Part 2 out of 3
Judge Methuen tells me that it is no longer the fashion to refer
to persons or things as being ``simon-pure''; the fashion, as he
says, passed out some years ago when a writer in a German paper
``was led into an amusing blunder by an English review. The
reviewer, having occasion to draw a distinction between George
and Robert Cruikshank, spoke of the former as the real Simon
Pure. The German, not understanding the allusion, gravely told
his readers that George Cruikshank was a pseudonym, the author's
real name being Simon Pure.''
This incident is given in Henry B. Wheatley's ``Literary
Blunders,'' a very charming book, but one that could have been
made more interesting to me had it recorded the curious blunder
which Frederick Saunders makes in his ``Story of Some Famous
Books.'' On page 169 we find this information: ``Among earlier
American bards we instance Dana, whose imaginative poem `The
Culprit Fay,' so replete with poetic beauty, is a fairy tale of
the highlands of the Hudson. The origin of the poem is traced to
a conversation with Cooper, the novelist, and Fitz-Greene
Halleck, the poet, who, speaking of the Scottish streams and
their legendary associations, insisted that the American rivers
were not susceptible of like poetic treatment. Dana thought
otherwise, and to make his position good produced three days
after this poem.''
It may be that Saunders wrote the name Drake, for it was James
Rodman Drake who did ``The Culprit Fay.'' Perhaps it was the
printer's fault that the poem is accredited to Dana. Perhaps Mr.
Saunders writes so legible a hand that the printers are careless
with his manuscript.
``There is,'' says Wheatley, ``there is a popular notion among
authors that it is not wise to write a clear hand. Menage was
one of the first to express it. He wrote: `If you desire that
no mistake shall appear in the works which you publish, never
send well-written copy to the printer, for in that case the
manuscript is given to young apprentices, who make a thousand
errors; while, on the other hand, that which is difficult to read
is dealt with by the master-printers.' ''
The most distressing blunder I ever read in print was made at the
time of the burial of the famous antiquary and litterateur, John
Payne Collier. In the London newspapers of Sept. 21, 1883, it
was reported that ``the remains of the late Mr. John Payne
Collier were interred yesterday in Bray churchyard, near
Maidenhead, in the presence of a large number of spectators.''
Thereupon the Eastern daily press published the following
remarkable perversion: ``The Bray Colliery Disaster. The
remains of the late John Payne, collier, were interred yesterday
afternoon in the Bray churchyard in the presence of a large
number of friends and spectators.''
Far be it from the book-lover and the book-collector to rail at
blunders, for not unfrequently these very blunders make books
valuable. Who cares for a Pine's Horace that does not contain
the ``potest'' error? The genuine first edition of Hawthorne's
``Scarlet Letter'' is to be determined by the presence of a
certain typographical slip in the introduction. The first
edition of the English Scriptures printed in Ireland (1716) is
much desired by collectors, and simply because of an error.
Isaiah bids us ``sin no more,'' but the Belfast printer, by some
means or another, transposed the letters in such wise as to make
the injunction read ``sin on more.''
The so-called Wicked Bible is a book that is seldom met with,
and, therefore, in great demand. It was printed in the time of
Charles I., and it is notorious because it omits the adverb
``not'' in its version of the seventh commandment; the printers
were fined a large sum for this gross error. Six copies of the
Wicked Bible are known to be in existence. At one time the late
James Lenox had two copies; in his interesting memoirs Henry
Stevens tells how he picked up one copy in Paris for fifty
Rabelais' printer got the satirical doctor into deep water for
printing asne for ame; the council of the Sorbonne took the
matter up and asked Francis I. to prosecute Rabelais for heresy;
this the king declined to do, and Rabelais proceeded forthwith to
torment the council for having founded a charge of heresy upon a
Once upon a time the Foulis printing establishment at Glasgow
determined to print a perfect Horace; accordingly the proof
sheets were hung up at the gates of the university, and a sum of
money was paid for every error detected.
Notwithstanding these precautions the edition had six uncorrected
errors in it when it was finally published. Disraeli says that
the so-called Pearl Bible had six thousand errata! The works of
Picus of Mirandula, Strasburg, 1507, gave a list of errata
covering fifteen folio pages, and a worse case is that of
``Missae ac Missalis Anatomia'' (1561), a volume of one hundred
and seventy-two pages, fifteen of which are devoted to the
errata. The author of the Missae felt so deeply aggrieved by
this array of blunders that he made a public explanation to the
effect that the devil himself stole the manuscript, tampered with
it, and then actually compelled the printer to misread it.
I am not sure that this ingenious explanation did not give origin
to the term of ``printer's devil.''
It is frightful to think
What nonsense sometimes
They make of one's sense
And, what's worse, of one's rhymes.
It was only last week,
In my ode upon spring,
Which I meant to have made
A most beautiful thing,
When I talked of the dewdrops
From freshly blown roses,
The nasty things made it
From freshly blown noses.
We can fancy Richard Porson's rage (for Porson was of violent
temper) when, having written the statement that ``the crowd rent
the air with their shouts,'' his printer made the line read ``the
crowd rent the air with their snouts.'' However, this error was
a natural one, since it occurs in the ``Catechism of the Swinish
Multitude. ``Royalty only are privileged when it comes to the
matter of blundering. When Louis XIV. was a boy he one day spoke
of ``un carosse''; he should have said ``une carosse,'' but he
was king, and having changed the gender of carosse the change was
accepted, and unto this day carosse is masculine.
That errors should occur in newspapers is not remarkable, for
much of the work in a newspaper office is done hastily. Yet some
of these errors are very amusing. I remember to have read in a
Berlin newspaper a number of years ago that ``Prince Bismarck is
trying to keep up honest and straightforward relations with all
the girls'' (madchen).
This statement seemed incomprehensible until it transpired that
the word ``madchen'' was in this instance a misprint for
``machten,'' a word meaning all the European powers.
WHEN FANCHONETTE BEWITCHED ME
The garden in which I am straying has so many diversions to catch
my eye, to engage my attention and to inspire reminiscence that I
find it hard to treat of its beauties methodically. I find
myself wandering up and down, hither and thither, in so
irresponsible a fashion that I marvel you have not abandoned me
as the most irrational of madmen.
Yet how could it be otherwise? All around me I see those things
that draw me from the pathway I set out to pursue: like a
heedless butterfly I flit from this sweet unto that, glorying and
revelling in the sunshine and the posies. There is little that
is selfish in a love like this, and herein we have another reason
why the passion for books is beneficial. He who loves women must
and should love some one woman above the rest, and he has her to
his keeping, which I esteem to be one kind of selfishness.
But he who truly loves books loves all books alike, and not only
this, but it grieves him that all other men do not share with him
this noble passion. Verily, this is the most unselfish of loves!
To return now to the matter of booksellers, I would fain impress
you with the excellences of the craft, for I know their virtues.
My association with them has covered so long a period and has
been so intimate that even in a vast multitude of people I have
no difficulty in determining who are the booksellers and who are
For, having to do with books, these men in due time come to
resemble their wares not only in appearance but also in
conversation. My bookseller has dwelt so long in his corner with
folios and quartos and other antique tomes that he talks in
black-letter and has the modest, engaging look of a brown old
stout binding, and to the delectation of discriminating
olfactories he exhaleth an odor of mildew and of tobacco
commingled, which is more grateful to the true bibliophile than
all the perfumes of Araby.
I have studied the craft so diligently that by merely clapping my
eyes upon a bookseller I can tell you with certainty what manner
of books he sells; but you must know that the ideal bookseller
has no fads, being equally proficient in and a lover of all
spheres, departments, branches, and lines of his art. He is,
moreover, of a benignant nature, and he denies credit to none;
yet, withal, he is righteously so discriminating that he lets the
poor scholar have for a paltry sum that which the rich parvenu
must pay dearly for. He is courteous and considerate where
courtesy and consideration are most seemly.
Samuel Johnson once rolled into a London bookseller's shop to ask
for literary employment. The bookseller scrutinized his burly
frame, enormous hands, coarse face, and humble apparel.
``You would make a better porter,'' said he.
This was too much for the young lexicographer's patience. He
picked up a folio and incontinently let fly at the bookseller's
head, and then stepping over the prostrate victim he made his
exit, saying: ``Lie there, thou lump of lead!''
This bookseller was Osborne, who had a shop at Gray's Inn Gate.
To Boswell Johnson subsequently explained: ``Sir, he was
impertinent to me, and I beat him.''
Jacob Tonson was Dryden's bookseller; in the earlier times a
seller was also a publisher of books. Dryden was not always on
amiable terms with Tonson, presumably because Dryden invariably
was in debt to Tonson. On one occasion Dryden asked for an
advance of money, but Tonson refused upon the grounds that the
poet's overdraft already exceeded the limits of reasonableness.
Thereupon Dryden penned the following lines and sent them to
Tonson with the message that he who wrote these lines could write
With leering looks, bull-faced and freckled fair
With two left legs, with Judas-colored hair,
And frowzy pores that taint the ambient air.
These lines wrought the desired effect: Tonson sent the money
which Dryden had asked for. When Dryden died Tonson made
overtures to Pope, but the latter soon went over to Tonson's most
formidable rival, Bernard Lintot. On one occasion Pope happened
to be writing to both publishers, and by a curious blunder he
inclosed to each the letter intended for the other. In the
letter meant for Tonson, he said that Lintot was a scoundrel, and
in the letter meant for Lintot he declared that Tonson was an old
rascal. We can fancy how little satisfaction Messrs. Lintot and
Tonson derived from the perusal of these missent epistles.
Andrew Millar was the publisher who had practical charge of the
production of Johnson's dictionary. It seems that Johnson drew
out his stipulated honorarium of eight thousand dollars (to be
more exact, L1575) before the dictionary went to press; this is
not surprising, for the work of preparation consumed eight years,
instead of three, as Johnson had calculated. Johnson inquired of
the messenger what Millar said when he received the last batch of
copy. The messenger answered: ``He said `Thank God I have done
with him.' '' This made Johnson smile. ``I am glad,'' said he,
quietly, ``that he thanks God for anything.''
