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66

It was a keen sense of this disproportion between size and sense which barbed the sharpest arrows of Dr. Swift. Nobody ever imposed upon him either by bigness or by bluster. The Devil take stupidity," once cried the Dean of St. Patrick's, that it will not come in to supply the want of philosophy!" So in the Introduction to "The Tale of a Tub," he, half in jest and half in earnest, declares that wisdom is like a cheese, whereof to a judicious taste the maggots are the best." Vive la bagatelle! trembled upon his lips at the age of threescore; and he amused himself with reading the most trifling books he could find, and writing upon the most trifling subjects. Lord Bolingbroke wrote to him to beg him "to put on his philosophical spectacles," and wrote with but small success. Pope wrote to him, " to beg it of him, as a piece of mercy, that he would not laugh at his gravity, but permit him to wear the beard of a philosopher until he pulled it off and made a jest of it himself.” Old Weymouth, in the latter part of Anne's reign, said to him, in his lordly Latin, "Philosopha verba ignava opera," and Swift frequently repeated the sarcasm. One cannot figure him as the "laughing old man of Anacreon, for there was certainly a dreadful dash of vinegar in his composition; but if he did not hate hard enough, hit hard enough, and weigh men, motives, and books, nicely enough to satisfy Dr. Johnson, the Bolt-Courtier must have been a very leech of verjuice. There is a passage in one of his letters to Pope,-I cannot just now put my hand upon it,-in which he suggests, in rather coarse language, the subject of "The Beggar's Opera" as a capital subject for their common friend,

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Gay. And yet one can barely suppress a sigh at all this luxury of levity, when he remembers that dreadful “Ubi særa indignatio ulterius cor lacerare nequit,” and reflects upon the hope deferred which vented itself in that stinging couplet,"In every court the parallel will hold;

And kings, like private folks, are bought

and sold."

I remember a hack-writer,—and of such, I am afraid, is too exclusively my literary kingdom,-who classified the vices which Swift smote so fearfully in The Voyage to the Houyhnhnms"; and the curious catalogue contained “avarice, fraud, cheating, violence, rapine, extortion, cruelty, oppression, tyranny, rancor, envy, malice, detraction, hatred, revenge, murder, bribery, corruption, pimping, lying, perjury, subornation, treachery, ingratitude, gaming, flattery, drunkenness, gluttony, luxury, vanity, effeminacy, cowardice, pride, impudence, hypocrisy, infidelity, blasphemy, idolatry, and innumerable other vices, many of them the notorious characteristics of the bulk of humankind.” Delightful catalogue! How odd, indeed, that a man with such work to do should not have sported with Amaryllis, or played with the tangles of Neæra's hair,-should not have worn well-anointed love-locks and snowy linen,-should, on the other hand, have bared his brawny arm, and sent the hissing flail down swiftly upon the waled and blistered back of Sham! How much better would it have been, if he had written a history, in twelve elephantine volumes, of the rise, culmination, and decay of the Empire of Barataria, which we would have gone to prison, the rack, and the drop, with rapture rather than read!

How low seems Fielding, with his pothouse heroes, Tom Jones, Squire Western, and Jonathan Wild, when we contrast them with the elegant, cleanly-polished, and extremely proper Sir Charles Grandison! What a coarse drab is Molly Seagrim, when juxtaposited with the princess of all prudes, the indomitably virtuous Pamela! How childish was it of Cowper to sing of sofas, poultry, rabbits, orchards,

1859.]

Of Books and the Reading thereof.

meadows, and barnyards! How much
more nobly employed was John Dryden
in manufacturing a brand-new, truculent,
loud-voiced, massively-calved, ensiferous
Alexander! Who but an addle-headed
sot would have wandered up and down
the lanes, like Morland, chalking out pigs
and milkmaids, when he might have been
painting, like Barry, pictures, by the acre,
of gods and goddesses enacting incompre-
hensible allegories! Let us be respect-
able, O my Bobus, and wear good coats
and the best hats to be had for money or
let us carefully conceal our
upon credit;
connection with "The Gotham Revolver,"
although the honest people who print it
do give us our beer and mutton; let us
write great histories which nobody will
read, engage in tractations to which no-
body will listen, build twelve-storied epics
which nobody will publish, and invent
Gordian philosophies which nobody can
untie. Surely it is quite time for Minerva
to have a general house-cleaning, to put
on a fresh smock, and to live cleanly.
Rabelais shall be washed, and Sterne
sad-ironed into gravity; De Foe shall be
made as decorous as a tract; Mandeville
shall be reburned, and we will kindle the
fire with half the leaves of this dry and
yellow Montaigne. Nobody shall ap-
proach the waters of Castaly save upon
stilts; and whoever may giggle, as he
takes his physic, shall be put upon a
dreadfully plentiful allowance of Guic-
poems
ciardini for bread, and of the

for water.

