Abbildungen der Seite
PDF
EPUB

NATURE OF THE PRESENT WORK,

AND A

FEW REMARKS ON ITS READERS.

THIS

HIS compilation is intended for all lovers of books, at

every time of life, from childhood to old age, particularly such as are fond of the authors it quotes, and who enjoy their perusal most in the quietest places. It is intended for the boy or girl who loves to get with a book into a corner-for the youth who on entering life finds his advantage in having become acquainted with books—for the man in the thick of life, to whose spare moments books are refreshments—and for persons in the decline of life, who reflect on what they have experienced, and to whom books and gardens afford their tranquillest pleasures.

It is a book (not to say it immodestly) intended to lie in old parlour windows, in studies, in cottages, in cabins aboard ship, in country-inns, in country-houses, in summerhouses, in any houses that have wit enough to like it, and are not the mere victims of a table covered with books for show.

When Shenstone was a child, he used to have a new book brought him from the next country-town, whenever any body went to market. If he had gone to bed and was asleep, it was put behind his pillow; and if it had been forgotten, and he was awake, his mother (more kindly than wisely)" wrapped up a piece of wood of the same form, and pacified him for the night.” This is the sort of child we hope to be a reader of our volumes.

When Gray and Walpole were at Eton, they partitioned out the fields into territories of which they had read in books, and so ruled over them and sent ambassadors to one another. These are the sort of school-boys we look to entertain.

When Mrs. Inchbald, who was a farmer's daughter, first came to London, she was alone, and would have been subjected to no small perils but for the knowledge she had acquired from books; for she was poor, lovely, and sensitive. She turned the knowledge to the greatest account, and lived to add precious matter to the stock. We flatter ourselves, or rather we dare to aver, considering the authors who furnish our extracts, that nobody would have more approved of our book than Mrs. Inchbald.

Some of the most stirring men in the world, persons in the thick of business of all kinds, and indeed with the business of the world itself on their hands,-Lorenzo de Medici, for instance, who was at once the great merchant and the political arbiter of his time, have combined with their other energies the greatest love of books, and found no re

creation at once so wholesome and so useful.

We hope many a man of business will refresh himself with the short pieces in these volumes, and return to his work the fitter to baffle craft, and yet retain a reverence for simplicity.

Every man who has a right sense of business, whether his business be that of the world or of himself, has a respect for all right things apart from it; because business with him is not a mindless and merely instinctive industry, like that of a beetle rolling its ball of clay, but an exercise of faculties congenial with the other powers of the human being, and all working to some social end. Hence he approves of judicious and reflecting leisure-of domestic and social evenings—of suburban retreats—of gardens—of ultimate retirement “ for good”-of a reading and reflective

Such retirements have been longed for, and in many instances realized, by wise and great men of all classes, from the Diocletians of old to the Foxes and Burkes of our own days. Warren Hastings, who had ruled in India, yearned for the scenes of his boyhood; and lived to be happy in them. The wish to possess a country-house, a retreat, a nest, a harbour of some kind from the storms and even from the agitating pleasures of life, is as old as the sorrows and joys of civilization. The child feels it when he“ plays at house ;"' the schoolboy, when he is reading in his corner; the lover, when he thinks of his mistress. Epicurus felt it in his garden ; Horace and Virgil expressed their desire of it in passages which the sympathy of mankind has rendered immortal. It was the end of all the wisdom and experience of Shakspeare. He retired to his native town, and built himself a house in which he died. And who else does not occasionally “ flit” somewhere meantime if he can ? The country for many miles round London, and indeed in most other places, is adorned with houses and grounds of men of business, who are whirled to and fro on weekly or daily evenings, and who would all find something to approve in the closing chapters of our work. The greatest moneyed man of our time, Rothschild, who weighed kings in his balance, could not do without his house at Gunnersbury. Even the turbulent De Retz, according to Madame de Sévigné, became the sweetest of retired Signiors, and did nothing but read books and feed his trout. It is customary to jest upon such men, and indeed upon all retirement; to say that they would still meddle with affairs if they could, and that retirement is a failure and a “ bore.” Fox did not think so. It is possible that De Retz would have meddled fast enough ; nor are many energetic men superior, perhaps, to temptations of their spirit in this way, when such occur.

old age.

But this does not hinder them from enjoying another and a seasonable pleasure meantime. On the contrary, this very energy is the thing which hinders it from palling ; that is to say, supposing their intellects are large enough to include a sense of it. De Retz, like Burke and Fox, was a lover of books. Sir Robert Walpole, who retired only to be sick and to die, did not care for books. Occupation is the necessary basis of all enjoyment; and he who cannot read, or botanize, or farm, or amuse himself

with his neighbours, or exercise his brain with thinking, is in a bad way for the country at any time, much more for retiring into it. He has nothing to do but to get back as fast as he can, and be hustled into a sensation by a mob.

“ Books, Venus, books.” It is those that teach us to refine on our pleasures when young, and which, having so taught us, enable us to recall them with satisfaction when old. For let the half-witted say what they will of delusions, no thorough reader ever ceased to believe in his books, whatever doubts they might have taught him by the way. They are pleasures too palpable and habitual for him to deny. The habit itself is a pleasure. They contain his

young dreams and his old discoveries ; all that he has lost, as well as all that he has gained ; and, as he is no surer of the gain than of the loss, except in proportion to the strength of his perceptions, the dreams, in being renewed, become truths again. He is again in communion with the past ; again interested in its adventures, grieving with its griefs, laughing with its merriment, forgetting the very chair and room he is sitting in. Who, in the mysterious operation of things, shall dare to assert in what unreal corner of time and space that man's mind is; or what better proof he has of the existence of the poor goods and chattels about him, which at that moment (to him) are non-existent? “Oh!" people say,“ but he wakes up, and sees them there." •Well; he woke down then, and saw the rest. What we distinguish into dreams and realities, are, in both cases, but representatives of impressions. Who shall know what dif

« ZurückWeiter »