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lumber-rooms. Mr. Timbs has laboured | hurrying down to the House late. "Yes, perseveringly and with honour amongst confound you! I have been up all night at many of them, but what is wanted is a com- it." plete digest of a period from the journals, This is the same kind of eagerness with not a mere collection of fragmentary para- which one at first goes through a very difgraphs, however attractive and interesting ferent kind of book, Nathaniel Hawthorne's they may be.
“Scarlet Letter,” certainly one of the most Works like these come not within the cat- engrossing, and perhaps the most remarkegory of pleasant books, you say, and truly. able, work of fiction in the language. It They conjure up, dusty ghosts of ancient may not strictly come within the meaning journalists, though happily we may leave of “ pleasant books ;” for it is a sad, sad the early host of miserable newsmongers, story, with that scarlet initial sered into the who were whipped and imprisoned for their heart of it, burning, scorching, witheriny tale-telling propensities, and take Cave and all its surroundings. How every character Johnson by the hand, through Boswell's in- stands out from the canvas; how distinctly troduction. Boswell's Life of Johnson." you see that hard city with its fierce PuriYes, that is indeed a pleasant book. It is tan rulers; and that midnight scene with the wizard's ball. We look into it, and are the minister, standing on the gallows' platat once in the company of Johnson and form in the fierce grip of bis terrible remorse, Goldsmith and all the wits and celebrities - is it not Dantesque in its realism ani of the time. We take snuff with Sir Joshua sublimity of imagination ? But the leading Reynolds, we hear the King talking in that figure in the strange drama, tbat patient, famous library to his magnificently egotis- lonely woman, with ber elfin child, — bow tical subject. What tremendous prefaces tame other heroines of novels seem after that said egotist wrote in The Gentleman's this one sad picture of misplaced love Magazine for his friend Cave. They treated Alexander Smith, who has written delicievery rival with a supremacy of contempt ously about Hawthorne, liked - Twice-Toll which is highly entertaining in these days of Tales” better than the “Scarlet Letter." respectful rivalry. Was there not some- He thought you got nearer to the author in thing mean in the Doctor's treatment of these mere stories. He always felt that Garrick? Johnson scems to have kept him Hawthorne wrote the tales for himself, and out of his club at the Turk's Head for years, the novels for the world, and that you got because he was an actor. “ He will disturb nearer to the author in the former than in us with his buffoonery," said the Gentleman's the latter, just as you get nearer to an artillustrious contributor. What a magic ball ist in his first sketch than in his finished pieit is, this production of the Scotch tust-hun- ture. For our own part, we think the rea ter! Here is spiritualism, an' you will. son that you get away from the author in But there is no tedious sitting round tables the novels is the reason why we like the and waiting for knocks with Boswell. Sum- Scarlet Letter” best. The delusion is mon whom it shall please you of those hal- complete from beginning to end, like a cyon days, and here they are as they lived, acted drama without the whistle of the every sneeze and cough described; and, prompter, the noise of scene-sbifting, the duly noted, every wise and foolish thing laying down of carpets, the intervals tor they said. Tliey were professed clairvoy- nusic, and the gossip of the stalls. You ants even then, spiritualists with second- are disturbed nowhere, the mind never sight theories, and Boswell believed. Dr. wanders from the story: it is like reading Johnson was willing to try and believe; Clarissa Harlowe's letters after she leaves but “ I do believe,” said Boswell to George home; you never doubt their reality, and Colman the dramatist; “ the evidence is your deep interest in her never tlags. The enough for my mind, if it is not for the Seven Vagabonds,"
Night Sketches," greater one. What will not fill a quart bot- Sunday at Home," all are charming works: tle will fill a pint. Sir, I am full of belief." but when we look back upon Hawthorne and " Are you ? " said Colinan. “Then cork it think, that suffering patient woman, ticketer] up."