of

But, alas! Brother Bobus, where to begin our purification, and where to end it? We may, like the curate in "Don Quixote," reprieve Amadis de Gaul, but shall we, therefore, make Esplandian, "his lawful-begotten son," a foundation for the funeral-pile we are to set a-blazTo be sure, there is ing presently? sense in the observation of the good and holy priest upon that memorable occasion. This," said the barber, "is Amadis of Greece; and it is my opinion that all those upon this side are of the same family." "Then pitch them all into the yard," responded the priest; "for, rath

66

er than miss the satisfaction of roasting
Queen Pintiquiniestra and the pastorals
of Darinel the Shepherd and his damned
unintelligible speculations, I would burn
my own father along with them, if I found
him playing at knight-errantry." So in-
Olivante de Laura,
to the yard went "
the nonsensical old blockhead,” “rough
and dull Florismart of Hyrcania,” “no-
ble Don Platir," with nothing in him "de-
serving a grain of pity," Bernardo del
Carpio, and Roncesvalles, and Palmerin
de Oliva. What a delicious scene it is!
The fussy barber, tired of reading titles
and proceeding to burn by wholesale,
passing down books in armfuls to the
eager housekeeper, more ready to burn
them than ever she had been to weave
the finest lace. And how charming is the
Certainly, these can-
hit of the curate!"
not be books of knight-errantry, they are
too small; you'll find they are only po-
ets,"

the supplication of the niece that the singers should not be spared, lest her uncle, when cured of his knight-errantry, should read them, become a shepherd, and wander through forests and fields,— nay, and what is more to be dreaded, turn poet, which is said to be a disease So down went absolutely incurable.”

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"the longer poems" of Diana de Monte-
mayor, the whole of Salmantino, with
the Iberian Shepherd and the Nymphs
of Henares. The impatience of the cu-
rate, who, completely worn out, orders
all the rest to be burned á carga cerra-
da, fitly rounds the chapter, and sends
us in good-humor from the auto da fé,
while the poor knight is in his bedcham-
ber, all unconscious of the purification in
progress, which, if he had known it, mad
as he was, would have made his madness
starker still, thrashing about with his
sword, back-stroke and fore-stroke, and,
as Motteux translates it, "making a hea-
vy bustle." "Tis all droll enough; espe-
cially when we find that the housekeeper
made such clean work of it in the eve-
ning, in spite of the good curate's reser-
vations, and burnt all the books, not only
those in the yard, but all those that were
in the house; but I should think twice

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before I let Freston the necromancer into any library with which I am acquainted.

Let us be gentle with the denizens of Fame's proud temple, no matter how they came there. You remember, I suppose, Swift's couplet,

"Fame has but two gates,-a white and a black one;

The worst they can say is I got in at the back one."

"I have nothing," wrote Pope to his friend Cromwell," to say to you in this letter; but I was resolved to write to tell you so. Why should not I content myself with so many great examples of deep divines, profound casuists, grave philosophers, who have written, not letters only, but whole tomes and voluminous treatises about nothing? Why should a fellow like me, who all his life does nothing, be ashamed to write nothing, and that, too, to one who has nothing to do but read it?" And so, with "ex nihilo nil fit," he laughingly ends his letter.

And now, while I am at it, I must quote a passage, somewhat germane, from the very next letter, which Pope wrote to the same friend: -" You talk of fame and glory, and of the great men of antiquity. Pray, tell me, what are all your great dead men, but so many living letters?

What a vast reward is here for all the ink wasted by writers and all the blood spilt by princes! There was in old time one Severus, a Roman Emperor. I dare say you never called him by any other name in your life; and yet in his days he was styled Lucius, Septimius, Severus, Pius, Pertinax, Augustus, Parthicus, Adiabenicus, Arabicus, Maximus, and what not? What a prodigious waste of letters has time made! What a number have here dropped off, and left the poor surviving seven unattended! For my own part, four are all I have to take care of; and I'll be judged by you, if any man could live in less compass. Well, for the future, I'll drown all high thoughts in the Lethe of cowslip-wine; as for fame, renown, reputation, take 'em, critics! If ever I seek

for immortality here, may I be damn'd, for there's not much danger in a poet's being damn'd,

'Damnation follows death in other men, But your damn'd Poet lives and writes agen.'"

