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Books and Bookmen by Andrew Lang

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This etext was prepared by David Price, email ccx074@coventry.ac.uk
from the 1887 Longmans, Green, and Co. edition.



To the Viscountess Wolseley
Ballade of the Real and Ideal
Curiosities of Parish Registers
The Rowfant Books
To F. L.
Some Japanese Bogie-books
Ghosts in the Library
Literary Forgeries
Bibliomania in France
Old French Title-pages
A Bookman's Purgatory
Ballade of the Unattainable
Lady Book-lovers


Madame, it is no modish thing,
The bookman's tribute that I bring;
A talk of antiquaries grey,
Dust unto dust this many a day,
Gossip of texts and bindings old,
Of faded type, and tarnish'd gold!

Can ladies care for this to-do
With Payne, Derome, and Padeloup?
Can they resign the rout, the ball,
For lonely joys of shelf and stall?

The critic thus, serenely wise;
But you can read with other eyes,
Whose books and bindings treasured are
'Midst mingled spoils of peace and war;
Shields from the fights the Mahdi lost,
And trinkets from the Golden Coast,
And many things divinely done
By Chippendale and Sheraton,
And trophies of Egyptian deeds,
And fans, and plates, and Aggrey beads,
Pomander boxes, assegais,
And sword-hilts worn in Marlbro's days.

In this pell-mell of old and new,
Of war and peace, my essays, too,
For long in serials tempest-tost,
Are landed now, and are not lost:
Nay, on your shelf secure they lie,
As in the amber sleeps the fly.
'Tis true, they are not "rich nor rare;"
Enough, for me, that they are--there!

A. L


The essays in this volume have, for the most part, already appeared
in an American edition (Combes, New York, 1886). The Essays on 'Old
French Title-Pages' and 'Lady Book-Lovers' take the place of 'Book
Binding' and 'Bookmen at Rome;' 'Elzevirs' and 'Some Japanese Bogie-
Books' are reprinted, with permission of Messrs. Cassell, from the
Magazine of Art; 'Curiosities of Parish Registers' from the
Guardian; 'Literary Forgeries' from the Contemporary Review; 'Lady
Book-Lovers' from the Fortnightly Review; 'A Bookman's Purgatory'
and two of the pieces of verse from Longman's Magazine--with the
courteous permission of the various editors. All the chapters have
been revised, and I have to thank Mr. H. Tedder for his kind care in
reading the proof sheets, and Mr. Charles Elton, M.P., for a similar
service to the Essay on 'Parish Registers.'


The Countryman. "You know how much, for some time past, the
editions of the Elzevirs have been in demand. The fancy for them
has even penetrated into the country. I am acquainted with a man
there who denies himself necessaries, for the sake of collecting
into a library (where other books are scarce enough) as many little
Elzevirs as he can lay his hands upon. He is dying of hunger, and
his consolation is to be able to say, 'I have all the poets whom the
Elzevirs printed. I have ten examples of each of them, all with red
letters, and all of the right date.' This, no doubt, is a craze,
for, good as the books are, if he kept them to read them, one
example of each would be enough."

The Parisian. "If he had wanted to read them, I would not have
advised him to buy Elzevirs. The editions of minor authors which
these booksellers published, even editions 'of the right date,' as
you say, are not too correct. Nothing is good in the books but the
type and the paper. Your friend would have done better to use the
editions of Gryphius or Estienne."

This fragment of a literary dialogue I translate from 'Entretiens
sur les Contes de Fees,' a book which contains more of old talk
about books and booksellers than about fairies and folk-lore. The
'Entretiens' were published in 1699, about sixteen years after the
Elzevirs ceased to be publishers. The fragment is valuable: first,
because it shows us how early the taste for collecting Elzevirs was
fully developed, and, secondly, because it contains very sound
criticism of the mania. Already, in the seventeenth century, lovers
of the tiny Elzevirian books waxed pathetic over dates, already they
knew that a 'Caesar' of 1635 was the right 'Caesar,' already they
were fond of the red-lettered passages, as in the first edition of
the 'Virgil' of 1636. As early as 1699, too, the Parisian critic
knew that the editions were not very correct, and that the paper,
type, ornaments, and FORMAT were their main attractions. To these
we must now add the rarity of really good Elzevirs.

