« 上一頁繼續 »
carbuncled nose, the snuffy waistcoat, much temper exists, impartial history is the unorthodox sneer.
We should wipe out of the question. out his later years, cut his life short at Our authors, too, as a general rụle, 1796, and take Paine when he wrote have inherited the political jargon of the " Common Sense,” Paine when he loung- last century, and abound in “ destiny of ed at the White Bear in Piccadilly, talk- humanity," "inalienable rights,” “ virtue ing over with Horne Tooke the answer of the sovereign people,” base and to Mr. Burke's “ Reflections," and Paine, bloody despots,” and all that sort of when, as “foreign benefactor of the spe- phrase, earnest and real enough once, cies," he took his seat in the famous but little better than cant and twaddle French Convention.
now. They seem to take it for granted It would repay some capable author that the question is settled, the rights of to dig him up, wash him, and show him man accurately defined, the true and only to the world as he was. A biography theory of government found,— and that of him would embrace the history of the he who doubts is blinded by aristocratic struggle which established the new the prejudice or is a fool.
We must say, ory of politics in government. He is nevertheless, that Father Time has not the representative man of Democracy in yet had years enough to answer the both hemispheres,- a good subject in the great question of governing which was hands of a competent artist; and the time proposed to him in 1789. Some of the has arrived, we think, when justice may developments of our day may well make be done him. As a general rule, it is us doubt whether the last and perfect yet too soon to write the History of the form, or even theory, is the one we have United States since 1784. Half a cen- chosen. " Les monarchies absolues avaitury has not been sufficient to wear out ent deshonoré le despotisme : prenons the bitter feeling excited by the long garde que les républiques démocratiques struggle of Democrats and Federalists. ne le réhabilitent.” But Paine's part in Respectable gentlemen, who, more pious the history of this country after 1783 is than Æneas, have undertaken to carry of so small importance, that in a life of their grandfathers' remains from the ru- him all such considerations may be safeins of the past into the present era, seem ly waived. The democratic movement to be possessed with the same demon of of the last eighty years, be it a “finaldiscord that agitated the deceased ances- ity," or only a phase of progress towards tors. The quarrels of the first twenty a more perfect state, is the grand historyears of the Constitution have become ical fact of modern times, and Paine's chronic ink-feuds in certain families. A name is intimately connected with it. literary vendetta is carried on to this day, One is always ready to look with lenity and a stab with the steel pen, or a shot on the partiality of a biographer,-whethfrom behind the safe cover of a periodi- er he urge the claims of his hero to a cal, is certain to be received by any one
niche in the Valhalla of great men, or of them who offers to his enemy the glo- act as the Advocatus Diaboli to degrade rious opportunity of a book. Where so
OF BOOKS AND THE READING THEREOF.
BEING A THIRD LETTER FROM PAUL
my misfortunes,) at a moment when I had POTTER, OF NEW YORK, IN THE CITY the prospect of her sharing my better AND COUNTY OF NEW YORK, ESQ., days." TO THE VON ROBERTO WAGONERO, But if I am getting old, although OF WASHINGTON, olim, BUT nunc OF perhaps prematurely, I must be casting NOWHEREINPARTICULAR.