And so they do, even unto the present, otherwise blessed day. But, dear old friend, is not this sublime sneering? and is there not an honest ray or two of truth mingled here and there in the colder coruscations of this wit? Of the sincerity of this repudiation and renunciation so fashionable in the Pope circle I have nothing to say; but in certain moods of the mind it is vastly entertaining, and cures one's melancholy as cautery cures certain physical afflictions. It may be amusing for you also to notice that Don Quixote's niece and Pope were of the same mind. She called poetry 66 a catching and incurable disease," and Pope's unfortunate Poet "lives and writes agen."

And, after all, Bobus, why should we not be tender with all the gentlemen who crowd the catalogues and slumber upon the shelves? It may be all very well for you or me, whose legend should be "Prandeo, poto, cano, ludo, lego, cœno,

quiesco,"

"No

to laugh at them; but who shall say that they did not do their best, and, if they were stupid, pavonian, arrogant, self-sufficient, and top-heavy, that they were not honestly so? I always liked that boast of Flaccus about his "monument harder than brass." It is a cheerful sight to see a poor devil of an author in his garret, snapping his fingers at the critics. beggar," wrote Pope, "is so poor but he can keep a cur, and no author so beggarly but he can keep a critic." And, after all, abuse is pleasanter than contemptuous and silent neglect. I do honestly believe, that, if it were not for a little too much false modesty, every author, and especially the poets, would boldly and publicly anticipate posthumous fame. Do you think that Sir Thomas Urquhart, when he wrote his "EKEKYBAAAYPON, or, The Discovery of a most Precious Jewel," etc., fancied that the world would

willingly let his reverberating words faint into whispers, and, at last, into utter silence ?—his "metonymical, ironical, metaphorical, and synecdochal instruments of elocution, in all their several kinds, artificially affected, according to the nature of the subject, with emphatical expressions in things of great concernment, with catachrestical in matters of meaner moment; attended on each side respectively with an epiplectic and exegetic modification, with hyperbolical, either epitatically or hypocoristically, as the purpose required to be elated or extenuated, they qualifying metaphors, and accompanied with apostrophes; and, lastly, with allegories of all sorts, whether apologal, affabulatory, parabolary, ænigmatic, or parœmial"? Would you have thought that so much sesquipedality could die? Certainly the Knight of Cromartie did not, and fully believing Posterity would feel an interest in himself unaccorded to any one of his contemporaries, he kindly and prudently appended the pedigree of the family of Urquharts, preserving every step from Adam to himself. This may have been a vanity, but after all it was a good sturdy one, worthy of a gentleman who could not say "the sun was setting," but who could and did say "our occidental rays of Phoebus were upon their turning oriental to the other hemisphere of the terrestrial globe." Alas! poor Sir Thomas, who must needs babble the foolish hopes which wiser men reticently keep cloistered in their own bosoms! who confessed what every scribbler thinks, and so gets laughed at,—as wantons are carried to the round-house for airing their incontinent phraseology in the street, while Blowsalinda reads romances in her chamber without blushing. Modesty is very well; but, after all, do not the least selfsufficient of us hope for something more than the dirty dollars,—for kindness, affection, loving perusal, and fostering shelter, long after our brains have mouldered, and the light of our eyes has been quenched, and our deft fingers have lost their cunning, and the places that knew us have forgotten our mien and speech

and port forever? Very, very few of us can join in Sir Boyle Roche's blundering sneer at posterity, and with the hope of immortality mingles a dread of utter oblivion here. Will it not be consoling, standing close by the graves which have been prepared for us, to leave the world some little legacy of wisdom sedulously gleaned from the fields of the fading past, -some intangible, but honest wealth, the not altogether worthless accumulation of an humble, but earnest life,-something which may lighten the load of a sad experience, illuminate the dark hours which as they have come to all must come to all through all the ages, or at least divert without debauching the mind of the idler, the trifler, and the macaroni? I believe this ingenuous feeling to be very far removed from the wheezy aspirations of windy ignorance, or the spasms for fame which afflict with colic the bowels, empty and flatulent, of sheer scribblers and dunces who take a mean advantage of the invention of printing. tender of the honest gentlemen who, to quote Cervantes, "aim at somewhat, but conclude nothing." I cannot smile at the hopes of the boy Burns,

Let us be

"That he, for poor auld Scotland's sake, Some usefu' plan or beuk could make,

Or sing a sang at least."

