophile hastily packed them in boxes, and conveyed them in two cabs and under cover of night to the house of M. Paul Lacroix. There they languished in exile till the affairs of the manager were settled.
Pixerecourt and Nodier, the most reckless of men, were the leaders of the older school of bibliomaniacs. The former was not a rich man; the second was poor, but he never hesitated in face of a price that he could not afford. He would literally ruin himself in the accumulation of a library, and then would recover his fortunes by selling his books. Nodier passed through life without a Virgil, because he never succeeded in finding the ideal Virgil of his dreams — a clean, uncut copy of the right Elzevir edition, with the misprint, and the two passages in red letters. Perhaps this failure was a judgment on him for the trick by which he beguiled a certain collector of Bibles. He INVENTED an edition, and put the collector on the scent, which he followed vainly, till he died of the sickness of hope deferred.
One has more sympathy with the eccentricities of Nodier than with the mere extravagance of the new haute ecole of bibliomaniacs, the school of millionnaires, royal dukes, and Rothschilds. These amateurs are reckless of prices, and by their competition have made it almost impossible for a poor man to buy a precious book. The dukes, the Americans, the public libraries, snap them all up in the auctions. A glance at M. Gustave Brunet’s little volume, ‘La Bibliomanie en 1878,’ will prove the excesses which these people commit. The funeral oration of Bossuet over Henriette Marie of France (1669), and Henriette Anne of England (1670), quarto, in the original binding, are sold for 200 pounds. It is true that this copy had possibly belonged to Bossuet himself, and certainly to his nephew. There is an example, as we have seen, of the 1682 edition of Moliere — of Moliere whom Bossuet detested — which also belonged to the eagle of Meaux. The manuscript notes of the divine on the work of the poor player must be edifying, and in the interests of science it is to be hoped that this book may soon come into the market. While pamphlets of Bossuet are sold so dear, the first edition of Homer — the beautiful edition of 1488, which the three young Florentine gentlemen published — may be had for 100 pounds. Yet even that seems expensive, when we remember that the copy in the library of George III. cost only seven shillings. This exquisite Homer, sacred to the memory of learned friendships, the chief offering of early printing at the altar of ancient poetry, is really one of the most interesting books in the world. Yet this Homer is less valued than the tiny octavo which contains the ballades and huitains of the scamp Francois Villon (1533). ‘The History of the Holy Grail’ (L’Hystoire du Sainct Greaal: Paris, 1523), in a binding stamped with the four crowns of Louis XIV., is valued at about 500 pounds. A chivalric romance of the old days, which was treasured even in the time of the grand monarque, when old French literature was so much despised, is certainly a curiosity. The Rabelais of Madame de Pompadour (in morocco) seems comparatively cheap at 60 pounds. There is something piquant in the idea of inheriting from that famous beauty the work of the colossal genius of Rabelais. 17
The natural sympathy of collectors “to middle fortune born” is not with the rich men whose sport in book-hunting resembles the battue. We side with the poor hunters of the wild game, who hang over the fourpenny stalls on the quais, and dive into the dusty boxes after literary pearls. These devoted men rise betimes, and hurry to the stalls before the common tide of passengers goes by. Early morning is the best moment in this, as in other sports. At half past seven, in summer, the bouquiniste, the dealer in cheap volumes at second-hand, arrays the books which he purchased over night, the stray possessions of ruined families, the outcasts of libraries. The old-fashioned bookseller knew little of the value of his wares; it was his object to turn a small certain profit on his expenditure. It is reckoned that an energetic, business-like old bookseller will turn over 150,000 volumes in a year. In this vast number there must be pickings for the humble collector who cannot afford to encounter the children of Israel at Sotheby’s or at the Hotel Drouot.
Let the enthusiast, in conclusion, throw a handful of lilies on the grave of the martyr of the love of books — the poet Albert Glatigny. Poor Glatigny was the son of a garde champetre; his education was accidental, and his poetic taste and skill extraordinarily fine and delicate. In his life of starvation (he had often to sleep in omnibuses and railway stations), he frequently spent the price of a dinner on a new book. He lived to read and to dream, and if he bought books he had not the wherewithal to live. Still, he bought them — and he died! His own poems were beautifully printed by Lemerre, and it may be a joy to him (si mentem mortalia tangunt) that they are now so highly valued that the price of a copy would have kept the author alive and happy for a month.
15 See Essay on ‘Lady Book–Lovers.’
16 See Essay on ‘Lady Book–Lovers.’
17 For a specimen of Madame Pompadour’s binding see overleaf. She had another Rabelais in calf, lately to be seen in a shop in Pall Mall.
Nothing can be plainer, as a rule, than a modern English title-page. Its only beauty (if beauty it possesses) consists in the arrangement and ‘massing’ of lines of type in various sizes. We have returned almost to the primitive simplicity of the oldest printed books, which had no title-pages, properly speaking, at all, or merely gave, with extreme brevity, the name of the work, without printer’s mark, or date, or place. These were reserved for the colophon, if it was thought desirable to mention them at all. Thus, in the black-letter example of Guido de Columna’s ‘History of Troy,’ written about 1283, and printed at Strasburg in 1489, the title-page is blank, except for the words,
standing alone at the top of the leaf. The colophon contains all the rest of the information, ‘happily completed in the City of Strasburg, in the year of Grace Mcccclxxxix, about the Feast of St. Urban.’ The printer and publisher give no name at all.
This early simplicity is succeeded, in French books, from, say, 1510, and afterwards, by the insertion either of the printer’s trademark, or, in black-letter books, of a rough woodcut, illustrative of the nature of the volume. The woodcuts have occasionally a rude kind of grace, with a touch of the classical taste of the early Renaissance surviving in extreme decay.
An excellent example is the title-page of ‘Les Demandes d’amours, avec les responses joyeuses,’ published by Jacques Moderne, at Lyon, 1540. There is a certain Pagan breadth and joyousness in the figure of Amor, and the man in the hood resembles traditional portraits of Dante.
There is more humour, and a good deal of skill, in the title-page of a book on late marriages and their discomforts, ‘Les dictz et complainctes de trop Tard marie’ (Jacques Moderne, Lyon, 1540), where we see the elderly and comfortable couple sitting gravely under their own fig-tree.