about for the subsidia senectuti. Swift
wrote to Gay, that these were “two or If any person, O my Bobus, had fore- three servants about you and a conventold that all these months would go by ient house "; justly observing, that, “when before I should again address you, he a man grows hard to please, few people would have exhibited prescient talent care whether he be pleased or no”; and great enough to establish twenty adding, sadly enough, "I should hardly diums” in a flourishing cabalistic busi- prevail to find one visitor, if I were not ness. Alas! they have been to me months able to hire him with a bottle of wine"; of fathomless distress, immensurate and and so the sorrowful epistle concludes immeasurable sorrow, and blank, blind, with the sharpest grief of all : “My feidiotic indifference, even to books and male friends, who could bear with me friends, which, next to the nearest and very well a dozen years ago, have now dearest, are the world's most priceless forsaken me.” It is odd that Montaigne possession. But now that I have a little should have hit upon the wine also as thrown off the stupor, now that kindly among the subsidia senectuti; although Time has a little balmed my cruel wounds, the sage Michael complains, as you will I come back to my books and to you,— remember, that old men do not relish to the animi remissionem of Cicero, their wine, or at least the first glass, beto these gentle sympathizers and faithful cause “ the palate is furred with phlegms.” solacements,--to old studies and ancient But I care little either for the liquor or pursuits. There is a Latin line, I know the lackeys, and not much, I fear, at presnot whose, but Swift was fond of quoting ent, for “the female friends.” I have, it,
then, nothing left for it but to take vio“ Vertiginosus, inops, surdus, male gratus lently to books; for I doubt not I shall amicis,"
find almost any house convenient, and I which I have whispered to myself, with am sure of one at last which I can claim prophetic lips, in the long, long watches by a title not to be disturbed by all the of my lonesome nights. Do you remem- precedents of Cruise, and in which no ber-but who that has read it does not ? mortal shall have a contingent remainthat affecting letter, written upon the der. death of his wife, by Sir James Mackin- To books, then, I betake myself,-- to tosh to Dr. Parr? “ Such was she whom books, “the immortal children” of “the I have lost; and I have lost her when her understanding, courage, and abilities” of excellent natural sense was rapidly im- the wise and good,-ay! and to inane, proving, after eight years of struggle and drivelling, doting books, the bastard prog. distress had bound us fast together and eny of vanity and ignorance -books over moulded our tempers to each other,- which one dawdles in an amusing dream when a knowledge of her worth had re- and pleasant spasm of amazement, and fined my youthful love into friendship, which teach us wisdom as tipsy Helots before age had deprived it of much of its taught the Spartan boys sobriety. Monoriginal ardor. I lost her, alas! (the taigne “never travelled without books, choice of my youth, and the partner of either in peace or war"; and as I found
then pleasant in happier days, so I find ogy"; an excellent work it is, I have them pleasant now. Of course,
much been told,-a charming work to master, of this omnivorous reading is from habit, - quite a bulwark of our faith ; but as, and, invitâ Minervâ, cannot be dignified in my growing days, it was explained to by the name of study,- that stiff, steady, me, or rather was not explained, before persistent, uncompromising application breakfast, by a truculent Doctor of Diof the mind, by virtue of which alone vinity, whom I knew to be ugly and felt the Pons Asinorum can be crossed, and to be great, of course, the good Bishop the Forty-Seventh Problem of Euclid- and I are not upon the best of terms. which I entirely disbelieve--mastered. I suppose that for drilling, training, and
I own to a prodigious respect, enter- pipe-claying the human mind all these tained since my Sophomore year at the things are necessary. I suppose, that, University, for those collegiate youth in our callow days, it is proper that we whose terribly hard study of Bourdon should be birched and wear fetters upon and Legendre seems to have such a mol- our little, bandy, sausage-like legs. But lifying effect upon their heads,—but, as let me, now that I have come to man's the tradesmen say, that thing is “ not in estate, flout my old pedagogues, and, my line.” I would rather have a bundle playing truant at my will, dawdle or laof bad verses which have been consign- bor, walk, skip, or run, go to my middle ed to the pastry-cook. I suppose—for I in quagmires, or climb to the hill-tops, have been told so upon good authority take liberties with the venerable, snub --that, if “ equals be taken from equals, the respectable, and keep the company the remainders are equal." I do not see of the disreputable,- dismiss the Archwhy they should not be, and, as a citizen bishop without reading his bomily,- pass of the United States of America, the ax- by a folio in twenty grenadier volumes to iom seems to me to be entitled to respect. greet a little black-coated, yellow-faced When a youthful person, with a piece of duodecimo,-speak to the forlorn and chalk in his hand, before commencing his forsaken, who have been doing dusty penartistic and scientific achievements upon ance upon cloistered shelves in silent althe black-board, says: “Let it be granted coves for a century, with none so poor that a straight line may be drawn from to do them reverence,- read here one any one point to any other point,” I in- little catch which came from lips long variably answer,