And while I am in a humor for quotation, I must give you this muscular verse from Henry More's "Platonic Song of the Soul":

"Their rotten relics lurk close under ground; With living weight no sense or sympathy They have at all; nor hollow thundering sound

Of roaring winds that cold mortality
Can wake, ywrapt in sad Fatality:
To horse's hoof that beats his grassie dore
He answers not: the moon in silency
Doth passe by night, and all bedew him o'er
With her cold, humid rayes; but he feels not

Heaven's power."

How we shiver in the icy, midnight moonbeams of the recluse of Christ's College! How preciously golden seem the links of our universal brotherhood, when the Fates are waving their dark wings around

us, and menace us with their sundering! I am not sure, my worthy Wagonero, that, rather than see my own little cord finally cut, I would not consent to be laughed at by a dozen generations, in the hope that it might happen to me that the thirteenth, out of sheer weariness at the prolonged lampooning, might grow pitiful at my purgatorial experiences, and so betake itself to nursing and fondling me into repute, furnishing me with halfa-dozen of those lynx-eyed commentators who would discern innumerable beauties and veracities through the calfskin walls of my beatified bantling. They might find, at last, that I had "the gold-strung harp of Apollo" and played a "most excellent diapason,-celestial music of the spheres," hearing the harmony

"As plainly as ever Pythagoras did," when "Venus the treble ran sweet division upon Saturn the bass."

Write for posterity! Pray, whom should we write for, in this age which makes its own epic upon sounding anvils, and whose lyric is yelled from the locomotive running a muck through forest and field and beside the waters no longer still? Write poetry now, when noise has become normal, and we are like the Egyptians, who never heard the roaring of the fall of Nilus, because the racket was so familiar to them! The age "capers in its own fee simple" and cries with the Host in "The Merry Devil of Edmonton," "Away with punctilios and orthography!" Write poetry now! Thank you, my ancient friend! "My fiddlestick cannot play without rosin." To be sure, I am, like most minstrels, ready for an offer; and should any lover of melody propose

"Two hundred crowns, and twenty pounds a year

For three good lives,"

I should not be slow in responding, "Cargo! hai Trincalo!" and in presently getting into the best possible trim and tune. But the poet may say now, with the Butler in the old play, "Mine are precious cabinets, and must have precious jewels put into them; and I know you to be

merchants of stock-fish, dry meat, and not men for my market; then vanish!"

Barrow said that "poetry was a kind of ingenious nonsense"; and I think, that, deceived by the glut, the present time is very much of Barrow's mind. But, courage, my music-making masters! Your warbling, if it be of genuine quality, shall echo upon the other side of the hill which hides the unborn years. Only be sure, the song be pure; and you may "give the fico to your adversaries." You may live in the hearts and upon the lips of men and women yet unborn; and should the worst come, you may figure in "The Bibliographer's Manual," with a star of honor against your name, to indicate that you are exceedingly scarce and proportionally valuable; rival collectors, with fury in their faces, will run you up to a fabulous price at the auction, and you will at last be put into free quarters for life in some shady alcove upon some lofty shelf, with unlimited rations of dust, as you glide into a vermiculate dotage. Why should you be faint-hearted, when the men of the stalls ask such a breath

stretching price for the productions of William Whitehead, Esq., who used to celebrate the birthdays of old George the Third after this fashion :"And shall the British lyre be mute,

Nor thrill through all its trembling strings, With oaten reed and pastoral flute

While every vale responsive rings?" Ben Jonson called Inigo Jones Sir Lanthorn Leatherhead, but St. Paul's still stands; and how many flies are there in the sparkling amber of "The Dunciad”! Have the critics, poor birdling, torn your wings, and mocked at your recording? I know, as Howell wrote to "Father Ben," that "the fangs of a bear and the tusks of a wild-boar don't bite worse and make deeper gashes than a goose-quill sometimes; no, not the badger himself, who is said to be so tenacious of his bite that he will not give over his hold until he feels his teeth meet and bone crack." I know all about it, my minstrel boy! for have I not, in my day, given and taken, and shouldered back again when

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