Jacques Moderne was a printer curious in these quaint devices, and used them in most of his books: for example, in ‘How Satan and the God Bacchus accuse the Publicans that spoil the wine,’ Bacchus and Satan (exactly like each other, as Sir Wilfrid Lawson will not be surprised to hear) are encouraging dishonest tavern-keepers to stew in their own juice in a caldron over a huge fire. From the same popular publisher came a little tract on various modes of sport, if the name of sport can be applied to the netting of fish and birds. The work is styled ‘Livret nouveau auquel sont contenuz xxv receptes de prendre poissons et oiseaulx avec les mains.’ A countryman clad in a goat’s skin with the head and horns drawn over his head as a hood, is dragging ashore a net full of fishes. There is no more characteristic frontispiece of this black-letter sort than the woodcut representing a gallows with three men hanging on it, which illustrates Villon’s ‘Ballade des Pendus,’ and is reproduced in Mr. John Payne’s ‘Poems of Master Francis Villon of Paris’ (London, 1878). 18
Earlier in date than these vignettes of Jacques Moderne, but much more artistic and refined in design, are some frontispieces of small octavos printed en lettres rondes, about 1530. In these rubricated letters are used with brilliant effect. One of the best is the title-page of Galliot du Pre’s edition of ‘Le Rommant de la Rose’ (Paris, 1529). 19 Galliot du Pre’s artist, however, surpassed even the charming device of the Lover plucking the Rose, in his title-page, of the same date, for the small octavo edition of Alain Chartier’s poems, which we reproduce here.
The arrangement of letters, and the use of red, make a charming frame, as it were, to the drawing of the mediaeval ship, with the Motto VOGUE LA GALEE.
Title-pages like these, with designs appropriate to the character of the text, were superseded presently by the fashion of badges, devices, and mottoes. As courtiers and ladies had their private badges, not hereditary, like crests, but personal — the crescent of Diane, the salamander of Francis I., the skulls and cross-bones of Henri III., the marguerites of Marguerite, with mottoes like the Le Banny de liesse, Le traverseur des voies perilleuses, Tout par Soulas, and the like, so printers and authors had their emblems, and their private literary slogans. These they changed, accordinging
to fancy, or the vicissitudes of their lives. Clement Marot’s motto was La Mort n’y Mord. It is indicated by the letters L. M. N. M. in the curious title of an edition of Marot’s works published at Lyons by Jean de Tournes in 1579. The portrait represents the poet when the tide of years had borne him far from his youth, far from L’Adolescence Clementine.
The unfortunate Etienne Dolet, perhaps the only publisher who was ever burned, used an ominous device, a trunk of a tree, with the axe struck into it. In publishing ‘Les Marguerites de la Marguerite des Princesses, tres illustre Royne de Navarre,’ Jean de Tournes employed a pretty allegorical device. Love, with the bandage thrust back from his eyes, and with the bow and arrows in his hand, has flown up to the sun, which he seems to touch; like Prometheus in the myth when he stole the fire, a shower of flowers and flames falls around him. Groueleau, of Paris, had for motto Nul ne s’y frotte, with the thistle for badge. These are beautifully combined in the title-page of his version of Apuleius, ‘L’Amour de Cupido et de Psyche’ (Paris, 1557). There is probably no better date for frontispieces, both for ingenuity of device and for elegance of arrangement of title, than the years between 1530 and 1560. By 1562, when the first edition of the famous Fifth Book of Rabelais was published, the printers appear to have thought devices wasted on popular books, and the title of the Master’s posthumous chapters is printed quite simply.
In 1532–35 there was a more adventurous taste — witness the title of ‘Gargantua.’ This beautiful title decorates the first known edition, with a date of the First Book of Rabelais. It was sold, most appropriately, devant nostre Dame de Confort. Why should so glorious a relic of the Master have been carried out of England, at the Sunderland sale? All the early titles of Francois Juste’s Lyons editions of Rabelais are on this model. By 1542 he dropped the framework of architectural design. By 1565 Richard Breton, in Paris, was printing Rabelais with a frontispiece of a classical dame holding a heart to the sun, a figure which is almost in the taste of Stothard, or Flaxman.
The taste for vignettes, engraved on copper, not on wood, was revived under the Elzevirs. Their pretty little title-pages are not so well known but that we offer examples. In the essay on the Elzevirs in this volume will be found a copy of the vignette of the ‘Imitatio Christi,’ and of ‘Le Pastissier Francois’ a reproduction is given here (pp. 114, 115). The artists they employed had plenty of fancy, not backed by very profound skill in design.
In the same genre as the big-wigged classicism of the Elzevir vignettes, in an age when Louis XIV. and Moliere (in tragedy) wore laurel wreaths over vast perruques, are the early frontispieces of Moliere’s own collected works. Probably the most interesting of all French title-pages are those drawn by Chauveau for the two volumes ‘Les Oeuvres de M. de Moliere,’ published in 1666 by Guillaume de Luynes. The first shows Moliere in two characters, as Mascarille, and as Sganarelle, in ‘Le Cocu Imaginaire.’ Contrast the full-blown jollity of the fourbum imperator, in his hat, and feather, and wig, and vast canons, and tremendous shoe-tie, with the lean melancholy of jealous Sganarelle. These are two notable aspects of the genius of the great comedian. The apes below are the supporters of his scutcheon.
The second volume shows the Muse of Comedy crowning Mlle. de Moliere (Armande Bejart) in the dress of Agnes, while her husband is in the costume, apparently, of Tartuffe, or of Sganarelle in ‘L’Ecole des Femmes.’ ‘Tartuffe’ had not yet been licensed for a public stage. The interest of the portraits and costumes makes these title-pages precious, they are historical documents rather than mere curiosities.
These title-pages of Moliere are the highwater mark of French taste in this branch of decoration. In the old quarto first editions of Corneille’s early plays, such as ‘Le Cid’ (Paris 1637), the printers used lax and sprawling combinations of flowers and fruit. These, a little better executed, were the staple of Ribou, de Luynes, Quinet, and the other Parisian booksellers who, one after another, failed to satisfy Moliere as publishers.