." He must have been an insufferable with the burning mark of her shaine, asserts bore, this same Mr. Boswell. Perhaps we her title to the first place in our thoughts are indebted to his littlenesses for the great- and affections. ness of his work; it is those details of life “ Gil Blas." Yes, we must give you 1 and conversation which seem trivial at the place in our favourite corner as a pleasant time to large minds, that give to the story book. We stood the other day on the of Johnson its depth of colour and extraor- threshold of the house where Le Sage lived dinary finish. “ Have you read my book ?" and ched. We asked a Frenchman who Boswell said to a member of parliament lived close by (it was true he was but a
common man) for the maison celébre, but he granted to him, and much more alloyed in could think of nothing thereabouts worth at- its nature – while it is almost the last attritention, except that great ugly citadel which bute we can assign to the irritating and agfrowns upon Boulogne. llere was fame! gressive intellect of Hazlitt." Here, inRare, quaint Bidpai,"
.” “Cakes and Ale,” | deed, is an author, Charles Lamb, about • The Story of a Feather,” and “ Rasselas,” whom one feels all that desire which Smith bere they are in a cluster. How pleasant felt about Hawthorne. It is impossible that all, and yet how widely different from each we can get too near Lamb; and how charmother, - the mystery, allegory, and fasci- ingly he has put himself into all his works. nating pictures of Eastern lands, and the We feel his thoughts with him; he lets us graphic home-touches of an English master. into his innermost secrets, even to his doFrom Barzoyeh and his wise sayings to the mestic troubles and his domestic happiluscious beauties of the Happy Valley; from nesses, those glimpses of sunshine which the Abyssinian prince to the mayor of Hole- came more frequently than one could have cum-Corner - a long step and strange, but imagined into the gloom of that domestic how natural! The mind is not astonished, tragedy. When in a moment of insanity the fancy is not outraged. Among pleasant his sister stabbed his mother to death, "I books the furtherest lands lie close together, was at hand,” he says, “only time enough and Tobias Aconite shall have a place be- to snatch the knife out of her grasp." side the greatest potentate of fiction. A What a terrible picture ! “ His father was pleasant companion in the flesh, a shrewd, imbecile,” says his biographer; “ he alone witty, pungent conversationalist, Douglas takes care of the old man; when the old Jerrold, one of that modern army who man dies, he alone takes charge of the unhave made Bouverie Street classic ground. happy sister.” For her sake he abanSurely here is a life which has yet to be doned all thoughts of love and marriage (all told! A son is rarely the best biographer hope of the fairhaired,' whose image yet of his father. Blanchard Jerrold's is a lists here and there across his page in later book full of interest; but where is that life years glimpses of a bygone dream), and before the son knew the father well enough with an income of scarcely more than 1001. to understand him? Where are those early a year derived from his clerkship, aided for days of the printer, those early struggles of a little while by the old aunt's small annuity, the author ?" We know enough of the man's set out on the journey of life at twenty-two triumphs; are they not ever before us ? years of age, cheerfully with his beloved Who shall tell us of his failures, of the days companion, endeared to him the more by when the approaches to the citadel were her strange calamity, and the constant apbeing conducted, when the trenches had to prehension of a recurrence of the malady be made, and the rifle-pits to be dug, the which had caused it.” That is a pleasant days before the conquering genius burst in essay of Lord Lytfon's which appeared in upon the guarded garrison of Fame, and the Quarterly Review a year ago, on “Charles waved the tattered banner of victory ? Has Lamb and his companions. We are in not all this to be done for Thackeray yet ? doubt whether we ought not to add the Mr. Theodore Taylor's book, with its trea- whole of this learned author's essays to our sured plates, and its most real portrait, is familiar corner. They are to our mind his but a preliminary foretaste of the biograph- best performances, unless we except " The ical feast to which we hope to sit down. Caxtons” and “ My Novel.” Leigh Hunt . There is a blank in our shelf of pleasant comes altogether within the meaning of a books until that full picture is drawn by pleasant companion. There is hardly a some loving pen. “Pendennis," it is true, more agreeable book than his “ Indicator," is there, and Philip,” in which we trace and he has a good deal of that “ charm " soine of the great man's immortal foot-steps; which belongs to Lamb, and also in a simiand those miscellaneous papers, with “ The lar degree to Tom Hood. Turning to this White Squall" amongst them, are amongst latter writer, the mind instinctively wanders the most delightful companions whom we to that exquisite picture of solitude – suipmon round the fire on these dark November nights.
“The weeping heron, motionless and stiff, A pleasant book in the fullest meaning of
That on a stone, as silently and stilly
Stood, an apparent sentinel, as if the word pleasant, is “Essays by Elia." llow well Dilwer has described the secret
To guard the water lily." of Lamb's intiuence. • He is one of those Then the scene shifts momentarily, and rare fiivourites of the Graces on whom the memory turns to that terrible “Song of gilt of charm is bestowed — a gist not indeed the Shirt," and that poor drowned woman, denied to Ilunt, but much more sparingly homeless and friendless, gone to her death.