Though Elzevirs have been more fashionable than at present, they are
still regarded by novelists as the great prize of the book
collector. You read in novels about "priceless little Elzevirs,"
about books "as rare as an old Elzevir." I have met, in the works
of a lady novelist (but not elsewhere), with an Elzevir
'Theocritus.' The late Mr. Hepworth Dixon introduced into one of
his romances a romantic Elzevir Greek Testament, "worth its weight
in gold." Casual remarks of this kind encourage a popular delusion
that all Elzevirs are pearls of considerable price. When a man is
first smitten with the pleasant fever of book-collecting, it is for
Elzevirs that he searches. At first he thinks himself in amazing
luck. In Booksellers' Row and in Castle Street he "picks up," for a
shilling or two, Elzevirs, real or supposed. To the beginner, any
book with a sphere on the title-page is an Elzevir. For the
beginner's instruction, two copies of spheres are printed here. The
second is a sphere, an ill-cut, ill-drawn sphere, which is not
Elzevirian at all. The mark was used in the seventeenth century by
many other booksellers and printers. The first, on the other hand,
is a true Elzevirian sphere, from a play of Moliere's, printed in
1675. Observe the comparatively neat drawing of the first sphere,
and be not led away after spurious imitations.

Beware, too, of the vulgar error of fancying that little duodecimos
with the mark of the fox and the bee's nest, and the motto
"Quaerendo," come from the press of the Elzevirs. The mark is that
of Abraham Wolfgang, which name is not a pseudonym for Elzevir.
There are three sorts of Elzevir pseudonyms. First, they
occasionally reprinted the full title-page, publisher's name and
all, of the book they pirated. Secondly, when they printed books of
a "dangerous" sort, Jansenist pamphlets and so forth, they used
pseudonyms like "Nic. Schouter," on the 'Lettres Provinciales' of
Pascal. Thirdly, there are real pseudonyms employed by the
Elzevirs. John and Daniel, printing at Leyden (1652-1655), used the
false name "Jean Sambix." The Elzevirs of Amsterdam often placed
the name "Jacques le Jeune" on their title-pages. The collector who
remembers these things must also see that his purchases have the
right ornaments at the heads of chapters, the right tail-pieces at
the ends. Two of the most frequently recurring ornaments are the
so-called "Tete de Buffle" and the "Sirene." More or less clumsy
copies of these and the other Elzevirian ornaments are common enough
in books of the period, even among those printed out of the Low
Countries; for example, in books published in Paris.

A brief sketch of the history of the Elzevirs may here be useful.
The founder of the family, a Flemish bookbinder, Louis, left Louvain
and settled in Leyden in 1580. He bought a house opposite the
University, and opened a book-shop. Another shop, on college
ground, was opened in 1587. Louis was a good bookseller, a very
ordinary publisher. It was not till shortly before his death, in
1617, that his grandson Isaac bought a set of types and other
material. Louis left six sons. Two of these, Matthew and
Bonaventure, kept on the business, dating ex officina Elzeviriana.
In 1625 Bonaventure and Abraham (son of Matthew) became partners.
The "good dates" of Elzevirian books begin from 1626. The two
Elzevirs chose excellent types, and after nine years' endeavours
turned out the beautiful 'Caesar' of 1635.