The basket of fruits on the title-page of ‘Iphigenie,’ par M. Racine (Barbin, Paris, 1675), is almost, but not quite, identical with the similar ornament of De Vise’s ‘La Cocue Imaginaire’ (Ribou, Paris 1662). Many of Moliere’s plays appearing first, separately, in small octavo, were adorned with frontispieces, illustrative of some scene in the comedy. Thus, in the ‘Misanthrope’ (Rihou 1667) we see Alceste, green ribbons and all, discoursing with Philinte, or perhaps listening to the famous sonnet of Oronte; it is not easy to be quite certain, but the expression of Alceste’s face looks rather as if he were being baited with a sonnet. From the close of the seventeenth century onwards, the taste for title-pages declined, except when Moreau or Gravelot drew vignettes on copper, with abundance of cupids and nymphs. These were designed for very luxurious and expensive books; for others, men contented themselves with a bald simplicity, which has prevailed till our own time. In recent years the employment of publishers’ devices has been less unusual and more agreeable. Thus Poulet Malassis had his armes parlantes, a chicken very uncomfortably perched on a rail. In England we have the cipher and bees of Messrs. Macmillan, the Trees of Life and Knowledge of Messrs. Kegan Paul and Trench, the Ship, which was the sign of Messrs. Longman’s early place of business, and doubtless other symbols, all capable of being quaintly treated in a title-page.
Thomas Blinton was a book-hunter. He had always been a book-hunter, ever since, at an extremely early age, he had awakened to the errors of his ways as a collector of stamps and monograms. In book-hunting he saw no harm; nay, he would contrast its joys, in a rather pharisaical style, with the pleasures of shooting and fishing. He constantly declined to believe that the devil came for that renowned amateur of black letter, G. Steevens. Dibdin himself, who tells the story (with obvious anxiety and alarm), pretends to refuse credit to the ghastly narrative. “His language,” says Dibdin, in his account of the book-hunter’s end, “was, too frequently, the language of imprecation.” This is rather good, as if Dibdin thought a gentleman might swear pretty often, but not “TOO frequently.” “Although I am not disposed to admit,” Dibdin goes on, “the WHOLE of the testimony of the good woman who watched by Steevens’s bedside, although my prejudices (as they may be called) will not allow me to believe that the windows shook, and that strange noises and deep groans were heard at midnight in his room, yet no creature of common sense (and this woman possessed the quality in an eminent degree) could mistake oaths for prayers;” and so forth. In short, Dibdin clearly holds that the windows did shake “without a blast,” like the banners in Branxholme Hall when somebody came for the Goblin Page.
But Thomas Blinton would hear of none of these things. He said that his taste made him take exercise; that he walked from the City to West Kensington every day, to beat the covers of the book-stalls, while other men travelled in the expensive cab or the unwholesome Metropolitan Railway. We are all apt to hold favourable views of our own amusements, and, for my own part, I believe that trout and salmon are incapable of feeling pain. But the flimsiness of Blinton’s theories must be apparent to every unbiassed moralist. His “harmless taste” really involved most of the deadly sins, or at all events a fair working majority of them. He coveted his neighbours’ books. When he got the chance he bought books in a cheap market and sold them in a dear market, thereby degrading literature to the level of trade. He took advantage of the ignorance of uneducated persons who kept book-stalls. He was envious, and grudged the good fortune of others, while he rejoiced in their failures. He turned a deaf ear to the appeals of poverty. He was luxurious, and laid out more money than he should have done on his selfish pleasures, often adorning a volume with a morocco binding when Mrs. Blinton sighed in vain for some old point d’Alencon lace. Greedy, proud, envious, stingy, extravagant, and sharp in his dealings, Blinton was guilty of most of the sins which the Church recognises as “deadly.”
On the very day before that of which the affecting history is now to be told, Blinton had been running the usual round of crime. He had (as far as intentions went) defrauded a bookseller in Holywell Street by purchasing from him, for the sum of two shillings, what he took to be a very rare Elzevir. It is true that when he got home and consulted ‘Willems,’ he found that he had got hold of the wrong copy, in which the figures denoting the numbers of pages are printed right, and which is therefore worth exactly “nuppence” to the collector. But the intention is the thing, and Blinton’s intention was distinctly fraudulent. When he discovered his error, then “his language,” as Dibdin says, “was that of imprecation.” Worse (if possible) than this, Blinton had gone to a sale, begun to bid for ‘Les Essais de Michel, Seigneur de Montaigne’ (Foppens, MDCLIX.), and, carried away by excitement, had “plunged” to the extent of 15 pounds, which was precisely the amount of money he owed his plumber and gasfitter, a worthy man with a large family. Then, meeting a friend (if the book-hunter has friends), or rather an accomplice in lawless enterprise, Blinton had remarked the glee on the other’s face. The poor man had purchased a little old Olaus Magnus, with woodcuts, representing were-wolves, fire-drakes, and other fearful wild-fowl, and was happy in his bargain. But Blinton, with fiendish joy, pointed out to him that the index was imperfect, and left him sorrowing.
Deeds more foul have yet to be told. Thomas Blinton had discovered a new sin, so to speak, in the collecting way. Aristophanes says of one of his favourite blackguards, “Not only is he a villain, but he has invented an original villainy.” Blinton was like this. He maintained that every man who came to notoriety had, at some period, published a volume of poems which he had afterwards repented of and withdrawn. It was Blinton’s hideous pleasure to collect stray copies of these unhappy volumes, these ‘Peches de Jeunesse,’ which, always and invariably, bear a gushing inscription from the author to a friend. He had all Lord John Manners’s poems, and even Mr. Ruskin’s. He had the ‘Ode to Despair’ of Smith (now a comic writer), and the ‘Love Lyrics’ of Brown, who is now a permanent under-secretary, than which nothing can be less gay nor more permanent. He had the amatory songs which a dignitary of the Church published and withdrew from circulation. Blinton was wont to say he expected to come across ‘Triolets of a Tribune,’ by Mr. John Bright, and ‘Original Hymns for Infant Minds,’ by Mr. Henry Labouchere, if he only hunted long enough.