Comedy anon lifts the curtain, and a host poet." Nor were these the words of mere of familiar faces, rollicking and grim, start flattery; for Scott afterwards inserted the up to set the table in a roar; and then poem in his collection of “ English Minwith a sigh for the hardness of the times, strelsy," as illustrative of manners now oband the misfortunes of genius, we turn to solete. • It is possible, it is even probathat dedication to the second edition of ble,” writes Benjamin Disraeli, “that if
• Cakes and Ale,” and read with a blush my father had devoted himself to the art of sorrow and shame, “ This humble offer- (of poetry) he might have become the ing [To Thomas Hood] is herewith re- author of some elegant and popular didacnewed; with the expression of a regret tic poem, on some ordinary subject, which that it was necessary for Thomas Hood his fancy would have adorned with grace still to do one thing, ere the wide circle and his sensibility invested with sentiment; and the profound depth of his genius were some small volume which might have reto the full acknowledged; that one thing posed with a classic title upon our library
to die!" It is the old, old story. shelves, and served as a prize volume at Turn we to one of our most entertain- ladies' schools. This celebrity, however, ing friends — D'Israeli's “ Literary Char- was not reserved for him.” Instead of rivacter” – for endorsement; and haply foo alling Mr. Tupper, as his son evidently for contrary illustrations. How much of fancies he might have done, he was desthat past history of unappreciated authorship tined to give to the world a series of curihave we not changed in the present day? ous, learned, and interesting works illusLook around and see the prize-holders; trative of the literary and political history look around and note how the public of to- of England and many foreign countries, day rewards its entertainers. There are full of anecdote and with new and original novelists who receive thousands of pounds views, which time and public opinion on for one book, and a successful play pays the whole have ratified as just. Still the enough it seems to make a man's fortune. poetic temperament was not wanting in the What did Johnson procure for Goldsmith's prose writer; and as his son suggests, “it " Vicar of Wakefield" ? Alfred Tenny- was possibly because he was a poet in himson can get a hundred guineas for half a self that he became a popular writer in the dozen stanzas. When Goldsmith received best and truest sense, and made the belles fifty pounds for “ The Deserted Village," lettres charming to the multitude." Aldon't you remember how poor Goldy" though Isaac D’Israeli conceived in early thought the bookseller had been too lib- youth the idea of a work illustrative of the eral Verily these are the days for your literary character, it is not a little curious successful author, whether our literature that he was stimulated to go on by the acis really stronger and better for the change cidentally discovered compliments of anis a question which others may discuss, so other great poet. In his preface to the long as we are permitted to gossip by the “ Literary Character," he says: • Upfire about pleasant books, the only com- wards of forty years have elapsed since, panions who keep their faith with you, composed in a distant couutry, and printed pure, unchanged, unshaken, in all the din at a provincial press, I published • An Esand condict of the times.
say on the Manners and Genius of the It was the deliberate opinion of Sir Wal- Literary Character.' To my own habitual ter Scott that Mr. Isaac D’Israeli had mis- and inherent defects, were superadded taken his role in composing such prose those of my youth. The crude production books as the one we have just mentioned. was not, however, ill received, for the ediHe was quite aware of the old proverb tion disappeared; and the subject was which tells us, “ Poeta nascitur, non fit," found more interesting than the writer. and yet he declared that nature intended During a long interval of twenty years, Isaac D’Israeli for a poet. Our versatile this little work was often recalled to my premier informs us that when his father recollection by several, and by some who was first introduced to Scott, who was then have since obtained celebrity in the zenith of his fame, the latter saluted traordinary circumstance concurred with him with the recitation of a poem which these opinions. A copy accidentally fell D'Israeli had written in his early youth. into my hands which had formerly beGreat surprise was expressed by the author longed to a great poetical genius of our of these lines, at finding them not only times; and the singular fact that it had known to Walter Scott, but also remem- | been more than once read by him, and bered by him. “Ah!” replied Scott, “ if twice in two subsequent years at Athens, the writer of these lines had gone on with in 1810 and 1811, instantly convinced me his pen, he would have been an English that the volume deserved my renewed at
tention.". Lord Byron had marked the were poor conversationalists. Charles II. copy with many notes, some of which having read Hudibras, sought Butler in the D'Israeli afterwards published; and the hope of a sparkling chat, but he was engreat poet's letter to the author was event- tirely disappointed. Alfieri and Gray were ually embodied in the preface.