Their classical series in petit format was opened with 'Horace' and
'Ovid' in 1629. In 1641 they began their elegant piracies of French
plays and poetry with 'Le Cid.' It was worth while being pirated by
the Elzevirs, who turned you out like a gentleman, with fleurons and
red letters, and a pretty frontispiece. The modern pirate dresses
you in rags, prints you murderously, and binds you, if he binds you
at all, in some hideous example of "cloth extra," all gilt, like
archaic gingerbread. Bonaventure and Abraham both died in 1652.
They did not depart before publishing (1628), in grand format, a
desirable work on fencing, Thibault's 'Academie de l'Espee.' This
Tibbald also killed by the book. John and Daniel Elzevir came next.
They brought out the 'Imitation' (Thomae a Kempis canonici regularis
ord. S. Augustini De Imitatione Christi, libri iv.); I wish by
taking thought I could add eight millimetres to the stature of my
copy. In 1655 Daniel joined a cousin, Louis, in Amsterdam, and John
stayed in Leyden. John died in 1661; his widow struggled on, but
her son Abraham (1681) let all fall into ruins. Abraham died 1712.
The Elzevirs of Amsterdam lasted till 1680, when Daniel died, and
the business was wound up. The type, by Christopher Van Dyck, was
sold in 1681, by Daniel's widow. Sic transit gloria.

After he has learned all these matters the amateur has still a great
deal to acquire. He may now know a real Elzevir from a book which
is not an Elzevir at all. But there are enormous differences of
value, rarity, and excellence among the productions of the
Elzevirian press. The bookstalls teem with small, "cropped," dingy,
dirty, battered Elzevirian editions of the classics, NOT "of the
good date." On these it is not worth while to expend a couple of
shillings, especially as Elzevirian type is too small to be read
with comfort by most modern eyes. No, let the collector save his
money; avoid littering his shelves with what he will soon find to be
rubbish, and let him wait the chance of acquiring a really beautiful
and rare Elzevir.

Meantime, and before we come to describe Elzevirs of the first
flight, let it be remembered that the "taller" the copy, the less
harmed and nipped by the binder's shears, the better. "Men scarcely
know how beautiful fire is," says Shelley; and we may say that most
men hardly know how beautiful an Elzevir was in its uncut and
original form. The Elzevirs we have may be "dear," but they are
certainly "dumpy twelves." Their fair proportions have been docked
by the binder. At the Beckford sale there was a pearl of a book, a
'Marot;' not an Elzevir, indeed, but a book published by Wetstein, a
follower of the Elzevirs. This exquisite pair of volumes, bound in
blue morocco, was absolutely unimpaired, and was a sight to bring
happy tears into the eyes of the amateur of Elzevirs. There was a
gracious svelte elegance about these tomes, an appealing and
exquisite delicacy of proportion, that linger like sweet music in
the memory. I have a copy of the Wetstein 'Marot' myself, not a bad
copy, though murderously bound in that ecclesiastical sort of brown
calf antique, which goes well with hymn books, and reminds one of
cakes of chocolate. But my copy is only some 128 millimetres in
height, whereas the uncut Beckford copy (it had belonged to the
great Pixerecourt) was at least 130 millimetres high. Beside the
uncut example mine looks like Cinderella's plain sister beside the
beauty of the family.

Now the moral is that only tall Elzevirs are beautiful, only tall
Elzevirs preserve their ancient proportions, only tall Elzevirs are
worth collecting. Dr. Lemuel Gulliver remarks that the King of
Lilliput was taller than any of his court by almost the breadth of a
nail, and that his altitude filled the minds of all with awe. Well,
the Philistine may think a few millimetres, more or less, in the
height of an Elzevir are of little importance. When he comes to
sell, he will discover the difference. An uncut, or almost uncut,
copy of a good Elzevir may be worth fifty or sixty pounds or more;
an ordinary copy may bring fewer pence. The binders usually pare
down the top and bottom more than the sides. I have a 'Rabelais' of
the good date, with the red title (1663), and some of the pages have
never been opened, at the sides. But the height is only some 122
millimetres, a mere dwarf. Anything over 130 millimetres is very
rare. Therefore the collector of Elzevirs should have one of those
useful ivory-handled knives on which the French measures are marked,
and thus he will at once be able to satisfy himself as to the exact
height of any example which he encounters.