On the day of which I speak he had secured a volume of love-poems which the author had done his best to destroy, and he had gone to his club and read all the funniest passages aloud to friends of the author, who was on the club committee. Ah, was this a kind action? In short, Blinton had filled up the cup of his iniquities, and nobody will be surprised to hear that he met the appropriate punishment of his offence. Blinton had passed, on the whole, a happy day, notwithstanding the error about the Elzevir. He dined well at his club, went home, slept well, and started next morning for his office in the City, walking, as usual, and intending to pursue the pleasures of the chase at all the book-stalls. At the very first, in the Brompton Road, he saw a man turning over the rubbish in the cheap box. Blinton stared at him, fancied he knew him, thought he didn’t, and then became a prey to the glittering eye of the other. The Stranger, who wore the conventional cloak and slouched soft hat of Strangers, was apparently an accomplished mesmerist, or thought-reader, or adept, or esoteric Buddhist. He resembled Mr. Isaacs, Zanoni (in the novel of that name), Mendoza (in ‘Codlingsby’), the soul-less man in ‘A Strange Story,’ Mr. Home, Mr. Irving Bishop, a Buddhist adept in the astral body, and most other mysterious characters of history and fiction. Before his Awful Will, Blinton’s mere modern obstinacy shrank back like a child abashed. The Stranger glided to him and whispered, “Buy these.”
“These” were a complete set of Auerbach’s novels, in English, which, I need not say, Blinton would never have dreamt of purchasing had he been left to his own devices.
“Buy these!” repeated the Adept, or whatever he was, in a cruel whisper. Paying the sum demanded, and trailing his vast load of German romance, poor Blinton followed the fiend.
They reached a stall where, amongst much trash, Glatigny’s ‘Jour de l’An d’un Vagabond’ was exposed.
“Look,” said Blinton, “there is a book I have wanted some time. Glatignys are getting rather scarce, and it is an amusing trifle.”
“ Nay, buy THAT,” said the implacable Stranger, pointing with a hooked forefinger at Alison’s ‘History of Europe’ in an indefinite number of volumes. Blinton shuddered.
“What, buy THAT, and why? In heaven’s name, what could I do with it?”
“Buy it,” repeated the persecutor, “and THAT” (indicating the ‘Ilios’ of Dr. Schliemann, a bulky work), “and THESE” (pointing to all Mr. Theodore Alois Buckley’s translations of the Classics), “and THESE” (glancing at the collected writings of the late Mr. Hain Friswell, and at a ‘Life,’ in more than one volume, of Mr. Gladstone).
The miserable Blinton paid, and trudged along carrying the bargains under his arm. Now one book fell out, now another dropped by the way. Sometimes a portion of Alison came ponderously to earth; sometimes the ‘Gentle Life’ sunk resignedly to the ground. The Adept kept picking them up again, and packing them under the arms of the weary Blinton.
The victim now attempted to put on an air of geniality, and tried to enter into conversation with his tormentor.
“He DOES know about books,” thought Blinton, “and he must have a weak spot somewhere.”
So the wretched amateur made play in his best conversational style. He talked of bindings, of Maioli, of Grolier, of De Thou, of Derome, of Clovis Eve, of Roger Payne, of Trautz, and eke of Bauzonnet. He discoursed of first editions, of black letter, and even of illustrations and vignettes. He approached the topic of Bibles, but here his tyrant, with a fierce yet timid glance, interrupted him.
“Buy those!” he hissed through his teeth.
“Those” were the complete publications of the Folk Lore Society.
Blinton did not care for folk lore (very bad men never do), but he had to act as he was told.
Then, without pause or remorse, he was charged to acquire the ‘Ethics’ of Aristotle, in the agreeable versions of Williams and Chase. Next he secured ‘Strathmore,’ ‘Chandos,’ ‘Under Two Flags,’ and ‘Two Little Wooden Shoes,’ and several dozens more of Ouida’s novels. The next stall was entirely filled with school-books, old geographies, Livys, Delectuses, Arnold’s ‘Greek Exercises,’ Ollendorffs, and what not.
“Buy them all,” hissed the fiend. He seized whole boxes and piled them on Blinton’s head.
He tied up Ouida’s novels, in two parcels, with string, and fastened each to one of the buttons above the tails of Blinton’s coat.
“You are tired?” asked the tormentor. “Never mind, these books will soon be off your hands.”
So speaking, the Stranger, with amazing speed, hurried Blinton back through Holywell Street, along the Strand, and up to Piccadilly, stopping at last at the door of Blinton’s famous and very expensive binder.
The binder opened his eyes, as well he might, at the vision of Blinton’s treasures. Then the miserable Blinton found himself, as it were automatically and without any exercise of his will, speaking thus:—
“Here are some things I have picked up — extremely rare — and you will oblige me by binding them in your best manner, regardless of expense. Morocco, of course; crushed levant morocco, double, every book of them, petits fers, my crest and coat of arms, plenty of gilding. Spare no cost. Don’t keep me waiting, as you generally do;” for indeed book-binders are the most dilatory of the human species.
Before the astonished binder could ask the most necessary questions, Blinton’s tormentor had hurried that amateur out of the room.
“Come on to the sale,” he cried.
“What sale?” said Blinton.
“Why, the Beckford sale; it is the thirteenth day, a lucky day.”
“But I have forgotten my catalogue.”
“Where is it?”
“In the third shelf from the top, on the right-hand side of the ebony book-case at home.”
The stranger stretched out his arm, which swiftly elongated itself till the hand disappeared from view round the corner. In a moment the hand returned with the catalogue. The pair sped on to Messrs. Sotheby’s auction-rooms in Wellington Street. Every one knows the appearance of a great book-sale. The long table, surrounded by eager bidders, resembles from a little distance a roulette table, and communicates the same sort of excitement. The amateur is at a loss to know how to conduct himself. If he bids in his own person some bookseller will outbid him, partly because the bookseller knows, after all, he knows little about books, and suspects that the amateur may, in this case, know more. Besides, professionals always dislike amateurs, and, in this game, they have a very great advantage. Blinton knew all this, and was in the habit of giving his commissions to a broker. But now he felt (and very naturally) as if a demon had entered into him. ‘Tirante il Bianco Valorosissimo Cavaliere’ was being competed for, an excessively rare romance of chivalry, in magnificent red Venetian morocco, from Canevari’s library. The book is one of the rarest of the Venetian Press, and beautifully adorned with Canevari’s device — a simple and elegant affair in gold and colours. “Apollo is driving his chariot across the green waves towards the rock, on which winged Pegasus is pawing the ground,” though why this action of a horse should be called “pawing” (the animal notoriously not possessing paws) it is hard to say. Round this graceful design is the inscription [Greek text] (straight not crooked). In his ordinary mood Blinton could only have admired ‘Tirante il Bianco’ from a distance. But now, the demon inspiring him, he rushed into the lists, and challenged the great Mr. — the Napoleon of bookselling. The price had already reached five hundred pounds.