I was not done with my discourse when a book was brought in from
Judge Methuen; the interruption was a pleasant one. ``I was too
busy last evening,'' writes the judge, ``to bring you this volume
which I picked up in a La Salle street stall yesterday. I know
your love for the scallawag Villon, so I am sure you will fancy
the lines which, evidently, the former owner of this book has
scribbled upon the fly-leaf.'' Fancy them? Indeed I do; and if
you dote on the ``scallawag'' as I dote on him you also will
declare that our anonymous poet has not wrought ill.
If I were Francois Villon and Francois Villon I,
What would it matter to me how the time might drag or fly?
HE would in sweaty anguish toil the days and nights away,
And still not keep the prowling, growling, howling wolf at bay!
But, with my valiant bottle and my frouzy brevet-bride,
And my score of loyal cut-throats standing guard for me outside,
What worry of the morrow would provoke a casual sigh
If I were Francois Villon and Francois Villon I?
If I were Francois Villon and Francois Villon I,
To yonder gloomy boulevard at midnight I would hie;
``Stop, stranger! and deliver your possessions, ere you feel
The mettle of my bludgeon or the temper of my steel!''
He should give me gold and diamonds, his snuff-box and his cane--
``Now back, my boon companions, to our bordel with our gain!''
And, back within that brothel, how the bottles they would fly,
If I were Francois Villon and Francois Villon I!
If I were Francois Villon and Francois Villon I,
We both would mock the gibbet which the law has lifted high;
HE in his meagre, shabby home, _I_ in my roaring den--
HE with his babes around him, _I_ with my hunted men!
His virtue be his bulwark--my genius should be mine!--
``Go, fetch my pen, sweet Margot, and a jorum of your wine!
. . . . . . .
So would one vainly plod, and one win immortality--
If I were Francois Villon and Francois Villon I!
My acquaintance with Master Villon was made in Paris during my
second visit to that fascinating capital, and for a while I was
under his spell to that extent that I would read no book but his,
and I made journeys to Rouen, Tours, Bordeaux, and Poitiers for
the purpose of familiarizing myself with the spots where he had
lived, and always under the surveillance of the police. In fact,
I became so infatuated of Villonism that at one time I seriously
thought of abandoning myself to a life of crime in order to
emulate in certain particulars at least the example of my hero.
There were, however, hindrances to this scheme, first of which
was my inability to find associates whom I wished to attach to my
cause in the capacity in which Colin de Cayeulx and the Baron de
Grigny served Master Francois. I sought the companionship of
several low-browed, ill-favored fellows whom I believed suited to
my purposes, but almost immediately I wearied of them, for they
had never looked into a book and were so profoundly ignorant as
to be unable to distinguish between a folio and a thirty-twomo.
Then again it befell that, while the Villon fever was raging
within and I was contemplating a career of vice, I had a letter
from my uncle Cephas, apprising me that Captivity Waite (she was
now Mrs. Eliphalet Parker) had named her first-born after me!
This intelligence had the effect of cooling and sobering me; I
began to realize that, with the responsibility the coming and the
christening of Captivity's first-born had imposed upon me, it
behooved me to guard with exceeding jealousy the honor of the
name which my namesake bore.
While I was thus tempest-tossed, Fanchonette came across my
pathway, and with the appearance of Fanchonette every ambition to
figure in the annals of bravado left me. Fanchonette was the
niece of my landlady; her father was a perfumer; she lived with
the old people in the Rue des Capucins. She was of middling
stature and had blue eyes and black hair. Had she not been
French, she would have been Irish, or, perhaps, a Grecian. Her
manner had an indefinable charm.
It was she who acquainted me with Beranger; that is why I never
take up that precious volume that I do not think, sweetly and
tenderly, of Fanchonette. The book is bound, as you see, in a
dainty blue, and the border toolings are delicate tracings of
white--all for a purpose, I can assure you. She used to wear a
dainty blue gown, from behind the nether hem of which the most
immaculate of petticoats peeped out.
If we were never boys, how barren and lonely our age would be.
Next to the ineffably blessed period of youth there is no time of
life pleasanter than that in which serene old age reviews the
exploits and the prodigies of boyhood. Ah, my gay fellows,
harvest your crops diligently, that your barns and granaries be
full when your arms are no longer able to wield the sickle!
Haec meminisse--to recall the old time--to see her rise out of
the dear past--to hear Fanchonette's voice again--to feel the
grace of springtime--how gloriously sweet this is! The little
quarrels, the reconciliations, the coquetries, the jealousies,
the reproaches, the forgivenesses--all the characteristic and
endearing haps of the Maytime of life--precious indeed are these
retrospections to the hungry eyes of age!
She wed with the perfumer's apprentice; but that was so very long
ago that I can pardon, if not forget, the indiscretion. Who
knows where she is to-day? Perhaps a granny beldame in a
Parisian alley; perhaps for years asleep in Pere la Chaise. Come
forth, beloved Beranger, and sing me the old song to make me
young and strong and brave again!
Let them be served on gold--
The wealthy and the great;
Two lovers only want
A single glass and plate!
Ring ding, ring ding,
Ring ding ding--
Old wine, young lassie,
Sing, boys, sing!
DIAGNOSIS OF THE BACILLUS LIBRORUM
For a good many years I was deeply interested in British
politics. I was converted to Liberalism, so-called, by an
incident which I deem well worth relating. One afternoon I
entered a book-shop in High Holborn, and found that the Hon.
William E. Gladstone had preceded me thither. I had never seen
Mr. Gladstone before. I recognized him now by his resemblance to
the caricatures, and by his unlikeness to the portraits which the
newspapers had printed.
As I entered the shop I heard the bookseller ask: ``What books
shall I send?''
To this, with a very magnificent sweep of his arms indicating
every point of the compass, Gladstone made answer: ``Send me
With these words he left the place, and I stepped forward to
claim a volume which had attracted my favorable attention several
``I beg your pardon, sir,'' said the bookseller, politely, ``but
that book is sold.''
``Sold?'' I cried.
``Yes, sir,'' replied the bookseller, smiling with evident pride;
``Mr. Gladstone just bought it; I haven't a book for sale--Mr.
Gladstone just bought them ALL!''
The bookseller then proceeded to tell me that whenever Gladstone
entered a bookshop he made a practice of buying everything in
sight. That magnificent, sweeping gesture of his comprehended
everything--theology, history, social science, folk-lore,
medicine, travel, biography--everything that came to his net was
``This is the third time Mr. Gladstone has visited me,'' said the
bookseller, ``and this is the third time he has cleaned me out.''
``This man is a good man,'' says I to myself. ``So notable a
lover of books surely cannot err. The cause of home rule must be
a just one after all.''
From others intimately acquainted with him I learned that
Gladstone was an omnivorous reader; that he ordered his books by
the cart-load, and that his home in Hawarden literally overflowed
with books. He made a practice, I was told, of overhauling his
library once in so often and of weeding out such volumes as he
did not care to keep. These discarded books were sent to the
second-hand dealers, and it is said that the dealers not
unfrequently took advantage of Gladstone by reselling him over
and over again (and at advanced prices, too) the very lots of
books he had culled out and rejected.
Every book-lover has his own way of buying; so there are as many
ways of buying as there are purchasers. However, Judge Methuen
and I have agreed that all buyers may be classed in these
following specified grand divisions:
The reckless buyer.
The shrewd buyer.
The timid buyer.
Of these three classes the third is least worthy of our
consideration, although it includes very many lovers of books,
and consequently very many friends of mine. I have actually
known men to hesitate, to ponder, to dodder for weeks, nay,
months over the purchase of a book; not because they did not want
it, nor because they deemed the price exorbitant, nor yet because
they were not abundantly able to pay that price. Their hesitancy
was due to an innate, congenital lack of determination--that same
hideous curse of vacillation which is responsible for so much
misery in human life.
I have made a study of these people, and I find that most of them
are bachelors whose state of singleness is due to the fact that
the same hesitancy which has deprived them of many a coveted
volume has operated to their discomfiture in the matrimonial
sphere. While they deliberated, another bolder than they came
along and walked off with the prize.
One of the gamest buyers I know of was the late John A. Rice of
Chicago. As a competitor at the great auction sales he was
invincible; and why? Because, having determined to buy a book,
he put no limit to the amount of his bid. His instructions to
his agent were in these words: ``I must have those books, no
matter what they cost.''
An English collector found in Rice's library a set of rare
volumes he had been searching for for years.
``How did you happen to get them?'' he asked. ``You bought them
at the Spencer sale and against my bid. Do you know, I told my
buyer to bid a thousand pounds for them, if necessary!''
``That was where I had the advantage of you,'' said Rice,
quietly. ``I specified no limit; I simply told my man to buy the
The spirit of the collector cropped out early in Rice. I
remember to have heard him tell how one time, when he was a young
man, he was shuffling over a lot of tracts in a bin in front of a
Boston bookstall. His eye suddenly fell upon a little pamphlet
entitled ``The Cow-Chace.'' He picked it up and read it. It was
a poem founded upon the defeat of Generals Wayne, Irving, and
Proctor. The last stanza ran in this wise:
And now I've closed my epic strain,
I tremble as I show it,
Lest this same warrior-drover, Wayne,
Should ever catch the poet.
Rice noticed that the pamphlet bore the imprint of James
Rivington, New York, 1780. It occurred to him that some time
this modest tract of eighteen pages might be valuable; at any
rate, he paid the fifteen cents demanded for it, and at the same
time he purchased for ten cents another pamphlet entitled ``The
American Tories, a Satire.''
Twenty years later, having learned the value of these exceedingly
rare tracts, Mr. Rice sent them to London and had them bound in
Francis Bedford's best style--``crimson crushed levant morocco,
finished to a Grolier pattern.'' Bedford's charges amounted to
seventy-five dollars, which with the original cost of the
pamphlets represented an expenditure of seventy-five dollars and
twenty-five cents upon Mr. Rice's part. At the sale of the Rice
library in 1870, however, this curious, rare, and beautiful
little book brought the extraordinary sum of seven hundred and
The Rice library contained about five thousand volumes, and it
realized at auction sale somewhat more than seventy-two thousand
dollars. Rice has often told me that for a long time he could
not make up his mind to part with his books; yet his health was
so poor that he found it imperative to retire from business, and
to devote a long period of time to travel; these were the
considerations that induced him finally to part with his
treasures. ``I have never regretted having sold them,'' he said.