dull in company, and Corneille, the great Dickens we put with Hans Christian An- French dramatist, was silent and taciturn. dersen and Grimm. They are kindred Disraeli relates that once when Rousseau somehow in our mind; but Dickens in this returned to a village, he had to learn to encategory is represented only by “ The Old dure its conversation. Alone, I have nevCuriosity Shop,” and “ The Christmas Car- er known ennui, even when perfectly unocol." We put " David Copperfield” and cupied ; my imaginations, filling the void,
Martin Chuzzlewit," and "* Pickwick" by, were sufficient to busy me. It is only the infor wayside reference, for chamber books active chit-chat of the room, where every sometimes, or garden reading in the sum- one is seated face to face, and only moving mer; but “ Tiny Tim" and "Little Nell,” their tongues, which I never could support." real though they be, we introduce to “The Addison and Molière talked but little, and Little Tin Soldier," “ Elsie," “ The Ugly Dryden himself has said of himself, My Duckling,
," "Little Claus and Great Claus ; " conversation is slow and dull, my humour and that old street lamp and other curiosi- saturnine and reserved ; in short, I am none ties of Andersen seem to belong to the of those who endeavour to break jests in * Curiosity Shop,” not so much from affin- company, or make repartees." Tasso was ity of fancy, as because it seems to us Dick- so reserved that a person in his society ens must understand them himself so thor- said this persistent silence was indicative oughly. We have had our last Christmas of madness; the poet, overhearing bim, book from Dickens, they say. Oh, these asked whether he was acquainted with a lasts! Oh, this giving over, this closing of madman who knew how to hold his tongue. the book, this ringing down the drop scene, The habit which a man acqnires of thinking this writing Finis ! Are there no more through his pen, has a tendency to weaken Tiny Tims, not Scrooges, nor Toby Vecks, his power as a speaker and conversationalnor Mrs. Lirripers left in that teeming ist; his rule of revision, his wonted roundbrain; or is it time to rest? We do not ing and perfecting of sentences, make him complain, we only regret that the summer severely critical with regard to his unwritten is over, listen more attentively with Toby utterances; we have many examples to the Veck to the Christmas bells, hug that little contrary, it is true; but they go to prove figure which we find at Bob Cratchett's the rule. Authors talk best amongst themfireside closer to our hearts, and breathe selves. The curiosity of outsiders is a remore fervently that never-dying prayer, straint upon them; but after all, they say God bless us every one."
the best things to those who consult them In that pleasant little corner above the through their works; to us who seek them ruck of thumbed and greasy volumes which alone with genial appreciation and respect, have passed in special review before us sit- holding sweet converse with familiar books. ting here in the firelight, come we now to an “ Many a great wit has thought the wit it exclusive set of gilt-edged friends who seem was too late to speak, and many a great to have a place apart; these are a select reasoner has only reasoned when his oppoparty of poets, represented by In Memo- nent has disappeared."
• Ossian” was the riani," "The Ancient Mariner,” “The De- first Napoleon's favourite book. It is rare serted Village, " The Borough,” “ Evan- poetry. The description of Winter which geline, Ossian," Lalla Rookh,” “Bep- Mr. Howitt has quoted in his “Seasons” po,” and “Don Juan,” Mrs. Browning's as an example, is almost equal to Shakssonnets, and a miscellaneous book of songs peare's graphic poem in “ Love's Labour's with examples from Dibdin and some minor Lost," the most perfect word-picture we poets. How Johnson must have astonished know, and one that is perhaps less quoted Boswell with that most unexpected judg- than any. Southgate has omitted it from ment of the poet, who had been working his voluminous “ Many Thoughts; " it is not anonymously for so long : “Sir, Goldsmith in Friswell's Familiar Words;" we do is one of the first men we have as an au- not find it in “ Elegant Extracts," and thor.” I think it is Mr. Forster who says in even Ayscough, in his most copious and jureference to “ Little Goldy” looking fool- dicious “ Index,” does not indicate " the ishly sometimes, “ Conversation is a game dialogue that the two learned men have where the wise do not always win.” Lafon- composed in praise of the owl and the taine, of witty, fable fame, and Marmontel, cuckoo."