“Six hundred,” cried Blinton.
“Guineas,” said the great Mr. —.
“Seven hundred,” screamed Blinton.
“Guineas,” replied the other.
This arithmetical dialogue went on till even Mr. — struck his flag, with a sigh, when the maddened Blinton had said “Six thousand.” The cheers of the audience rewarded the largest bid ever made for any book. As if he had not done enough, the Stranger now impelled Blinton to contend with Mr. — for every expensive work that appeared. The audience naturally fancied that Blinton was in the earlier stage of softening of the brain, when a man conceives himself to have inherited boundless wealth, and is determined to live up to it. The hammer fell for the last time. Blinton owed some fifty thousand pounds, and exclaimed audibly, as the influence of the fiend died out, “I am a ruined man.”
“Then your books must be sold,” cried the Stranger, and, leaping on a chair, he addressed the audience:—
“Gentlemen, I invite you to Mr. Blinton’s sale, which will immediately take place. The collection contains some very remarkable early English poets, many first editions of the French classics, most of the rarer Aldines, and a singular assortment of Americana.”
In a moment, as if by magic, the shelves round the room were filled with Blinton’s books, all tied up in big lots of some thirty volumes each. His early Molieres were fastened to old French dictionaries and school-books. His Shakespeare quartos were in the same lot with tattered railway novels. His copy (almost unique) of Richard Barnfield’s much too ‘Affectionate Shepheard’ was coupled with odd volumes of ‘Chips from a German Workshop’ and a cheap, imperfect example of ‘Tom Brown’s School–Days.’ Hookes’s ‘Amanda’ was at the bottom of a lot of American devotional works, where it kept company with an Elzevir Tacitus and the Aldine ‘Hypnerotomachia.’ The auctioneer put up lot after lot, and Blinton plainly saw that the whole affair was a “knock-out.” His most treasured spoils were parted with at the price of waste paper. It is an awful thing to be present at one’s own sale. No man would bid above a few shillings. Well did Blinton know that after the knock-out the plunder would be shared among the grinning bidders. At last his ‘Adonais,’ uncut, bound by Lortic, went, in company with some old ‘Bradshaws,’ the ‘Court Guide’ of 1881, and an odd volume of the ‘Sunday at Home,’ for sixpence. The Stranger smiled a smile of peculiar malignity. Blinton leaped up to protest; the room seemed to shake around him, but words would not come to his lips.
Then he heard a familiar voice observe, as a familiar grasp shook his shoulder —
“Tom, Tom, what a nightmare you are enjoying!”
He was in his own arm-chair, where he had fallen asleep after dinner, and Mrs. Blinton was doing her best to arouse him from his awful vision. Beside him lay ‘L’Enfer du Bibliophile, vu et decrit par Charles Asselineau.’ (Paris: Tardieu, MDCCCLX.)
If this were an ordinary tract, I should have to tell how Blinton’s eyes were opened, how he gave up book-collecting, and took to gardening, or politics, or something of that sort. But truth compels me to admit that Blinton’s repentance had vanished by the end of the week, when he was discovered marking M. Claudin’s catalogue, surreptitiously, before breakfast. Thus, indeed, end all our remorses. “Lancelot falls to his own love again,” as in the romance. Much, and justly, as theologians decry a death-bed repentance, it is, perhaps, the only repentance that we do not repent of. All others leave us ready, when occasion comes, to fall to our old love again; and may that love never be worse than the taste for old books! Once a collector, always a collector. Moi qui parle, I have sinned, and struggled, and fallen. I have thrown catalogues, unopened, into the waste-paper basket. I have withheld my feet from the paths that lead to Sotheby’s and to Puttick’s. I have crossed the street to avoid a book-stall. In fact, like the prophet Nicholas, “I have been known to be steady for weeks at a time.” And then the fatal moment of temptation has arrived, and I have succumbed to the soft seductions of Eisen, or Cochin, or an old book on Angling. Probably Grolier was thinking of such weaknesses when he chose his devices Tanquam Ventus, and quisque suos patimur Manes. Like the wind we are blown about, and, like the people in the AEneid, we are obliged to suffer the consequences of our own extravagance.
The Books I cannot hope to buy,
Their phantoms round me waltz and wheel,
They pass before the dreaming eye,
Ere Sleep the dreaming eye can seal.
A kind of literary reel
They dance; how fair the bindings shine!
Prose cannot tell them what I feel —
The Books that never can be mine!
There frisk Editions rare and shy,
Morocco clad from head to heel;
Shakspearian quartos; Comedy
As first she flashed from Richard Steele;
And quaint De Foe on Mrs. Veal;
And, lord of landing net and line,
Old Izaak with his fishing creel —
The Books that never can be mine!
Incunables! for you I sigh,
Black letter, at thy founts I kneel,
Old tales of Perrault’s nursery,
For you I’d go without a meal!
For Books wherein did Aldus deal
And rare Galliot du Pre I pine.
The watches of the night reveal
The Books that never can be mine!
Prince, bear a hopeless Bard’s appeal;
Reverse the rules of Mine and Thine;
Make it legitimate to steal
The Books that never can be mine!
The biographer of Mrs. Aphra Behn refutes the vulgar error that “a Dutchman cannot love.” Whether or not a lady can love books is a question that may not be so readily settled. Mr. Ernest Quentin Bauchart has contributed to the discussion of this problem by publishing a bibliography, in two quarto volumes, of books which have been in the libraries of famous beauties of old, queens and princesses of France. There can be no doubt that these ladies were possessors of exquisite printed books and manuscripts wonderfully bound, but it remains uncertain whether the owners, as a rule, were bibliophiles; whether their hearts were with their treasures. Incredible as it may seem to us now, literature was highly respected in the past, and was even fashionable. Poets were in favour at court, and Fashion decided that the great must possess books, and not only books, but books produced in the utmost perfection of art, and bound with all the skill at the disposal of Clovis Eve, and Padeloup, and Duseuil. Therefore, as Fashion gave her commands, we cannot hastily affirm that the ladies who obeyed were really book-lovers. In our more polite age, Fashion has decreed that ladies shall smoke, and bet, and romp, but it would be premature to assert that all ladies who do their duty in these matters are born romps, or have an unaffected liking for cigarettes. History, however, maintains that many of the renowned dames whose books are now the most treasured of literary relics were actually inclined to study as well as to pleasure, like Marguerite de Valois and the Comtesse de Verrue, and even Madame de Pompadour. Probably books and arts were more to this lady’s liking than the diversions by which she beguiled the tedium of Louis XV.; and many a time she would rather have been quiet with her plays and novels than engaged in conscientiously conducted but distasteful revels.