``Two years after the sale the Chicago fire came along. Had I
retained those books, every one of them would have been lost.''
Mrs. Rice shared her husband's enthusiasm for books. Whenever a
new invoice arrived, the two would lock themselves in their room,
get down upon their knees on the floor, open the box, take out
the treasures and gloat over them, together! Noble lady! she was
such a wife as any good man might be proud of. They were very
happy in their companionship on earth, were my dear old friends.
He was the first to go; their separation was short; together once
more and forever they share the illimitable joys which await all
lovers of good books when virtue hath mournfully writ the
colophon to their human careers.
Although Mr. Rice survived the sale of his remarkable library a
period of twenty-six years, he did not get together again a
collection of books that he was willing to call a library. His
first collection was so remarkable that he preferred to have his
fame rest wholly upon it. Perhaps he was wise; yet how few
collectors there are who would have done as he did.
As for myself, I verily believe that, if by fire or by water my
library should be destroyed this night, I should start in again
to-morrow upon the collection of another library. Or if I did
not do this, I should lay myself down to die, for how could I
live without the companionships to which I have ever been
accustomed, and which have grown as dear to me as life itself?
Whenever Judge Methuen is in a jocular mood and wishes to tease
me, he asks me whether I have forgotten the time when I was
possessed of a spirit of reform and registered a solemn vow in
high heaven to buy no more books. Teasing, says Victor Hugo, is
the malice of good men; Judge Methuen means no evil when he
recalls that weakness--the one weakness in all my career.
No, I have not forgotten that time; I look back upon it with a
shudder of horror, for wretched indeed would have been my
existence had I carried into effect the project I devised at that
Dr. O'Rell has an interesting theory which you will find recorded
in the published proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences
(vol. xxxiv., p. 216). Or, if you cannot procure copies of that
work, it may serve your purpose to know that the doctor's theory
is to this effect--viz., that bibliomania does not deserve the
name of bibliomania until it is exhibited in the second stage.
For secondary bibliomania there is no known cure; the few cases
reported as having been cured were doubtless not bibliomania at
all, or, at least, were what we of the faculty call false or
``In false bibliomania, which,'' says Dr. O'Rell, ``is the
primary stage of the grand passion--the vestibule to the main
edifice--the usual symptoms are flushed cheeks, sparkling eyes,
a bounding pulse, and quick respiration. This period of
exaltation is not unfrequently followed by a condition of
collapse in which we find the victim pale, pulseless, and
dejected. He is pursued and tormented of imaginary horrors, he
reproaches himself for imaginary crimes, and he implores
piteously for relief from fancied dangers. The sufferer now
stands in a slippery place; unless his case is treated
intelligently he will issue from that period of gloom cured of
the sweetest of madnesses, and doomed to a life of singular
``But properly treated,'' continues Dr. O'Rell, ``and
particularly if his spiritual needs be ministered to, he can be
brought safely through this period of collapse into a condition
of reenforced exaltation, which is the true, or secondary stage
of, bibliomania, and for which there is no cure known to
I should trust Dr. O'Rell's judgment in this matter, even if I
did not know from experience that it was true. For Dr. O'Rell is
the most famous authority we have in bibliomania and kindred
maladies. It is he (I make the information known at the risk of
offending the ethics of the profession)--it is he who discovered
the bacillus librorum, and, what is still more important and
still more to his glory, it is he who invented that subtle lymph
which is now everywhere employed by the profession as a
diagnostic where the presence of the germs of bibliomania (in
other words, bacilli librorum) is suspected.
I once got this learned scientist to inject a milligram of the
lymph into the femoral artery of Miss Susan's cat. Within an
hour the precocious beast surreptitiously entered my library for
the first time in her life, and ate the covers of my pet edition
of Rabelais. This demonstrated to Dr. O'Rell's satisfaction the
efficacy of his diagnostic, and it proved to Judge Methuen's
satisfaction what the Judge has always maintained--viz., that
Rabelais was an old rat.
THE PLEASURES OF EXTRA-ILLUSTRATION
Very many years ago we became convinced--Judge Methuen and I
did--that there was nothing new in the world. I think it was
while we were in London and while we were deep in the many fads
of bibliomania that we arrived at this important conclusion.
We had been pursuing with enthusiasm the exciting delights of
extra-illustration, a practice sometimes known as Grangerism; the
friends of the practice call it by the former name, the enemies
by the latter. We were engaged at extra-illustrating Boswell's
life of Johnson, and had already got together somewhat more than
eleven thousand prints when we ran against a snag, an obstacle we
never could surmount. We agreed that our work would be
incomplete, and therefore vain, unless we secured a picture of
the book with which the great lexicographer knocked down Osborne,
the bookseller at Gray's Inn Gate.
Unhappily we were wholly in the dark as to what the title of that
book was, and, although we ransacked the British Museum and even
appealed to the learned Frognall Dibdin, we could not get a clew
to the identity of the volume. To be wholly frank with you, I
will say that both the Judge and I had wearied of the occupation;
moreover, it involved great expense, since we were content with
nothing but India proofs (those before letters preferred). So we
were glad of this excuse for abandoning the practice.
While we were contemplating a graceful retreat the Judge happened
to discover in the ``Natural History'' of Pliny a passage which
proved to our satisfaction that, so far from being a new or a
modern thing, the extra-illustration of books was of exceptional
antiquity. It seems that Atticus, the friend of Cicero, wrote a
book on the subject of portraits and portrait-painting, in the
course of which treatise he mentions that Marcus Varro
``conceived the very liberal idea of inserting, by some means or
another, in his numerous volumes, the portraits of several
hundred individuals, as he could not bear the idea that all
traces of their features should be lost or that the lapse of
centuries should get the better of mankind.''
``Thus,'' says Pliny, ``was he the inventor of a benefit to his
fellow-men that might have been envied by the gods themselves;
for not only did he confer immortality upon the originals of
these portraits, but he transmitted these portraits to all parts
of the earth, so that everywhere it might be possible for them to
be present, and for each to occupy his niche.''
Now, Pliny is not the only one who has contributed to the
immortalization of Marcus Varro. I have had among, my papers for
thirty years the verses which Judge Methuen dashed off (for poets
invariably dash off their poetry), and they are such pleasant
verses that I don't mind letting the world see them.
Marcus Varro went up and down
The places where old books were sold;
He ransacked all the shops in town
For pictures new and pictures old.
He gave the folk of earth no peace;
Snooping around by day and night,
He plied the trade in Rome and Greece
Of an insatiate Grangerite.
``Pictures!'' was evermore his cry--
``Pictures of old or recent date,''
And pictures only would he buy
Wherewith to ``extra-illustrate.''
Full many a tome of ancient type
And many a manuscript he took,
For nary purpose but to swipe
Their pictures for some other book.
While Marcus Varro plied his fad
There was not in the shops of Greece
A book or pamphlet to be had
That was not minus frontispiece.
Nor did he hesitate to ply
His baleful practices at home;
It was not possible to buy
A perfect book in all of Rome!
What must the other folk have done--
Who, glancing o'er the books they bought,
Came soon and suddenly upon
The vandalism Varro wrought!
How must their cheeks have flamed with red--
How did their hearts with choler beat!
We can imagine what they said--
We can imagine, not repeat!
Where are the books that Varro made--
The pride of dilettante Rome--
With divers portraitures inlaid
Swiped from so many another tome?
The worms devoured them long ago--
O wretched worms! ye should have fed
Not on the books ``extended'' so,
But on old Varro's flesh instead!
Alas, that Marcus Varro lives
And is a potent factor yet!
Alas, that still his practice gives
Good men occasion for regret!
To yonder bookstall, pri'thee, go,
And by the ``missing'' prints and plates
And frontispieces you shall know
He lives, and ``extra-illustrates''!
In justice to the Judge and to myself I should say that neither
of us wholly approves the sentiment which the poem I have quoted
implies. We regard Grangerism as one of the unfortunate stages
in bibliomania; it is a period which seldom covers more than five
years, although Dr. O'Rell has met with one case in his practice
that has lasted ten years and still gives no symptom of abating
Humanity invariably condones the pranks of youth on the broad and
charitable grounds that ``boys will be boys''; so we
bibliomaniacs are prone to wink at the follies of the Grangerite,
for we know that he will know better by and by and will heartily
repent of the mischief he has done. We know the power of books
so well that we know that no man can have to do with books that
presently he does not love them. He may at first endure them;
then he may come only to pity them; anon, as surely as the
morrow's sun riseth, he shall embrace and love those precious
So we say that we would put no curb upon any man, it being better
that many books should be destroyed, if ultimately by that
destruction a penitent and loyal soul be added to the roster of
bibliomaniacs. There is more joy over one Grangerite that
repenteth than over ninety and nine just men that need no
And we have a similar feeling toward such of our number as for
the nonce become imbued with a passion for any of the other
little fads which bibliomaniac flesh is heir to. All the
soldiers in an army cannot be foot, or horse, or captains, or
majors, or generals, or artillery, or ensigns, or drummers, or
buglers. Each one has his place to fill and his part to do, and
the consequence is a concinnate whole. Bibliomania is beautiful
as an entirety, as a symmetrical blending of a multitude of
component parts, and he is indeed disloyal to the cause who,
through envy or shortsightedness or ignorance, argues to the
discredit of angling, or Napoleonana, or balladry, or Indians, or
Burns, or Americana, or any other branch or phase of bibliomania;
for each of these things accomplishes a noble purpose in that
each contributes to the glory of the great common cause of
bibliomania, which is indeed the summum bonum of human life.
I have heard many decried who indulged their fancy for
bookplates, as if, forsooth, if a man loved his books, he should
not lavish upon them testimonials of his affection! Who that
loves his wife should hesitate to buy adornments for her person?