Let us now assume that the amateur quite understands what a proper
Elzevir should be: tall, clean, well bound if possible, and of the
good date. But we have still to learn what the good dates are, and
this is matter for the study and practice of a well-spent life. We
may gossip about a few of the more famous Elzevirs, those without
which no collection is complete. Of all Elzevirs the most famous
and the most expensive is an old cookery book, "'Le Pastissier
Francois.' Wherein is taught the way to make all sorts of pastry,
useful to all sorts of persons. Also the manner of preparing all
manner of eggs, for fast-days, and other days, in more than sixty
fashions. Amsterdam, Louys, and Daniel Elsevier. 1665." The mark
is not the old "Sage," but the "Minerva" with her owl. Now this
book has no intrinsic value any more than a Tauchnitz reprint of any
modern volume on cooking. The 'Pastissier' is cherished because it
is so very rare. The tract passed into the hands of cooks, and the
hands of cooks are detrimental to literature. Just as nursery
books, fairy tales, and the like are destroyed from generation to
generation, so it happens with books used in the kitchen. The
'Pastissier,' to be sure, has a good frontispiece, a scene in a Low
Country kitchen, among the dead game and the dainties. The buxom
cook is making a game pie; a pheasant pie, decorated with the bird's
head and tail-feathers, is already made. {1}

Not for these charms, but for its rarity, is the 'Pastissier'
coveted. In an early edition of the 'Manuel' (1821) Brunet says,
with a feigned brutality (for he dearly loved an Elzevir), "Till now
I have disdained to admit this book into my work, but I have yielded
to the prayers of amateurs. Besides, how could I keep out a volume
which was sold for one hundred and one francs in 1819?" One hundred
and one francs! If I could only get a 'Pastissier' for one hundred
and one francs! But our grandfathers lived in the Bookman's
Paradise. "Il n'est pas jusqu'aux Anglais," adds Brunet--"the very
English themselves--have a taste for the 'Pastissier.'" The Duke of
Marlborough's copy was actually sold for 1 pound 4s. It would have
been money in the ducal pockets of the house of Marlborough to have
kept this volume till the general sale of all their portable
property at which our generation is privileged to assist. No wonder
the 'Pastissier' was thought rare. Berard only knew two copies.
Pietiers, writing on the Elzevirs in 1843, could cite only five
'Pastissiers,' and in his 'Annales' he had found out but five more.
Willems, on the other hand, enumerates some thirty, not including
Motteley's. Motteley was an uncultivated, untaught enthusiast. He
knew no Latin, but he had a FLAIR for uncut Elzevirs. "Incomptis
capillis," he would cry (it was all his lore) as he gloated over his
treasures. They were all burnt by the Commune in the Louvre

A few examples may be given of the prices brought by 'Le Pastissier'
in later days. Sensier's copy was but 128 millimetres in height,
and had the old ordinary vellum binding,--in fact, it closely
resembled a copy which Messrs. Ellis and White had for sale in Bond
Street in 1883. The English booksellers asked, I think, about 1,500
francs for their copy. Sensier's was sold for 128 francs in April,
1828; for 201 francs in 1837. Then the book was gloriously bound by
Trautz-Bauzonnet, and was sold with Potier's books in 1870, when it
fetched 2,910 francs. At the Benzon sale (1875) it fetched 3,255
francs, and, falling dreadfully in price, was sold again in 1877 for
2,200 francs. M. Dutuit, at Rouen, has a taller copy, bound by
Bauzonnet. Last time it was sold (1851) it brought 251 francs. The
Duc de Chartres has now the copy of Pieters, the historian of the
Elzevirs, valued at 3,000 francs.