Like a true Frenchman, M. Bauchart has only written about French lady book-lovers, or about women who, like Mary Stuart, were more than half French. Nor would it be easy for an English author to name, outside the ranks of crowned heads, like Elizabeth, any Englishwomen of distinction who had a passion for the material side of literature, for binding, and first editions, and large paper, and engravings in early “states.” The practical sex, when studious, is like the same sex when fond of equestrian exercise. “A lady says, ‘My heyes, he’s an ‘orse, and he must go,’” according to Leech’s groom. In the same way, a studious girl or matron says, “This is a book,” and reads it, if read she does, without caring about the date, or the state, or the publisher’s name, or even very often about the author’s. I remember, before the publication of a novel now celebrated, seeing a privately printed vellum-bound copy on large paper in the hands of a literary lady. She was holding it over the fire, and had already made the vellum covers curl wide open like the shells of an afflicted oyster.
When I asked what the volume was, she explained that “It is a book which a poor man has written, and he’s had it printed to see whether some one won’t be kind enough to publish it.” I ventured, perhaps pedantically, to point out that the poor man could not be so very poor, or he would not have made so costly an experiment on Dutch paper. But the lady said she did not know how that might be, and she went on toasting the experiment. In all this there is a fine contempt for everything but the spiritual aspect of literature; there is an aversion to the mere coquetry and display of morocco and red letters, and the toys which amuse the minds of men. Where ladies have caught “the Bibliomania,” I fancy they have taken this pretty fever from the other sex. But it must be owned that the books they have possessed, being rarer and more romantic, are even more highly prized by amateurs than examples from the libraries of Grolier, and Longepierre, and D’Hoym. M. Bauchart’s book is a complete guide to the collector of these expensive relics. He begins his dream of fair women who have owned books with the pearl of the Valois, Marguerite d’Angouleme, the sister of Francis I. The remains of her library are chiefly devotional manuscripts. Indeed, it is to be noted that all these ladies, however frivolous, possessed the most devout and pious books, and whole collections of prayers copied out by the pen, and decorated with miniatures. Marguerite’s library was bound in morocco, stamped with a crowned M in interlacs sown with daisies, or, at least, with conventional flowers which may have been meant for daisies. If one could choose, perhaps the most desirable of the specimens extant is ‘Le Premier Livre du Prince des Poetes, Homere,’ in Salel’s translation. For this translation Ronsard writes a prologue, addressed to the manes of Salel, in which he complains that he is ridiculed for his poetry. He draws a characteristic picture of Homer and Salel in Elysium, among the learned lovers:
qui parmi les fleurs devisent
Au giron de leur dame.
Marguerite’s manuscript copy of the First Book of the Iliad is a small quarto, adorned with daisies, fleurs delis, and the crowned M. It is in the Duc d’Aumale’s collection at Chantilly. The books of Diane de Poitiers are more numerous and more famous. When first a widow she stamped her volumes with a laurel springing from a tomb, and the motto, “Sola vivit in illo.” But when she consoled herself with Henri II. she suppressed the tomb, and made the motto meaningless. Her crescent shone not only on her books, but on the palace walls of France, in the Louvre, Fontainebleau, and Anet, and her initial D. is inextricably interlaced with the H. of her royal lover. Indeed, Henri added the D to his own cypher, and this must have been so embarrassing for his wife Catherine, that people have good-naturedly tried to read the curves of the D’s as C’s. The D’s, and the crescents, and the bows of his Diana are impressed even on the covers of Henri’s Book of Hours. Catherine’s own cypher is a double C enlaced with an H, or double K’s (Katherine) combined in the same manner. These, unlike the D.H., are surmounted with a crown — the one advantage which the wife possessed over the favourite. Among Diane’s books are various treatises on medicines and on surgery, and plenty of poetry and Italian novels. Among the books exhibited at the British Museum in glass cases is Diane’s copy of Bembo’s ‘History of Venice.’ An American collector, Mr. Barlow, of New York, is happy enough to possess her ‘Singularitez de la France Antarctique’ (Antwerp, 1558).
Catherine de Medicis got splendid books on the same terms as foreign pirates procure English novels — she stole them. The Marshal Strozzi, dying in the French service, left a noble collection, on which Catherine laid her hands. Brantome says that Strozzi’s son often expressed to him a candid opinion about this transaction. What with her own collection and what with the Marshal’s, Catherine possessed about four thousand volumes. On her death they were in peril of being seized by her creditors, but her almoner carried them to his own house, and De Thou had them placed in the royal library. Unluckily it was thought wiser to strip the books of the coats with Catherine’s compromising device, lest her creditors should single them out, and take them away in their pockets. Hence, books with her arms and cypher are exceedingly rare. At the sale of the collections of the Duchesse de Berry, a Book of Hours of Catherine’s was sold for 2,400 pounds.
Mary Stuart of Scotland was one of the lady book-lovers whose taste was more than a mere following of the fashion. Some of her books, like one of Marie Antoinette’s, were the companions of her captivity, and still bear the sad complaints which she entrusted to these last friends of fallen royalty. Her note-book, in which she wrote her Latin prose exercises when a girl, still survives, bound in red morocco, with the arms of France. In a Book of Hours, now the property of the Czar, may be partly deciphered the quatrains which she composed in her sorrowful years, but many of them are mutilated by the binder’s shears. The Queen used the volume as a kind of album: it contains the signatures of the “Countess of Schrewsbury” (as M. Bauchart has it), of Walsingham, of the Earl of Sussex, and of Charles Howard, Earl of Nottingham. There is also the signature, “Your most infortunat, ARBELLA SEYMOUR;” and “Fr. Bacon.”
This remarkable manuscript was purchased in Paris, during the Revolution, by Peter Dubrowsky, who carried it to Russia. Another Book of Hours of the Queen’s bears this inscription, in a sixteenth-century hand: “Ce sont les Heures de Marie Setuart Renne. Marguerite de Blacuod de Rosay.” In De Blacuod it is not very easy to recognise “Blackwood.” Marguerite was probably the daughter of Adam Blackwood, who wrote a volume on Mary Stuart’s sufferings (Edinburgh, 1587).