I favor everything that tends to prove that the human heart is
swayed by the tenderer emotions. Gratitude is surely one of the
noblest emotions of which humanity is capable, and he is indeed
unworthy of our respect who would forbid humanity's expressing in
every dignified and reverential manner its gratitude for the
benefits conferred by the companionship of books.
As for myself, I urge upon all lovers of books to provide
themselves with bookplates. Whenever I see a book that bears its
owner's plate I feel myself obligated to treat that book with
special consideration. It carries with it a certificate of its
master's love; the bookplate gives the volume a certain status it
would not otherwise have. Time and again I have fished musty
books out of bins in front of bookstalls, bought them and borne
them home with me simply because they had upon their covers the
bookplates of their former owners. I have a case filled with
these aristocratic estrays, and I insist that they shall be as
carefully dusted and kept as my other books, and I have provided
in my will for their perpetual maintenance after my decease.
If I were a rich man I should found a hospital for homeless
aristocratic books, an institution similar in all essential
particulars to the institution which is now operated at our
national capital under the bequest of the late Mr. Cochrane. I
should name it the Home for Genteel Volumes in Decayed
I was a young man when I adopted the bookplate which I am still
using, and which will be found in all my books. I drew the
design myself and had it executed by a son of Anderson, the first
of American engravers. It is by no means elaborate: a book rests
upon a heart, and underneath appear the lines:
My Book and Heart
Must never part.
Ah, little Puritan maid, with thy dear eyes of honest blue and
thy fair hair in proper plaits adown thy back, little thought we
that springtime long ago back among the New England hills that
the tiny book we read together should follow me through all my
life! What a part has that Primer played! And now all these
other beloved companions bear witness to the love I bear that
Primer and its teachings, for each wears the emblem I plucked
from its homely pages.
That was in the springtime, Captivity Waite; anon came summer,
with all its exuberant glory, and presently the cheery autumn
stole upon me. And now it is the winter-time, and under the
snows lies buried many a sweet, fair thing I cherished once. I
am aweary and will rest a little while; lie thou there, my pen,
for a dream--a pleasant dream--calleth me away. I shall see
those distant hills again, and the homestead under the elms; the
old associations and the old influences shall be round about me,
and a child shall lead me and we shall go together through green
pastures and by still waters. And, O my pen, it will be the
ON THE ODORS WHICH MY BOOKS EXHALE
Have you ever come out of the thick, smoky atmosphere of the town
into the fragrant, gracious atmosphere of a library? If you
have, you know how grateful the change is, and you will agree
with me when I say that nothing else is so quieting to the
nerves, so conducive to physical health, and so quick to restore
a lively flow of the spirits.
Lafcadio Hearn once wrote a treatise upon perfumes, an ingenious
and scholarly performance; he limited the edition to fifty copies
and published it privately--so the book is rarely met with.
Curiously enough, however, this author had nothing to say in the
book about the smells of books, which I regard as a most
unpardonable error, unless, properly estimating the subject to be
worthy of a separate treatise, he has postponed its
consideration and treatment to a time when he can devote the
requisite study and care to it.
We have it upon the authority of William Blades that books
breathe; however, the testimony of experts is not needed upon
this point, for if anybody be sceptical, all he has to do to
convince himself is to open a door of a bookcase at any time and
his olfactories will be greeted by an outrush of odors that will
prove to him beyond all doubt that books do actually consume air
and exhale perfumes.
Visitors to the British Museum complain not unfrequently that
they are overcome by the closeness of the atmosphere in that
place, and what is known as the British Museum headache has come
to be recognized by the medical profession in London as a
specific ailment due to the absence of oxygen in the atmosphere,
which condition is caused by the multitude of books, each one of
which, by that breathing process peculiar to books, consumes
several thousand cubic feet of air every twenty-four hours.
Professor Huxley wondered for a long time why the atmosphere of
the British Museum should be poisonous while other libraries were
free from the poison; a series of experiments convinced him that
the presence of poison in the atmosphere was due to the number of
profane books in the Museum. He recommended that these
poison-engendering volumes be treated once every six months with
a bath of cedria, which, as I understand, is a solution of the
juices of the cedar tree; this, he said, would purge the
mischievous volumes temporarily of their evil propensities and
I do not know whether this remedy is effective, but I remember to
have read in Pliny that cedria was used by the ancients to render
their manuscripts imperishable. When Cneius Terentius went
digging in his estate in the Janiculum he came upon a coffer
which contained not only the remains of Numa, the old Roman king,
but also the manuscripts of the famous laws which Numa compiled.
The king was in some such condition as you might suppose him to
be after having been buried several centuries, but the
manuscripts were as fresh as new, and their being so is said to
have been due to the fact that before their burial they were
rubbed with citrus leaves.
These so-called books of Numa would perhaps have been preserved
unto this day but for the fanaticism of the people who exhumed
and read them; they were promptly burned by Quintus Petilius, the
praetor, because (as Cassius Hemina explains) they treated of
philosophical subjects, or because, as Livy testifies, their
doctrines were inimical to the religion then existing.
As I have had little to do with profane literature, I know
nothing of the habits of such books as Professor Huxley has
prescribed an antidote against. Of such books as I have gathered
about me and made my constant companions I can say truthfully
that a more delectable-flavored lot it were impossible to find.
As I walk amongst them, touching first this one and then that,
and regarding all with glances of affectionate approval, I fancy
that I am walking in a splendid garden, full of charming vistas,
wherein parterre after parterre of beautiful flowers is unfolded
to my enraptured vision; and surely there never were other odors
so delightful as the odors which my books exhale!
My garden aboundeth in pleasant nooks
And fragrance is over it all;
For sweet is the smell of my old, old books
In their places against the wall.
Here is a folio that's grim with age
And yellow and green with mould;
There's the breath of the sea on every page
And the hint of a stanch ship's hold.
And here is a treasure from France la belle
Exhaleth a faint perfume
Of wedded lily and asphodel
In a garden of song abloom.
And this wee little book of Puritan mien
And rude, conspicuous print
Hath the Yankee flavor of wintergreen,
Or, may be, of peppermint.
In Walton the brooks a-babbling tell
Where the cheery daisy grows,
And where in meadow or woodland dwell
The buttercup and the rose.
But best beloved of books, I ween,
Are those which one perceives
Are hallowed by ashes dropped between
The yellow, well-thumbed leaves.
For it's here a laugh and it's there a tear,
Till the treasured book is read;
And the ashes betwixt the pages here
Tell us of one long dead.
But the gracious presence reappears
As we read the book again,
And the fragrance of precious, distant years
Filleth the hearts of men
Come, pluck with me in my garden nooks
The posies that bloom for all;
Oh, sweet is the smell of my old, old books
In their places against the wall!
Better than flowers are they, these books of mine! For what are
the seasons to them? Neither can the drought of summer nor the
asperity of winter wither or change them. At all times and under
all circumstances they are the same--radiant, fragrant, hopeful,
helpful! There is no charm which they do not possess, no beauty
that is not theirs.
What wonder is it that from time immemorial humanity has craved
the boon of carrying to the grave some book particularly beloved
in life? Even Numa Pompilius provided that his books should
share his tomb with him. Twenty-four of these precious volumes
were consigned with him to the grave. When Gabriel Rossetti's
wife died, the poet cast into her open grave the unfinished
volume of his poems, that being the last and most precious
tribute he could pay to her cherished memory.
History records instance after instance of the consolation dying
men have received from the perusal of books, and many a one has
made his end holding in his hands a particularly beloved volume.
The reverence which even unlearned men have for books appeals in
these splendid libraries which are erected now and again with
funds provided by the wills of the illiterate. How dreadful must
be the last moments of that person who has steadfastly refused to
share the companionship and acknowledge the saving grace of
Such, indeed, is my regard for these friendships that it is with
misery that I contemplate the probability of separation from
them by and by. I have given my friends to understand that when
I am done with earth certain of my books shall be buried with me.
The list of these books will be found in the left-hand upper
drawer of the old mahogany secretary in the front spare room.
When I am done,
I'd have no son
Pounce on these treasures like a vulture;
Nay, give them half
And let them share in my sepulture.
Then when the crack
Of doom rolls back
The marble and the earth that hide me,
I'll smuggle home
Each precious tome
Without a fear a wife shall chide me.
The dread of being separated by death from the objects of one's
love has pursued humanity from the beginning. The Hindoos used
to have a selfish fashion of requiring their widows to be
entombed alive with their corpses. The North American Indian
insists that his horse, his bow and arrows, his spear, and his
other cherished trinkets shall share his grave with him.
My sister, Miss Susan, has provided that after her demise a
number of her most prized curios shall be buried with her. The
list, as I recall it, includes a mahogany four-post bedstead, an
Empire dresser, a brass warming-pan, a pair of brass andirons, a
Louis Quinze table, a Mayflower teapot, a Tomb of Washington
platter, a pewter tankard, a pair of her grandmother's
candlesticks, a Paul Revere lantern, a tall Dutch clock, a
complete suit of armor purchased in Rome, and a collection of
Japanese bric-a-brac presented to Miss Susan by a returned
I do not see what Miss Susan can possibly do with all this
trumpery in the hereafter, but, if I survive her, I shall
certainly insist upon a compliance with her wishes, even though
it involve the erection of a tumulus as prodigious as the pyramid
ELZEVIRS AND DIVERS OTHER MATTERS
Boswell's ``Life of Johnson'' and Lockhart's ``Life of Scott''
are accepted as the models of biography. The third remarkable
performance in this line is Mrs. Gordon's memoir of her father,
John Wilson, a volume so charmingly and tenderly written as to be
of interest to those even who know and care little about that era
in the history of English literature in which ``crusty
Christopher'' and his associates in the making of ``Blackwood's''
It is a significant fact, I think, that the three greatest
biographers the world has known should have been Scotch; it has
long been the fashion to laugh and to sneer at what is called
Scotch dulness; yet what prodigies has not Scotch genius
performed in every department of literature, and would not our
literature be poor indeed to-day but for the contributions which
have been made to it by the very people whom we affect to deride?