“ When icicles hang by the wall,
and with the peculiar erectness of head and And Dick the shepherd blows his nail, neck, his diminutiveness appears."
His And Tom bears logs into the hall,
curly head was gray, and his forehead And milk comes frozen home in pail, wrinkled at that time, but he was full of When blood is nipp’d, and ways be foul, life and wit, and the conversation chiefly Then nightly sings the staring owl
turned upon O'Connell and Ireland's glory. To-who;
Yes, Mr. Willis, we shall put you upon the Tu-whit, to-who, a merry note, While Joan doth keel the pot.
lower shelf, as a pleasant companion, and greasy
ask permission to give you
Shenstone's “When all aloud the wind doth blow,
Essays " and Washington Irving's “Sketch And coughing drowns the parson's saw,
Book” as neighbours. Poor Shenstone ! And birds sit brooding in the snow,
we recall to mind the trouble and anxiety And Marian's nose looks red and raw; which attended the publication of “ The When roasted crabs hiss in the bowl, Schoolmistress." 'Ilow many have experiThen nightly sings the staring owl –
enced the truth of his fretful remark during To-who;
the process of printing: Nothing is cerTu-whit, to-who, a merry note,
tain in London but expense, which I can ill While greasy Joan doth keel the pot.” bear." Disraeli credits Shenstone with the
inspiration of that often quoted couplet of “ In Memoriam,” sad though its strain, Gray's we call a pleasant book for those images of beauty and soothing thoughts of patients. Some mute inglorious Milton here may rest hope and fond regret that meet your eye at Some Cromwell, guiltless of his country's blood.” every page. It is a poem to glance at now
In and then, and lay down.
support of this, Disraeli quotes from Don Juan.” What can withstand the “The Schoolmistress," printed in 1742 lightning of this poet's genius? You must “ A little hepch of beedless bishops here, go on; the poetry is torrent-like in its rush,
And there a chancellor in embryo." and crowded with human interest. Perhaps the mind flags when Haidee is dead, and Timbs relates that William Strahan, a the better part of our moral nature pauses native of Edinburgh, came to London when to regret that so much exquisite poetry a young man, and worked as a journeyman should carry with it so much filth. It is a printer. Franklin was his fellow workman. curious little edition that of Murray's, in- Straban prospered, and evenmally became troduced by a string of “opinions of the a famous publisher. He was a great friend press” and extracts from Byron's charac- of Johnson. Is it not noteworthy that the teristic letters to the publisher, with cach learned doctor had two very intimate Scotch fresh batch of copy. There is an absence friends ? This William Strahan was suein Byron's works of those quiet domestic ceeded by his third son, Andrew, and died scenes which lend such a charm to Gold- worth more than a million. The mention smith and Cowper, to Longfellow and of “ Rejected Addresses,” brings up this Thomson, Tennyson and Wordsworth ; but wayside note. Andrew Straban presented his genius sparkles in every page like Shel- James Sinith with a thousand pounds — a ley's, and dazzles like none other; and his piece of rare munificent appreciation which intellect has the grasp and weight of John- is worthy of a lasting record.
It is a relief, after Byron, to come How inuch injustice shall we do by enddown to the smooth musical flow of Toming our gossip here, by sitting still to think Moore. Despite that charge of snobbism, of our benefactors in print ? Crabbe and which is not easy to overcome, we cannot Thomson, and a host of others crop up for help turning to Willis's “ Pencillings by the recognition, as we lay down our pen. But Way,” for a glimpse of Moore in society; we only profess to have gossiped; we have Noore at Lady B —'s, with the author of not simply selected, we have not merely
· Pelham," and S of the “ Rejected (riticised, and in talking of our most cherAddresses." I found myself seated oppo- ished books in that favourite corner, we do site M -, with a blaze of light on his Bac- not disguise from ourselves the fact that chus' head, and the mirrors with which the they increase and multiply day by day, superb octagonal room is panneled reflecting week by week. Moreover, we have menevery motion. To see him only at table, you tioned books for private companionship, for would not think him a small man. llis quiet, pleasant winter hours. For Shaksprincipal length is in bis body, and his peare one needs a companion; he must be head and shoulders are those of a much read aloud. The grand, sonorous music of larger person. Consequently lie sits tall, his words fills the heart to overflowing, and