The famous Marguerite de Valois, the wife of Henri IV., had certainly a noble library, and many beautifully bound books stamped with daisies are attributed to her collections. They bear the motto, “Expectata non eludet,” which appears to refer, first to the daisy (“Margarita”), which is punctual in the spring, or rather is “the constellated flower that never sets,” and next, to the lady, who will “keep tryst.” But is the lady Marguerite de Valois? Though the books have been sold at very high prices as relics of the leman of La Mole, it seems impossible to demonstrate that they were ever on her shelves, that they were bound by Clovis Eve from her own design. “No mention is made of them in any contemporary document, and the judicious are reduced to conjectures.” Yet they form a most important collection, systematically bound, science and philosophy in citron morocco, the poets in green, and history and theology in red. In any case it is absurd to explain “Expectata non eludet” as a reference to the lily of the royal arms, which appears on the centre of the daisy-pied volumes. The motto, in that case, would run, “Expectata (lilia) non eludent.” As it stands, the feminine adjective, “expectata,” in the singular, must apply either to the lady who owned the volumes, or to the “Margarita,” her emblem, or to both. Yet the ungrammatical rendering is that which M. Bauchart suggests. Many of the books, Marguerite’s or not, were sold at prices over 100 pounds in London, in 1884 and 1883. The Macrobius, and Theocritus, and Homer are in the Cracherode collection at the British Museum. The daisy crowned Ronsard went for 430 pounds at the Beckford sale. These prices will probably never be reached again.
If Anne of Austria, the mother of Louis XIV., was a bibliophile, she may be suspected of acting on the motive, “Love me, love my books.” About her affection for Cardinal Mazarin there seems to be no doubt: the Cardinal had a famous library, and his royal friend probably imitated his tastes. In her time, and on her volumes, the originality and taste of the skilled binder, Le Gascon, begin to declare themselves. The fashionable passion for lace, to which La Fontaine made such sacrifices, affected the art of book decorations, and Le Gascon’s beautiful patterns of gold points and dots are copies of the productions of Venice. The Queen–Mother’s books include many devotional treatises, for, whatever other fashions might come and go, piety was always constant before the Revolution. Anne of Austria seems to have been particularly fond of the lives and works of Saint Theresa, and Saint Francois de Sales, and John of the Cross. But she was not unread in the old French poets, such as Coquillart; she condescended to Ariosto; she had that dubious character, Theophile de Viaud, beautifully bound; she owned the Rabelais of 1553; and, what is particularly interesting, M. de Lignerolles possesses her copy of ‘L’Eschole des Femmes, Comedie par J. B. P. Moliere. Paris: Guillaume de Luynes, 1663.’ In 12 [degree sign], red morocco, gilt edges, and the Queen’s arms on the covers. This relic is especially valuable when we remember that ‘L’Ecole des Femmes’ and Arnolphe’s sermon to Agnes, and his comic threats of future punishment first made envy take the form of religious persecution. The devout Queen–Mother was often appealed to by the enemies of Moliere, yet Anne of Austria had not only seen his comedy, but possessed this beautiful example of the first edition. M. Paul Lacroix supposes that this copy was offered to the Queen–Mother by Moliere himself. The frontispiece (Arnolphe preaching to Agnes) is thought to be a portrait of Moliere, but in the reproduction in M. Louis Lacour’s edition it is not easy to see any resemblance. Apparently Anne did not share the views, even in her later years, of the converted Prince de Conty, for several comedies and novels remain stamped with her arms and device.
The learned Marquise de Rambouillet, the parent of all the ‘Precieuses,’ must have owned a good library, but nothing is chronicled save her celebrated book of prayers and meditations, written out and decorated by Jarry. It is bound in red morocco, double with green, and covered with V’s in gold. The Marquise composed the prayers for her own use, and Jarry was so much struck with their beauty that he asked leave to introduce them into the Book of Hours which he had to copy, “for the prayers are often so silly,” said he, “that I am ashamed to write them out.”
Here is an example of the devotions which Jarry admired, a prayer to Saint Louis. It was published in ‘Miscellanies Bibliographiques’ by M. Prosper Blanchemain.
PRIERE A SAINT-LOUIS,
ROY DE FRANCE.
Grand Roy, bien que votre couronne ayt este des plus esclatantes de la Terre, celle que vous portez dans le ciel est incomparablement plus precieuse. L’une estoit perissable l’autre est immortelle et ces lys dont la blancheur se pouvoit ternir, sont maintenant incorruptibles. Vostre obeissance envers vostre mere; vostre justice envers vos sujets; et vos guerres contre les infideles, vous ont acquis la veneration de tous les peuples; et la France doit a vos travaux et a vostre piete l’inestimable tresor de la sanglante et glorieuse couronne du Sauveur du monde. Priez-le incomparable Saint qu’il donne une paix perpetuelle au Royaume dont vous avez porte le sceptre; qu’il le preserve d’heresie; qu’il y face toujours regner saintement vostre illustre Sang; et que tous ceux qui ont l’honneur d’en descendre soient pour jamais fideles a son Eglise.
The daughter of the Marquise, the fair Julie, heroine of that “long courting” by M. de Montausier, survives in those records as the possessor of ‘La Guirlande de Julie,’ the manuscript book of poems by eminent hands. But this manuscript seems to have been all the library of Julie; therein she could constantly read of her own perfections. To be sure she had also ‘L’Histoire de Gustave Adolphe,’ a hero for whom, like Major Dugald Dalgetty, she cherished a supreme devotion. In the ‘Guirlande’ Chapelain’s verses turn on the pleasing fancy that the Protestant Lion of the North, changed into a flower (like Paul Limayrac in M. Banville’s ode), requests Julie to take pity on his altered estate:
Sois pitoyable a ma langueur;
Et si je n’ay place en ton coeur
Que je l’aye au moins sur ta teste.
These verses were reckoned consummate.
The ‘Guirlande’ is still, with happier fate than attends most books, in the hands of the successors of the Duc and Duchesse de Montausier.