John Wilson was one of the most interesting figures of a time
when learning was at a premium; he was a big man amongst big men,
and even in this irreverential time genius uncovers at the
mention of his name. His versatility was astounding; with equal
facility and felicity he could conduct a literary symposium and a
cock-fight, a theological discussion and an angling expedition, a
historical or a political inquiry and a fisticuffs.
Nature had provided him with a mighty brain in a powerful body;
he had a physique equal to the performance of what suggestion
soever his splendid intellectuals made. To him the incredible
feat of walking seventy miles within the compass of a day was
mere child's play; then, when the printer became clamorous, he
would immure himself in his wonderful den and reel off copy until
that printer cried ``Hold; enough!'' It was no unusual thing
for him to write for thirteen hours at a stretch; when he worked
he worked, and when he played he played--that is perhaps the
reason why he was never a dull boy.
Wilson seems to have been a procrastinator. He would put off his
task to the very last moment; this is a practice that is common
with literary men--in fact, it was encouraged by those who were
regarded as authorities in such matters anciently. Ringelbergius
gave this advice to an author under his tuition:
``Tell the printers,'' said he, ``to make preparations for a work
you intend writing, and never alarm yourself about it because it
is not even begun, for, after having announced it you may without
difficulty trace out in your own head the whole plan of your work
and its divisions, after which compose the arguments of the
chapters, and I can assure you that in this manner you may
furnish the printers daily with more copy than they want. But,
remember, when you have once begun there must be no flagging till
the work is finished.''
The loyalty of human admiration was never better illustrated than
in Shelton Mackenzie's devotion to Wilson's genius. To Mackenzie
we are indebted for a compilation of the ``Noctes Ambrosianae,''
edited with such discrimination, such ability, such learning, and
such enthusiasm that, it seems to me, the work must endure as a
monument not only to Wilson's but also to Mackenzie's genius.
I have noticed one peculiarity that distinguishes many admirers
of the Noctes: they seldom care to read anything else; in the
Noctes they find a response to the demand of every mood. It is
much the same way with lovers of Father Prout. Dr. O'Rell
divides his adoration between old Kit North and the sage of
Watergrass Hill. To be bitten of either mania is bad enough;
when one is possessed at the same time of a passion both for the
Noctes and for the Reliques hopeless indeed is his malady! Dr.
O'Rell is so deep under the spell of crusty Christopher and the
Corkonian pere that he not only buys every copy of the Noctes and
of the Reliques he comes across, but insists upon giving copies
of these books to everybody in his acquaintance. I have even
known him to prescribe one or the other of these works to
patients of his.
I recall that upon one occasion, having lost an Elzevir at a book
auction, I was afflicted with melancholia to such a degree that I
had to take to my bed. Upon my physician's arrival he made, as
is his custom, a careful inquiry into my condition and into the
causes inducing it. Finally, ``You are afflicted,'' said Dr.
O'Rell, ``with the megrims, which, fortunately, is at present
confined to the region of the Pacchionian depressions of the
sinister parietal. I shall administer Father Prout's `Rogueries
of Tom Moore' (pronounced More) and Kit North's debate with the
Ettrick Shepherd upon the subject of sawmon. No other remedy
will prove effective.''
The treatment did, in fact, avail me, for within forty-eight
hours I was out of bed, and out of the house; and, what is better
yet, I picked up at a bookstall, for a mere song, a first edition
of ``Special Providences in New England''!
Never, however, have I wholly ceased to regret the loss of the
Elzevir, for an Elzevir is to me one of the most gladdening
sights human eye can rest upon. In his life of the elder Aldus,
Renouard says: ``How few are there of those who esteem and pay
so dearly for these pretty editions who know that the type that
so much please them are the work of Francis Garamond, who cast
them one hundred years before at Paris.''
In his bibliographical notes (a volume seldom met with now) the
learned William Davis records that Louis Elzevir was the first
who observed the distinction between the v consonant and the u
vowel, which distinction, however, had been recommended long
before by Ramus and other writers, but had never been regarded.
There were five of these Elzevirs, viz.: Louis, Bonaventure,
Abraham, Louis, Jr., and Daniel.
A hundred years ago a famous bibliophile remarked: ``The
diminutiveness of a large portion, and the beauty of the whole,
of the classics printed by the Elzevirs at Leyden and Amsterdam
have long rendered them justly celebrated, and the prices they
bear in public sales sufficiently demonstrate the estimation in
which they are at present held.''
The regard for these precious books still obtains, and we meet
with it in curiously out-of-the-way places, as well as in those
libraries where one would naturally expect to find it. My young
friend Irving Way (himself a collector of rare enthusiasm) tells
me that recently during a pilgrimage through the state of Texas
he came upon a gentleman who showed him in his modest home the
most superb collection of Elzevirs he had ever set eyes upon!
How far-reaching is thy grace, O bibliomania! How good and sweet
it is that no distance, no environment, no poverty, no distress
can appall or stay thee. Like that grim spectre we call death,
thou knockest impartially at the palace portal and at the cottage
door. And it seemeth thy especial delight to bring unto the
lonely in desert places the companionship that exalteth humanity!
It makes me groan to think of the number of Elzevirs that are
lost in the libraries of rich parvenus who know nothing of and
care no thing for the treasures about them further than a
certain vulgar vanity which is involved. When Catherine of
Russia wearied of Koritz she took to her affection one Kimsky
Kossakof, a sergeant in the guards. Kimsky was elated by this
sudden acquisition of favor and riches. One of his first orders
was to his bookseller. Said he to that worthy: ``Fit me up a
handsome library; little books above and great ones below.''
It is narrated of a certain British warrior that upon his
retirement from service he bought a library en bloc, and, not
knowing any more about books than a peccary knows of the
harmonies of the heavenly choir, he gave orders for the
arrangement of the volumes in this wise: ``Range me,'' he quoth,
``the grenadiers (folios) at the bottom, the battalion (octavos)
in the middle, and the light-bobs (duodecimos) at the top!''
Samuel Johnson, dancing attendance upon Lord Chesterfield, could
hardly have felt his humiliation more keenly than did the
historian Gibbon when his grace the Duke of Cumberland met him
bringing the third volume of his ``Decline and Fall of the Roman
Empire'' to the ducal mansion. This history was originally
printed in quarto; Gibbon was carrying the volume and
anticipating the joy of the duke upon its arrival. What did the
duke say? ``What?'' he cried. ``Ah, another ---- big square
It is the fashion nowadays to harp upon the degeneracy of
humanity; to insist that taste is corrupted, and that the faculty
of appreciation is dead. We seem incapable of realizing that
this is the golden age of authors, if not the golden age of
In the good old days authors were in fact a despised and
neglected class. The Greeks put them to death, as the humor
seized them. For a hundred years after his death Shakespeare was
practically unknown to his countrymen, except Suckling and his
coterie: during his life he was roundly assailed by his
contemporaries, one of the latter going to the extreme of
denouncing him as a daw that strutted in borrowed plumage.
Milton was accused of plagiarism, and one of his critics devoted
many years to compiling from every quarter passages in ancient
works which bore a similarity to the blind poet's verses. Even
Samuel Johnson's satire of ``London'' was pronounced a
The good old days were the days, seemingly, when the critics had
their way and ran things with a high hand; they made or unmade
books and authors. They killed Chatterton, just as, some years
later, they hastened the death of Keats. For a time they were
all-powerful. It was not until the end of the eighteenth century
that these professional tyrants began to lose their grip, and
when Byron took up the lance against them their doom was
Who would care a picayune in these degenerate days what Dr.
Warburton said pro or con a book? It was Warburton (then Bishop
of Gloucester) who remarked of Granger's ``Biographical History
of England'' that it was ``an odd one.'' This was as high a
compliment as he ever paid a book; those which he did not like he
called sad books, and those which he fancied he called odd ones.
The truth seems to be that through the diffusion of knowledge
and the multiplicity and cheapness of books people generally have
reached the point in intelligence where they feel warranted in
asserting their ability to judge for themselves. So the
occupation of the critic, as interpreted and practised of old, is
Reverting to the practice of lamenting the degeneracy of
humanity, I should say that the fashion is by no means a new one.
Search the records of the ancients and you will find the same
harping upon the one string of present decay and former virtue.
Herodotus, Sallust, Caesar, Cicero, and Pliny take up and repeat
the lugubrious tale in turn.
Upon earth there are three distinct classes of men: Those who
contemplate the past, those who contemplate the present, those
who contemplate the future. I am of those who believe that
humanity progresses, and it is my theory that the best works of
the past have survived and come down to us in these books which
are our dearest legacies, our proudest possessions, and our
A BOOK THAT BRINGS SOLACE AND CHEER
One of my friends had a mania for Bunyan once upon a time, and,
although he has now abandoned that fad for the more fashionable
passion of Napoleonana, he still exhibits with evident pride the
many editions of the ``Pilgrim's Progress'' he gathered together
years ago. I have frequently besought him to give me one of his
copies, which has a curious frontispiece illustrating the dangers
besetting the traveller from the City of Destruction to the
Celestial City. This frontispiece, which is prettily
illuminated, occurs in Virtue's edition of the ``Pilgrim's
Progress''; the book itself is not rare, but it is hardly
procurable in perfect condition, for the reason that the colored
plate is so pleasing to the eye that few have been able to resist
the temptation to make away with it.
For similar reasons it is seldom that we meet with a perfect
edition of Quarles' ``Emblems''; indeed, an ``Emblems'' of early
publication that does not lack the title-page is a great rarity.
In the ``good old days,'' when juvenile books were few, the works
of Bunyan and of Quarles were vastly popular with the little
folk, and little fingers wrought sad havoc with the title-pages
and the pictures that with their extravagant and vivid
suggestions appealed so directly and powerfully to the youthful
Coleridge says of the ``Pilgrim's Progress'' that it is the best
summary of evangelical Christianity ever produced by a writer not
miraculously inspired. Froude declares that it has for two
centuries affected the spiritual opinions of the English race in
every part of the world more powerfully than any other book,
except the Bible. ``It is,'' says Macaulay, ``perhaps the only
book about which, after the lapse of a hundred years, the
educated minority has come over to the opinion of the common
Whether or not Bunyan is, as D'Israeli has called him, the
Spenser of the people, and whether or not his work is the poetry
of Puritanism, the best evidence of the merit of the ``Pilgrim's
Progress'' appears, as Dr. Johnson has shrewdly pointed out, in
the general and continued approbation of mankind. Southey has
critically observed that to his natural style Bunyan is in some
degree beholden for his general popularity, his language being
everywhere level to the most ignorant reader and to the meanest
capacity; ``there is a homely reality about it--a nursery tale is
not more intelligible, in its manner of narration, to a child.''