- by all
ago as silent as the clod which they are manner of means,”—although you know, kissing, and there some forgotten fragdear Don, that, if I should put
upon ment of history, too insignificant to make mathematical proof of the postulate, I its way into the world's magnificent chro might bother him hugely. But when we nologies,-snapping up unconsidered tricome to the Fourteenth Proposition of fles of anecdote, - tasting some long-inEuclid's Data, when I am required to terred bon-mot and relishing some disenadmit, that, “ if a magnitude together tombed scandal,--pausing over the symwith a given magnitude has a given ra- phonic prose of Milton, only to run, the tio to another magnitude, the excess of next moment, to the Silenian ribaldry of this other magnitude above a given mag
Tom Brown the younger,—and so keep nitude has a given ratio to the first mag- ing up a Saturnalia, in which goat-footed nitude ; and if the excess of a magnitude sylvans mix with the maidens of Diana, above a given magnitude has a given ra- and the party-colored jester shakes his tio to another magnitude, this other mag- truncheon in the face of Plato. Only in . nitude together with a given ratio to the this wild and promiscuous license can we first magnitude,”—I own to a slight con- taste the genuine joys of true perusal. fusion of my intellectual faculties, and I suppose, my dear friend, that, when a perfect contempt for John Buteo and
you were younger and foolisher than you Ptolemy. Then, there is Butler's “ Anal
now are, you were wont, after the reading
• Of course,
of some dismal work upon diet and health, Fiction, and a deal of Nondescript stuff. to take long, constitutional walks. You Once, when the res angusta domi bad “ toddled”—pardon the vulgar word ! become angustissima, a child of Israel so many miles out and so many miles in, was, in my sore estate, summoned to inat just such a pace, in just the prescribed spect the dear, shabby colony, and to time, during hours fixed as the Fates; and make his sordid aureat or argent bid you wondered, when you came home to therefor. Well do I remember how his your Graham bread and cold water, that nose, which he could not, if his worthyou did not bring an appetite with you. less life had depended upon it, render You had performed incredible pedestrian retroussé, grew sublimely curvilinear in achievements, and were not hungry, but its contempt, as his hawk-eyes estimated simply weary. It is of small use to try my pitiful family. I will not name the to be good with malice prepense. Nature sum which he offered, the ghoul, the is nothing, if not natural. If I am to read vampire, the anthropophagous jackal, the to any purpose, I must read with a relish, sneaking would-be incendiary of my litand browse at will with the bridle off. tle Alexandrian, the circumcised Goth! Sometimes I go into a library, the slow He left me, like Churchill's Scotch lassie, accretion of a couple of centuries, or per- " pleased, but hungry”; and I found, as haps the mushroom growth from a rich Valentine did in Congreve's “ Love for man’s grave, a great collection magical- Love,” “ a page doubled down in Epictely convoked by the talisman of gold. At tus which was a feast for an emperor.” the threshold, as I ardently enter, the I own, my excellent Robert, that a bad flaming sword of regulation is waving. book is, to my taste, sometimes vastly Between me and the inviting shelves are more refreshing than a good one. I do fences of woven iron; the bibliographic not wonder that Crabbe, after he had so Cerberus is at his sentryship; when I sadly failed in his medical studies, should want a full draught, I must be content have anathematized the medical writers with driblets; and the impatient messen
in this fine passage :gers are sworn to bring me only a single volume at a time. To read in such a
“Ye frigid tribe, on whom I waited long
The tedious hours, and ne'er indulged in hampered and limited way is not to read
song! at all; and I go back, after the first fret
Ye first seducers of my easy heart, and worry are over, to the little collection
Who promised knowledge ye could not imupon my garret-shelf, to greet again the part! old familiar pages. I leave the main ar- Ye dull deluders, Truth's destructive foes!
Ye Sons of Fiction, clad in stupid prose! my behind,—“ the lordly band of mighty
Ye treacherous leaders, who, yourselves in folios," " the well-ordered ranks of the
doubt, quartos," “the light octavos,” and “hum
Light up false fires, and send us far about!bler duodecimos," for
Still may yon spider round your pages spin, - The last new play, and frittered maga
Subtle and slow, her emblematic gin! zine,"
Buried in dust and lost in silence dwell! for the sutlers and camp-followers, “pio
Most potent, grave, and reverend friends,
farewell !" neers and all,” of the grand army,—for the prizes, dirty, but curious, rescued from I acknowledge the vigor of these lines, the street-stall, or unearthed in a Nas- which nobody could have written who sau-Street cellar,--for the books which I had not been compelled, in the sunny thumbed and dogs-eared in my youth. summer-days, to bray drugs in a mortar.