About thirty years ago no fewer than three copies were sold at
Brighton, of all places. M. Quentin Bauchart had a copy only 127
millimetres in height, which he swopped to M. Paillet. M.
Chartener, of Metz, had a copy now bound by Bauzonnet which was sold
for four francs in 1780. We call this the age of cheap books, but
before the Revolution books were cheaper. It is fair to say,
however, that this example of the 'Pastissier' was then bound up
with another book, Vlacq's edition of 'Le Cuisinier Francois,' and
so went cheaper than it would otherwise have done. M. de Fontaine
de Resbecq declares that a friend of his bought six original pieces
of Moliere's bound up with an old French translation of Garth's
'Dispensary.' The one faint hope left to the poor book collector is
that he may find a valuable tract lurking in the leaves of some
bound collection of trash. I have an original copy of Moliere's
'Les Fascheux' bound up with a treatise on precious stones, but the
bookseller from whom I bought it knew it was there! That made all
the difference.

But, to return to our 'Pastissier,' here is M. de Fontaine de
Resbecq's account of how he wooed and won his own copy of this
illustrious Elzevir. "I began my walk to-day," says this haunter of
ancient stalls, "by the Pont Marie and the Quai de la Greve, the
pillars of Hercules of the book-hunting world. After having viewed
and reviewed these remote books, I was going away, when my attention
was caught by a small naked volume, without a stitch of binding. I
seized it, and what was my delight when I recognised one of the
rarest of that famed Elzevir collection whose height is measured as
minutely as the carats of the diamond. There was no indication of
price on the box where this jewel was lying; the book, though
unbound, was perfectly clean within. 'How much?' said I to the
bookseller. 'You can have it for six sous,' he answered; 'is it too
much?' 'No,' said I, and, trembling a little, I handed him the
thirty centimes he asked for the 'Pastissier Francois.' You may
believe, my friend, that after such a piece of luck at the start,
one goes home fondly embracing the beloved object of one's search.
That is exactly what I did."

Can this tale be true? Is such luck given by the jealous fates
mortalibus aegris? M. de Resbecq's find was made apparently in
1856, when trout were plenty in the streams, and rare books not so
very rare. To my own knowledge an English collector has bought an
original play of Moliere's, in the original vellum, for
eighteenpence. But no one has such luck any longer. Not, at least,
in London. A more expensive 'Pastissier' than that which brought
six sous was priced in Bachelin-Deflorenne's catalogue at 240
pounds. A curious thing occurred when two uncut 'Pastissiers'
turned up simultaneously in Paris. One of them Morgand and Fatout
sold for 400 pounds. Clever people argued that one of the twin
uncut 'Pastissiers' must be an imitation, a facsimile by means of
photogravure, or some other process. But it was triumphantly
established that both were genuine; they had minute points of
difference in the ornaments.

M. Willems, the learned historian of the Elzevirs, is indignant at
the successes of a book which, as Brunet declares, is badly printed.
There must be at least forty known 'Pastissiers' in the world. Yes;
but there are at least 4,000 people who would greatly rejoice to
possess a 'Pastissier,' and some of these desirous ones are very
wealthy. While this state of the market endures, the 'Pastissier'
will fetch higher prices than the other varieties. Another
extremely rare Elzevir is 'L'Illustre Theatre de Mons. Corneille'
(Leyden, 1644). This contains 'Le Cid,' 'Les Horaces,' 'Le Cinna,'
'La Mort de Pompee,' 'Le Polyeucte.' The name, 'L'Illustre
Theatre,' appearing at that date has an interest of its own. In
1643-44, Moliere and Madeleine Bejart had just started the company
which they called 'L'Illustre Theatre.' Only six or seven copies of
the book are actually known, though three or four are believed to
exist in England, probably all covered with dust in the library of
some lord. "He has a very good library," I once heard some one say
to a noble earl, whose own library was famous. "And what can a
fellow do with a very good library?" answered the descendant of the
Crusaders, who probably (being a youth light-hearted and content)
was ignorant of his own great possessions. An expensive copy of
'L'Illustre Theatre,' bound by Trautz-Bauzonnet, was sold for 300