Another cause of his popularity, says Southey, is that he taxes
the imagination as little as the understanding. ``The vividness
of his own, which, as history shows, sometimes could not
distinguish ideal impressions from actual ones, occasioned this.
He saw the things of which he was writing as distinctly with his
mind's eye as if they were, indeed, passing before him in a
It is clear to me that in his youth Bunyan would have endeared
himself to me had I lived at that time, for his fancy was of that
kind and of such intensity as I delight to find in youth. ``My
sins,'' he tells us, ``did so offend the Lord that even in my
childhood He did scare and affright me with fearful dreams and
did terrify me with dreadful visions. I have been in my bed
greatly afflicted, while asleep, with apprehensions of devils and
wicked spirits, who still, as I then thought, labored to draw me
away with them, of which I could never be rid.''
It is quite likely that Bunyan overestimated his viciousness.
One of his ardent, intense temperament having once been touched
of the saving grace could hardly help recognizing in himself the
most miserable of sinners. It is related that upon one occasion
he was going somewhere disguised as a wagoner, when he was
overtaken by a constable who had a warrant for his arrest.
``Do you know that devil of a fellow Bunyan?'' asked the
``Know him?'' cried Bunyan. ''You might call him a devil indeed,
if you knew him as well as I once did!''
This was not the only time his wit served him to good purpose.
On another occasion a certain Cambridge student, who was filled
with a sense of his own importance, undertook to prove to him
what a divine thing reason was, and he capped his argument with
the declaration that reason was the chief glory of man which
distinguished him from a beast. To this Bunyan calmly made
answer: ``Sin distinguishes man from beast; is sin divine?''
Frederick Saunders observes that, like Milton in his blindness,
Bunyan in his imprisonment had his spiritual perception made all
the brighter by his exclusion from the glare of the outside
world. And of the great debt of gratitude we all owe to ``the
wicked tinker of Elstow'' Dean Stanley has spoken so truly that I
am fain to quote his words: ``We all need to be cheered by the
help of Greatheart and Standfast and Valiant-for-the-Truth, and
good old Honesty! Some of us have been in Doubting Castle, some
in the Slough of Despond. Some have experienced the temptations
of Vanity Fair; all of us have to climb the Hill of Difficulty;
all of us need to be instructed by the Interpreter in the House
Beautiful; all of us bear the same burden; all of us need the
same armor in our fight with Apollyon; all of us have to pass
through the Wicket Gate--to pass through the dark river, and for
all of us (if God so will) there wait the shining ones at the
gates of the Celestial City! Who does not love to linger over
the life story of the `immortal dreamer' as one of those
characters for whom man has done so little and God so much?''
About my favorite copy of the ``Pilgrim's Progress'' many a
pleasant reminiscence lingers, for it was one of the books my
grandmother gave my father when he left home to engage in the
great battle of life; when my father died this thick, dumpy
little volume, with its rude cuts and poorly printed pages, came
into my possession. I do not know what part this book played in
my father's life, but I can say for myself that it has brought me
solace and cheer a many times.
The only occasion upon which I felt bitterly toward Dr. O'Rell
was when that personage observed in my hearing one day that
Bunyan was a dyspeptic, and that had he not been one he would
doubtless never have written the ``Pilgrim's Progress.''
I took issue with the doctor on this point; whereupon he cited
those visions and dreams, which, according to the light of
science as it now shines, demonstrate that Bunyan's digestion
must have been morbid. And, forthwith, he overwhelmed me with
learned instances from Galen and Hippocrates, from Spurzheim and
Binns, from Locke and Beattie, from Malebranche and Bertholini,
from Darwin and Descartes, from Charlevoix and Berkeley, from
Heraclitus and Blumenbach, from Priestley and Abercrombie; in
fact, forsooth, he quoted me so many authorities that it verily
seemed to me as though the whole world were against me!
I did not know until then that Dr. O'Rell had made a special
study of dreams, of their causes and of their signification. I
had always supposed that astrology was his particular hobby, in
which science I will concede him to be deeply learned, even
though he has never yet proved to my entire satisfaction that the
reason why my copy of Justinian has faded from a royal purple to
a pale blue is, first, because the binding was renewed at the
wane of the moon and when Sirius was in the ascendant, and,
secondly, because (as Dr. O'Rell has discovered) my binder was
born at a moment fifty-six years ago when Mercury was in the
fourth house and Herschel and Saturn were aspected in
conjunction, with Sol at his northern declination.
Dr. O'Rell has frequently expressed surprise that I have never
wearied of and drifted away from the book-friendships of my
earlier years. Other people, he says, find, as time elapses,
that they no longer discover those charms in certain books which
attracted them so powerfully in youth. ``We have in our earlier
days,'' argues the doctor, ``friendships so dear to us that we
would repel with horror the suggestion that we could ever become
heedless or forgetful of them; yet, alas, as we grow older we
gradually become indifferent to these first friends, and we are
weaned from them by other friendships; there even comes a time
when we actually wonder how it were possible for us to be on
terms of intimacy with such or such a person. We grow away from
people, and in like manner and for similar reasons we grow away
Is it indeed possible for one to become indifferent to an object
he has once loved? I can hardly believe so. At least it is not
so with me, and, even though the time may come when I shall no
longer be able to enjoy the uses of these dear old friends with
the old-time enthusiasm, I should still regard them with that
tender reverence which in his age the poet Longfellow expressed
when looking round upon his beloved books:
Sadly as some old mediaeval knight
Gazed at the arms he could no longer wield--
The sword two-handed and the shining shield
Suspended in the hall and full in sight,
While secret longings for the lost delight
Of tourney or adventure in the field
Came over him, and tears but half concealed
Trembled and fell upon his beard of white;
So I behold these books upon their shelf
My ornaments and arms of other days;
Not wholly useless, though no longer used,
For they remind me of my other self
Younger and stronger, and the pleasant ways
In which I walked, now clouded and confused.
If my friend O'Rell's theory be true, how barren would be Age!
Lord Bacon tells us in his ``Apothegms'' that Alonzo of Aragon
was wont to say, in commendation of Age, that Age appeared to be
best in four things: Old wood best to burn; old wine to drink;
old friends to trust; and old authors to read. Sir John Davys
recalls that ``a French writer (whom I love well) speaks of three
kinds of companions: Men, women and books,'' and my revered and
beloved poet-friend, Richard Henry Stoddard, has wrought out this
sentiment in a poem of exceeding beauty, of which the concluding
stanza runs in this wise:
Better than men and women, friend,
That are dust, though dear in our joy and pain,
Are the books their cunning hands have penned,
For they depart, but the books remain;
Through these they speak to us what was best
In the loving heart and the noble mind;
All their royal souls possessed
Belongs forever to all mankind!
When others fail him, the wise man looks
To the sure companionship of books.
If ever, O honest friends of mine, I should forget you or weary
of your companionship, whither would depart the memories and the
associations with which each of you is hallowed! Would ever the
modest flowers of spring-time, budding in pathways where I no
longer wander, recall to my failing sight the vernal beauty of
the Puritan maid, Captivity? In what reverie of summer-time
should I feel again the graciousness of thy presence, Yseult?
And Fanchonette--sweet, timid little Fanchonette! would ever thy
ghost come back from out those years away off yonder? Be hushed,
my Beranger, for a moment; another song hath awakened softly
responsive echoes in my heart! It is a song of Fanchonette:
In vain, in vain; we meet no more,
Nor dream what fates befall;
And long upon the stranger's shore
My voice on thee may call,
When years have clothed the line in moss
That tells thy name and days,
And withered, on thy simple cross,
The wreaths of Pere la Chaise!
THE MALADY CALLED CATALOGITIS
Judge Methuen tells me that one of the most pleasing delusions he
has experienced in his long and active career as a bibliomaniac
is that which is born of the catalogue habit. Presuming that
there are among my readers many laymen,--for I preach salvation
to the heathen,--I will explain for their information that the
catalogue habit, so called, is a practice to which the confirmed
lover of books is likely to become addicted. It is a custom of
many publishers and dealers to publish and to disseminate at
certain periods lists of their wares, in the hope of thereby
enticing readers to buy those wares.
By what means these crafty tradesmen secure the names of their
prospective victims I cannot say, but this I know full well--that
there seems not to be a book-lover on the face of the earth, I
care not how remote or how secret his habitation may be, that
these dealers do not presently find him out and overwhelm him
with their delightful temptations.
I have been told that among booksellers there exists a secret
league which provides for the interchange of confidences; so that
when a new customer enters a shop in the Fulham road or in Oxford
street or along the quays of Paris, or it matters not where (so
long as the object of his inquiry be a book), within the space of
a month that man's name and place of residence are reported to
and entered in the address list of every other bookseller in
Christendom, and forthwith and forever after the catalogues and
price-lists and bulletins of publishers and dealers in every part
of the world are pelted at him through the unerring processes of
Judge Methuen has been a victim (a pleasant victim) to the
catalogue habit for the last forty years, and he has declared
that if all the catalogues sent to and read by him in that space
of time were gathered together in a heap they would make a pile
bigger than Pike's Peak, and a thousandfold more interesting. I
myself have been a famous reader of catalogues, and I can testify
that the habit has possessed me of remarkable delusions, the most
conspicuous of which is that which produces within me the
conviction that a book is as good as mine as soon as I have met
with its title in a catalogue, and set an X over against it in
I recall that on one occasion I was discussing with Judge Methuen
and Dr. O'Rell the attempted escapes of Charles I. from
Carisbrooke Castle; a point of difference having arisen, I said:
``Gentlemen, I will refer to Hillier's `Narrative,' and I doubt
not that my argument will be sustained by that authority.''