Like Julie, Madame de Maintenon was a precieuse, but she never had time to form a regular library. Her books, however, were bound by Duseuil, a binder immortal in the verse of Pope; or it might be more correct to say that Madame de Maintenon’s own books are seldom distinguishable from those of her favourite foundation, St. Cyr. The most interesting is a copy of the first edition of ‘Esther,’ in quarto (1689), bound in red morocco, and bearing, in Racine’s hand, ‘A Madame la Marquise de Maintenon, offert avec respect — RACINE.”
Doubtless Racine had the book bound before he presented it. “People are discontented,” writes his son Louis, “if you offer them a book in a simple marbled paper cover.” I could wish that this worthy custom were restored, for the sake of the art of binding, and also because amateur poets would be more chary of their presentation copies. It is, no doubt, wise to turn these gifts with their sides against the inner walls of bookcases, to be bulwarks against the damp, but the trouble of acknowledging worthless presents from strangers is considerable. 20
Another interesting example of Madame de Maintenon’s collections is Dacier’s ‘Remarques Critiques sur les OEuvres d’Horace,’ bearing the arms of Louis XIV., but with his wife’s signature on the fly-leaf (1681).
Of Madame de Montespan, ousted from the royal favour by Madame de Maintenon, who “married into the family where she had been governess,” there survives one bookish relic of interest. This is ‘OEuvres Diverses par un auteur de sept ans,’ in quarto, red morocco, printed on vellum, and with the arms of the mother of the little Duc du Maine (1678). When Madame de Maintenon was still playing mother to the children of the king and of Madame de Montespan, she printed those “works” of her eldest pupil.
These ladies were only bibliophiles by accident, and were devoted, in the first place, to pleasure, piety, or ambition. With the Comtesse de Verrue, whose epitaph will be found on an earlier page, we come to a genuine and even fanatical collector. Madame de Verrue (1670–1736) got every kind of diversion out of life, and when she ceased to be young and fair, she turned to the joys of “shopping.” In early years, “pleine de coeur, elle le donna sans comptes.” In later life, she purchased, or obtained on credit, everything that caught her fancy, also sans comptes. “My aunt,” says the Duc de Luynes, “was always buying, and never baulked her fancy.” Pictures, books, coins, jewels, engravings, gems (over 8,000), tapestries, and furniture were all alike precious to Madame de Verrue. Her snuff-boxes defied computation; she had them in gold, in tortoise-shell, in porcelain, in lacquer, and in jasper, and she enjoyed the delicate fragrance of sixty different sorts of snuff. Without applauding the smoking of cigarettes in drawing-rooms, we may admit that it is less repulsive than steady applications to tobacco in Madame de Verrue’s favourite manner.
The Countess had a noble library, for old tastes survived in her commodious heart, and new tastes she anticipated. She possessed ‘The Romance of the Rose,’ and ‘Villon,’ in editions of Galliot du Pre (1529–1533) undeterred by the satire of Boileau. She had examples of the ‘Pleiade,’ though they were not again admired in France till 1830. She was also in the most modern fashion of today, for she had the beautiful quarto of La Fontaine’s ‘Contes,’ and Bouchier’s illustrated Moliere (large paper). And, what I envy her more, she had Perrault’s ‘Fairy Tales,’ in blue morocco — the blue rose of the folklorist who is also a book-hunter. It must also be confessed that Madame de Verrue had a large number of books such as are usually kept under lock and key, books which her heirs did not care to expose at the sale of her library. Once I myself (moi chetif) owned a novel in blue morocco, which had been in the collection of Madame de Verrue. In her old age this exemplary woman invented a peculiarly comfortable arm-chair, which, like her novels, was covered with citron and violet morocco; the nails were of silver. If Madame de Verrue has met the Baroness Bernstein, their conversation in the Elysian Fields must be of the most gallant and interesting description.
Another literary lady of pleasure, Madame de Pompadour, can only be spoken of with modified approval. Her great fault was that she did not check the decadence of taste and sense in the art of bookbinding. In her time came in the habit of binding books (if binding it can be called) with flat backs, without the nerves and sinews that are of the very essence of book-covers. Without these no binding can be permanent, none can secure the lasting existence of a volume. It is very deeply to be deplored that by far the most accomplished living English artist in bookbinding has reverted to this old and most dangerous heresy. The most original and graceful tooling is of much less real value than permanence, and a book bound with a flat back, without nerfs, might practically as well not be bound at all. The practice was the herald of the French and may open the way for the English Revolution. Of what avail were the ingenious mosaics of Derome to stem the tide of change, when the books whose sides they adorned were not really BOUND at all? Madame de Pompadour’s books were of all sorts, from the inevitable works of devotions to devotions of another sort, and the ‘Hours’ of Erycina Ridens. One of her treasures had singular fortunes, a copy of ‘Daphnis and Chloe,’ with the Regent’s illustrations, and those of Cochin and Eisen (Paris, quarto, 1757, red morocco). The covers are adorned with billing and cooing doves, with the arrows of Eros, with burning hearts, and sheep and shepherds. Eighteen years ago this volume was bought for 10 francs in a village in Hungary. A bookseller gave 8 pounds for it in Paris. M. Bauchart paid for it 150 pounds; and as it has left his shelves, probably he too made no bad bargain. Madame de Pompadour’s ‘Apology for Herodotus’ (La Haye, 1735) has also its legend. It belonged to M. Paillet, who coveted a glorified copy of the ‘Pastissier Francois,’ in M. Bauchart’s collection. M Paillet swopped it, with a number of others, for the ‘Pastissier:’
Pour Herodote,’ en reliure ancienne, amour
De livre provenant de chez la Pompadour
Il me le soutira! 21
Of Marie Antoinette, with whom our lady book-lovers of the old regime must close, there survive many books. She had a library in the Tuileries, as well as at le petit Trianon. Of all her great and varied collections, none is now so valued as her little book of prayers, which was her consolation in the worst of all her evil days, in the Temple and the Conciergerie. The book is ‘Office de la Divine Providence’ (Paris, 1757, green morocco). On the fly-leaf the Queen wrote, some hours before her death, these touching lines: “Ce 16 Octobre, a 4 h. 0.5 du matin. Mon Dieu! ayez pitie de moi! Mes yeux n’ont plus de larmes pour prier pour vous, mes pauvres enfants. Adieu, adieu! — MARIE ANTOINETTE.”
There can be no sadder relic of a greater sorrow, and the last consolation of the Queen did not escape the French popular genius for cruelty and insult. The arms on the covers of the prayer-book have been cut out by some fanatic of Equality and Fraternity.
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