I have, in my collection, a little Divin- Yet who does not like to read a medical ity, consisting mostly of quaint Quaker book ?— to pore over its jargon, to mudbooks bequeathed to me by my grand- dle himself into a hypo, and to imagine mother,-a little Philosophy, a little Phys- himself afflicted with the dreadful disease ic, a little Law, a little History, a little with the long Latin name, the mean
ing of which he does not by any means greatest man of your time. People are comprehend ?
And did not the poems all disposed to admit anything we say of of our friend Bavius Blunderbore, Esq., you, but I think it unsafe and indecent which were of “ a low and moderate to put you so high without something in sort,” cause you to giggle yourself well- quarto.” This was, of course, half fun nigh into an asphyxy, -calf and cox- and half truth. As there is, however, comb as he was? Is not -'s last little need of setting the world on fire to novel a better antidote against melan- demonstrate some chemical theory, so it choly, stupendously absurd as it is, than is possible that the flame of culture may foalfoot or plantain, featherfew or savin, be cherished without kindling a conflaayrimony or saxifrage, or any other herb gration, and truth transmitted from sire in old Robert Burton's pharmacopæia ? to son without the construction of ediI am afraid that we are a little wanting ficial monsters too big for the knees, too in gratitude, when we shake our sides at abstruse for the brains, and too great the flaying of Marsyas by some Quarter for the lifetime of humanity. I am not ly of Apollo,—to the dis-cuticled, I mean. a very constant reader of Mr. Robert If he had not piped so stridently, we Browning, but I own to many a pleasant should not have had half so much sport; grin over his Sibrandus Schafnabrugenyet small largess does the miserable min- sis dropped into the crevice of the plumstrel get for tooting tunelessly. Let us tree, and afterward pitifully reclaimed, honor the brave who fall in the battle of and carried to its snug niche with the print. 'Twas a noble ambition, after all, promise,which caused our asinine friend to cloak
"A.'s book shall prop you up, B.'s shall cover himself in that cast leonine skin. Who
you, would be always reciting from a horn- Here's C. to be grave with, or D. to be book to Mistress Minerva ? What, I pray
gay; you, would become of the corn, if there
And with E. on each side, and F. right over were no scarecrows ? All honor to you,
Dry-rot at ease till the Judgment Day!” then, my looped and windowed sentinel, standing upon the slope of Parnassus,
How often, when one is roving through standing so patiently there, with your
a library in search of adventures, is he straw bowels, doing yeoman-service, spite encountered by some inflated champion of the flouts and gibes and cocked thunbs of huge proportions, who turns out to be of Zoilus and his sneering, snarling, ver
no better than a barber, after all! Gazjuicy, captious crew,-standing there, as
ing upon stood the saline helpınate of Lot, to fright " That weight of wood, with leathern coat our young men and virgins from the prim
o'erlaid, rose-pitfalls of Poesy,- standing there to
Those ample clasps, of solid metal made,
The close-pressed leaves, unloosed for many warn them against the seductions of Phoe
an age, bus, and to teach them that it is better to
The dull red edging of the well-filled page, hoe than to hum!
On the broad back the stubborn ridges The truth is, that the good and clever rolled, and polyphloisboic writers have too long
Where yet the title stands, in burnished
gold,”— monopolized the attention of the world, so that the little, well-intentioned, hum- what wisdom, what wit, what profundity, ble, and stupid plebeians of the guild what vastness of knowledge, what a grand have been snubbed out of sight. Some- gossip concerning all things, and more body — the name is not given, but I beside, did we anticipate, only to find the shrewdly suspect Canon Smith — wrote promise broken, and a big impostor with to Sir James Mackintosh,
Why do no more muscle than the black drone you not write three volumes quarto ? who fills the pipes and sentries the seYou only want this to be called the raglio of the Sophi or the Sultan ! The