It was vastly easier, however, to cite Hillier than it was to
find him. For three days I searched in my library, and tumbled
my books about in that confusion which results from undue
eagerness; 't was all in vain; neither hide nor hair of the
desired volume could I discover. It finally occurred to me that
I must have lent the book to somebody, and then again I felt sure
that it had been stolen.
No tidings of the missing volume came to me, and I had almost
forgotten the incident when one evening (it was fully two years
after my discussion with my cronies) I came upon, in one of the
drawers of my oak chest, a Sotheran catalogue of May, 1871. By
the merest chance I opened it, and as luck would have it, I
opened it at the very page upon which appeared this item:
``Hillier (G.) `Narrative of the Attempted Escapes of Charles the
First from Carisbrooke Castle'; cr. 8vo, 1852, cloth, 3/6.''
Against this item appeared a cross in my chirography, and I saw
at a glance that this was my long-lost Hillier! I had meant to
buy it, and had marked it for purchase; but with the
determination and that pencilled cross the transaction had ended.
Yet, having resolved to buy it had served me almost as
effectively as though I had actually bought it; I thought--aye, I
could have sworn-- I HAD bought it, simply because I MEANT to buy
``The experience is not unique,'' said Judge Methuen, when I
narrated it to him at our next meeting. ``Speaking for myself, I
can say that it is a confirmed habit with me to mark certain
items in catalogues which I read, and then to go my way in the
pleasing conviction that they are actually mine.''
``I meet with cases of this character continually,'' said Dr.
O'Rell. ``The hallucination is one that is recognized as a
specific one by pathologists; its cure is quickest effected by
means of hypnotism. Within the last year a lady of beauty and
refinement came to me in serious distress. She confided to me
amid a copious effusion of tears that her husband was upon the
verge of insanity. Her testimony was to the effect that the
unfortunate man believed himself to be possessed of a large
library, the fact being that the number of his books was limited
to three hundred or thereabouts.
``Upon inquiry I learned that N. M. (for so I will call the
victim of this delusion) made a practice of reading and of
marking booksellers' catalogues; further investigation developed
that N. M.'s great-uncle on his mother's side had invented a
flying-machine that would not fly, and that a half-brother of
his was the author of a pamphlet entitled `16 to 1; or the Poor
`` `Madam,' said I, `it is clear to me that your husband is
afflicted with catalogitis.'
``At this the poor woman went into hysterics, bewailing that she
should have lived to see the object of her affection the victim
of a malady so grievous as to require a Greek name. When she
became calmer I explained to her that the malady was by no means
fatal, and that it yielded readily to treatment.''
``What, in plain terms,'' asked Judge Methuen, ``is
``I will explain briefly,'' answered the doctor. ``You must know
first that every perfect human being is provided with two sets of
bowels; he has physical bowels and intellectual bowels, the brain
being the latter. Hippocrates (since whose time the science of
medicine has not advanced even the two stadia, five parasangs of
Xenophon)--Hippocrates, I say, discovered that the brain is
subject to those very same diseases to which the other and
inferior bowels are liable.
``Galen confirmed this discovery and he records a case (Lib. xi.,
p. 318) wherein there were exhibited in the intellectual bowels
symptoms similar to those we find in appendicitis. The brain is
wrought into certain convolutions, just as the alimentary canal
is; the fourth layer, so called, contains elongated groups of
small cells or nuclei, radiating at right angles to its plane,
which groups present a distinctly fanlike structure. Catalogitis
is a stoppage of this fourth layer, whereby the functions of the
fanlike structure are suffered no longer to cool the brain, and
whereby also continuity of thought is interrupted, just as
continuity of digestion is prevented by stoppage of the vermiform
``The learned Professor Biersteintrinken,'' continued Dr. O'Rell,
``has advanced in his scholarly work on `Raderinderkopf' the
interesting theory that catalogitis is produced by the presence
in the brain of a germ which has its origin in the cheap paper
used by booksellers for catalogue purposes, and this theory seems
to have the approval of M. Marie-Tonsard, the most famous of
authorities on inebriety, in his celebrated classic entitled `Un
Trait sur Jacques-Jacques.' ''
``Did you effect a cure in the case of N. M.?'' I asked.
``With the greatest of ease,'' answered the doctor. ``By means
of hypnotism I purged his intellectuals of their hallucination,
relieving them of their perception of objects which have no
reality and ridding them of sensations which have no
corresponding external cause. The patient made a rapid recovery,
and, although three months have elapsed since his discharge, he
has had no return of the disease.''
As a class booksellers do not encourage the reading of other
booksellers' catalogues; this is, presumably, because they do not
care to encourage buyers to buy of other sellers. My bookseller,
who in all virtues of head and heart excels all other booksellers
I ever met with, makes a scrupulous practice of destroying the
catalogues that come to his shop, lest some stray copy may fall
into the hands of a mousing book-lover and divert his attention
to other hunting-grounds. It is indeed remarkable to what excess
the catalogue habit will carry its victim; the author of ``Will
Shakespeare, a Comedy,'' has frequently confessed to me that it
mattered not to him whether a catalogue was twenty years old--so
long as it was a catalogue of books he found the keenest delight
in its perusal; I have often heard Mr. Hamlin, the theatre
manager, say that he preferred old catalogues to new, for the
reason that the bargains to be met with in old catalogues expired
long ago under the statute of limitations.
Judge Methuen, who is a married man and has therefore had an
excellent opportunity to study the sex, tells me that the wives
of bibliomaniacs regard catalogues as the most mischievous
temptations that can be thrown in the way of their husbands. I
once committed the imprudence of mentioning the subject in Mrs.
Methuen's presence: that estimable lady gave it as her opinion
that there were plenty of ways of spending money foolishly
without having recourse to a book-catalogue for suggestion. I
wonder whether Captivity would have had this opinion, had
Providence ordained that we should walk together the quiet
pathway of New England life; would Yseult always have retained
the exuberance and sweetness of her youth, had she and I realized
what might have been? Would Fanchonette always have sympathized
with the whims and vagaries of the restless yet loyal soul that
hung enraptured on her singing in the Quartier Latin so long ago
that the memory of that song is like the memory of a ghostly echo
Away with such reflections! Bring in the candles, good servitor,
and range them at my bed's head; sweet avocation awaits me, for
here I have a goodly parcel of catalogues with which to commune.
They are messages from Methuen, Sotheran, Libbie, Irvine, Hutt,
Davey, Baer, Crawford, Bangs, McClurg, Matthews, Francis, Bouton,
Scribner, Benjamin, and a score of other friends in every part of
Christendom; they deserve and they shall have my respectful--nay,
my enthusiastic attention. Once more I shall seem to be in the
old familiar shops where treasures abound and where patient
delving bringeth rich rewards. Egad, what a spendthrift I shall
be this night; pence, shillings, thalers, marks, francs, dollars,
sovereigns--they are the same to me!
Then, after I have comprehended all the treasures within reach,
how sweet shall be my dreams of shelves overflowing with the
wealth of which my fancy has possessed me!
Then shall my library be devote
To the magic of Niddy-Noddy,
Including the volumes which Nobody wrote
And the works of Everybody.
THE NAPOLEONIC RENAISSANCE
If I had begun collecting Napoleonana in my youth I should now
have on hand a priceless collection. This reminds me that when I
first came to Chicago suburban property along the North Shore
could be bought for five hundred dollars an acre which now sells
for two hundred dollars a front foot; if I had purchased real
estate in that locality when I had the opportunity forty years
ago I should be a millionnaire at the present time.
I think I am more regretful of having neglected the Napoleonana
than of having missed the real-estate chances, for since my
library contains fewer than two hundred volumes relating to
Bonaparte and his times I feel that I have been strangely remiss
in the pursuit of one of the most interesting and most
instructive of bibliomaniac fads. When I behold the remarkable
collections of Napoleonana made by certain friends of mine I am
filled with conflicting emotions of delight and envy, and Judge
Methuen and I are wont to contemplate with regret the
opportunities we once had of throwing all these modern
collections in the shade.
When I speak of Napoleonana I refer exclusively to literature
relating to Napoleon; the term, however, is generally used in a
broader sense, and includes every variety of object, from the
snuff-boxes used by the emperor at Malmaison to the slippers he
wore at St. Helena. My friend, Mr. Redding, of California, has a
silver knife and fork that once belonged to Bonaparte, and Mr.
Mills, another friend of mine, has the neckerchief which Napoleon
wore on the field of Waterloo. In Le Blanc's little treatise
upon the art of tying the cravat it is recorded that Napoleon
generally wore a black silk cravat, as was remarked at Wagram,
Lodi, Marengo and Austerlitz. ``But at Waterloo,'' says Le
Blanc, ``it was observed that, contrary to his usual custom, he
wore a white handkerchief with a flowing bow, although the day
previous he appeared in his black cravat.''
I remember to have seen in the collection of Mr. Melville E.
Stone a finger-ring, which, having been brought by an old French
soldier to New Orleans, ultimately found its way to a pawn-shop.
This bauble was of gold, and at two opposite points upon its
outer surface appeared a Napoleonic ``N,'' done in black enamel:
by pressing upon one of these Ns a secret spring was operated,
the top of the ring flew back, and a tiny gold figure of the
Little Corporal stood up, to the astonishment and admiration of
Another curious Napoleonic souvenir in Mr. Stone's motley
collection is a cotton print handkerchief, upon which are
recorded scenes from the career of the emperor; the thing must
have been of English manufacture, for only an Englishman
(inspired by that fear and that hatred of Bonaparte which only
Englishmen had) could have devised this atrocious libel. One has
to read the literature current in the earlier part of this
century in order to get a correct idea of the terror with which
Bonaparte filled his enemies, and this literature is so extensive
that it seems an impossibility that anything like a complete
collection should be got together; to say nothing of the
histories, the biographies, the volumes of reminiscence and the
books of criticism which the career of the Corsican inspired,
there are Napoleon dream-books, Napoleon song-books, Napoleon
chap-books, etc., etc., beyond the capability of enumeration.
The English were particularly active in disseminating libels upon
Napoleon; they charged him in their books and pamphlets with
murder, arson, incest, treason, treachery, cowardice, seduction,
hypocrisy, avarice, robbery, ingratitude, and jealousy; they said
that he poisoned his sick soldiers, that he was the father of
Hortense's child, that he committed the most atrocious cruelties
in Egypt and Italy, that he married Barras' discarded mistress,
that he was afflicted with a loathsome disease, that he murdered
the Duc d'Enghien and officers in his own army of whom he was
jealous, that he was criminally intimate with his own sisters--in
short, there was no crime, however revolting, with which these
calumniators were not hasty to charge the emperor.
This same vindictive hatred was visited also upon all associated
with Bonaparte in the conduct of affairs at that time. Murat was
``a brute and a thief''; Josephine, Hortense, Pauline, and Mme.
Letitia were courtesans; Berthier was a shuffling, time-serving
lackey and tool; Augereau was a bastard, a spy, a robber, and a
murderer; Fouche was the incarnation of every vice; Lucien
Bonaparte was a roue and a marplot; Cambaceres was a debauchee;
Lannes was a thief, brigand, and a poisoner; Talleyrand and
Barras were--well, what evil was told of them has yet to be
disproved. But you would gather from contemporaneous English
publications that Bonaparte and his associates were veritable
fiends from hell sent to scourge civilization. These books are
so strangely curious that we find it hard to classify them: we
cannot call them history, and they are too truculent to pass for
humor; yet they occupy a distinct and important place among
Until William Hazlitt's life of Bonaparte appeared we had no
English treatment of Bonaparte that was in any sense fair, and,
by the way, Hazlitt's work is the only one in English I know of
which gives the will of Bonaparte, an exceedingly interesting
For a good many years I held the character of Napoleon in light
esteem, for the reason that he had but small regard for books.
Recent revelations, however, made to me by Dr. O'Rell
(grandnephew of ``Tom Burke of Ours''), have served to dissipate
that prejudice, and I question not that I shall duly become as
ardent a worshipper of the Corsican as my doctor himself is. Dr.
O'Rell tells me--and his declarations are corroborated by
Frederic Masson and other authorities--that Bonaparte was a
lover and a collector of books, and that he contributed largely
to the dignity and the glorification of literature by publishing
a large number of volumes in the highest style of the art.
The one department of literature for which he seems to have had
no liking was fiction. Novels of all kinds he was in the habit
of tossing into the fire. He was a prodigious buyer of books,
and those which he read were invariably stamped on the outer
cover with the imperial arms; at St. Helena his library stamp was
merely a seal upon which ink was smeared.
Napoleon cared little for fine bindings, yet he knew their value,
and whenever a presentation copy was to be bound he required that
it be bound handsomely. The books in his own library were
invariably bound ``in calf of indifferent quality,'' and he was
wont, while reading a book, to fill the margin with comments in
pencil. Wherever he went he took a library of books with him,
and these volumes he had deprived of all superfluous margin, so
as to save weight and space. Not infrequently when hampered by
the rapid growth of this travelling library he would toss the
``overflow'' of books out of his carriage window, and it was his
custom (I shudder to record it!) to separate the leaves of
pamphlets, magazines, and volumes by running his finger between
them, thereby invariably tearing the pages in shocking wise.
In the arrangement of his library Napoleon observed that exacting
method which was characteristic of him in other employments and
avocations. Each book had its particular place in a special
case, and Napoleon knew his library so well that he could at any
moment place his hand upon any volume he desired. The libraries
at his palaces he had arranged exactly as the library at
Malmaison was, and never was one book borrowed from one to serve
in another. It is narrated of him that if ever a volume was
missing Napoleon would describe its size and the color of its
binding to the librarian, and would point out the place where it
might have been wrongly put and the case where it properly
If any one question the greatness of this man let him explain if
he can why civilization's interest in Napoleon increases as time
rolls on. Why is it that we are curious to know all about
him--that we have gratification in hearing tell of his minutest
habits, his moods, his whims, his practices, his prejudices? Why
is it that even those who hated him and who denied his genius
have felt called upon to record in ponderous tomes their
reminiscences of him and his deeds? Princes, generals, lords,
courtiers, poets, painters, priests, plebeians--all have vied
with one another in answering humanity's demand for more and more
and ever more about Napoleon Bonaparte.
I think that the supply will, like the demand, never be
exhausted. The women of the court have supplied us with their
memoirs; so have the diplomats of that period; so have the wives
of his generals; so have the Tom-Dick-and-Harry spectators of
those kaleidoscopic scenes; so have his keepers in exile; so has
his barber. The chambermaids will be heard from in good time,
and the hostlers, and the scullions. Already there are rumors
that we are soon to be regaled with Memoirs of the Emperor
Napoleon by the Lady who knew the Tailor who Once Sewed a Button
on the Emperor's Coat, edited by her loving grandson, the Duc de
Without doubt many of those who read these lines will live to see
the time when memoirs of Napoleon will be offered by ``a
gentleman who purchased a collection of Napoleon spoons in
1899''; doubtless, too, the book will be hailed with
satisfaction, for this Napoleonic enthusiasm increases as time
Curious, is it not, that no calm, judicial study of this man's
character and exploits is received with favor? He who treats of
the subject must be either a hater or an adorer of Napoleon; his
blood must be hot with the enthusiasm of rage or of love.
To the human eye there appears in space a luminous sphere that in
its appointed path goes on unceasingly. The wise men are not
agreed whether this apparition is merely of gaseous composition
or is a solid body supplied extraneously with heat and
luminosity, inexhaustibly; some argue that its existence will be
limited to the period of one thousand, or five hundred thousand,
or one million years; others declare that it will roll on until
the end of time. Perhaps the nature of that luminous sphere will
never be truly known to mankind; yet with calm dignity it moves
in its appointed path among the planets and the stars of the
universe, its fires unabated, its luminosity undimmed.
Even so the great Corsican, scrutinized of all human eyes, passes
along the aisle of Time enveloped in the impenetrable mystery of
enthusiasm, genius, and splendor.
MY WORKSHOP AND OTHERS
The women-folk are few up there,
For 't were not fair, you know,
That they our heavenly bliss should share
Who vex us here below!
The few are those who have been kind
To husbands such as we:
They knew our fads and didn't mind--
Says Dibdin's ghost to me.
It has never been explained to my satisfaction why women, as a
class, are the enemies of books, and are particularly hostile to
bibliomania. The exceptions met with now and then simply prove
the rule. Judge Methuen declares that bibliophobia is but one
phase of jealousy; that one's wife hates one's books because she
fears that her husband is in love, or is going to be in love,
with those companions of his student hours. If, instead of
being folios, quartos, octavos, and the like, the Judge's books
were buxom, blithe maidens, his wife could hardly be more jealous
of the Judge's attentions to them than she is under existing
circumstances. On one occasion, having found the Judge on two
successive afternoons sitting alone in the library with Pliny in
his lap, this spirited lady snatched the insidious volume from
her husband's embraces and locked it up in one of the kitchen
pantries; nor did she release the object of her displeasure until
the Judge had promised solemnly to be more circumspect in the
future, and had further mollified his wife's anger by bringing
home a new silk dress and a bonnet of exceptional loveliness.
Other instances of a similar character have demonstrated that
Mrs. Methuen regards with implacable antipathy the volumes upon
which my learned and ingenious friend would fain lavish the
superabundance of his affection. Many years ago the Judge was
compelled to resort to every kind of artifice in order to sneak
new books into his house, and had he not been imbued with the
true afflatus of bibliomania he would long ago have broken down
under the heartless tyranny of his vindictive spouse.
When I look around me and survey the persecution to which
book-lovers are subjected by their wives, I thank the goddess
Fortune that she has cast my lot among the celibates; indeed, it
is still one of the few serious questions I have not yet solved,
viz.: whether a man can at the same time be true to a wife and to
bibliomania. Both are exacting mistresses, and neither will
tolerate a rival.
Dr. O'Rell has a theory that the trouble with most wives is that
they are not caught young enough; he quotes Dr. Johnson's sage
remark to the effect that ``much can be made of a Scotchman if
caught young,'' and he asserts that this is equally true of
woman. Mrs. O'Rell was a mere girl when she wedded with the
doctor, and the result of thirty years' experience and training
is that this model woman sympathizes with her excellent husband's
tastes, and actually has a feeling of contempt for other wives
who have never heard of Father Prout and Kit North, and who
object to their husbands' smoking in bed.
I recall with what enthusiasm I once heard this superior creature
commend the doctor for having accepted in lieu of a fee a set of
Calvin's ``Institutes,'' with copious notes, in twelve octavo
volumes, and a portfolio of colored fox-hunting prints. My
admiration for this model wife could find expression in no other
way; I jumped from my chair, seized her in my arms, and imprinted
upon her brow a fervent but respectful kiss.
It would be hard to imagine a prettier picture than that
presented to my vision as I looked in from the porch of the
doctor's residence upon the doctor's family gathered together in
the library after dinner. The doctor himself, snuggled down in a
vast easy-chair, was dividing his attention between a brier pipe
and the odes of Propertius; his wife, beside him in her rocker,
smiled and smiled again over the quaint humor of Mrs. Gaskell's
``Cranford''; upon yonder settee, Francis Mahony Methuen, the
oldest son, was deep in the perusal of Wilson's ``Tales of the
Border''; his brother, Russell Lowell, was equally absorbed in
the pathetic tale of ``The Man without a Country''; Letitia
Landon Methuen, the daughter, was quietly sobbing over the
tragedy of ``Evangeline''; in his high chair sat the chubby baby
boy, Beranger Methuen, crowing gleefully over an illustrated copy
of that grand old classic, ``Poems for Infant Minds by Two Young
For several moments I stood spellbound, regarding with ineffable
rapture this inspiring spectacle. ``How manifold are thy
blessings, O Bibliomania,'' thought I, ``and how graciously they
are distributed in this joyous circle, wherein it is permitted to