Among Elzevirs desirable, yet not hopelessly rare, is the 'Virgil'
of 1636. Heinsius was the editor of this beautiful volume, prettily
printed, but incorrect. Probably it is hard to correct with
absolute accuracy works in the clear but minute type which the
Elzevirs affected. They have won fame by the elegance of their
books, but their intention was to sell good books cheap, like Michel
Levy. The small type was required to get plenty of "copy" into
little bulk. Nicholas Heinsius, the son of the editor of the
'Virgil,' when he came to correct his father's edition, found that
it contained so many coquilles, or misprints, as to be nearly the
most incorrect copy in the world. Heyne says, "Let the 'Virgil' be
one of the rare Elzevirs, if you please, but within it has scarcely
a trace of any good quality." Yet the first edition of this
beautiful little book, with its two passages of red letters, is so
desirable that, till he could possess it, Charles Nodier would not
profane his shelves by any 'Virgil' at all.

Equally fine is the 'Caesar' of 1635, which, with the 'Virgil' of
1636 and the 'Imitation' without date, M. Willems thinks the most
successful works of the Elzevirs, "one of the most enviable jewels
in the casket of the bibliophile." It may be recognised by the page
238, which is erroneously printed 248. A good average height is
from 125 to 128 millimetres. The highest known is 130 millimetres.
This book, like the 'Imitation,' has one of the pretty and ingenious
frontispieces which the Elzevirs prefixed to their books. So
farewell, and good speed in your sport, ye hunters of Elzevirs, and
may you find perhaps the rarest Elzevir of all, 'L'Aimable Mere de


O visions of salmon tremendous,
Of trout of unusual weight,
Of waters that wander as Ken does,
Ye come through the Ivory Gate!
But the skies that bring never a "spate,"
But the flies that catch up in a thorn,
But the creel that is barren of freight,
Through the portals of horn!

O dreams of the Fates that attend us
With prints in the earliest state,
O bargains in books that they send us,
Ye come through the Ivory Gate!
But the tome that has never a mate,
But the quarto that's tattered and torn,
And bereft of a title and date,
Through the portals of horn!

O dreams of the tongues that commend us,
Of crowns for the laureate pate,
Of a public to buy and befriend us,
Ye come through the Ivory Gate!
But the critics that slash us and slate, {2}
But the people that hold us in scorn,
But the sorrow, the scathe, and the hate,
Through the portals of horn!


Fair dreams of things golden and great,
Ye come through the Ivory Gate;
But the facts that are bleak and forlorn,
Through the portals of horn!


There are three classes of persons who are deeply concerned with
parish registers--namely, villains, antiquaries, and the sedulous
readers, "parish clerks and others," of the second or "agony" column
of the Times. Villains are probably the most numerous of these
three classes. The villain of fiction dearly loves a parish
register: he cuts out pages, inserts others, intercalates remarks
in a different coloured ink, and generally manipulates the register
as a Greek manages his hand at ecarte, or as a Hebrew dealer in
Moabite bric-a-brac treats a synagogue roll. We well remember one
villain who had locked himself into the vestry (he was disguised as
an archaeologist), and who was enjoying his wicked pleasure with the
register, when the vestry somehow caught fire, the rusty key would
not turn in the door, and the villain was roasted alive, in spite of
the disinterested efforts to save him made by all the virtuous
characters in the story. Let the fate of this bold, bad man be a
warning to wicked earls, baronets, and all others who attempt to
destroy the record of the marriage of a hero's parents. Fate will
be too strong for them in the long run, though they bribe the parish
clerk, or carry off in white wax an impression of the keys of the
vestry and of the iron chest in which a register should repose.

There is another and more prosaic danger in the way of villains, if
the new bill, entitled "The Parish Registers Preservation Act," ever
becomes law. The bill provides that every register earlier than
1837 shall be committed to the care of the Master of the Rolls, and
removed to the Record Office. Now the common villain of fiction
would feel sadly out of place in the Register Office, where a more
watchful eye than that of a comic parish clerk would be kept on his
proceedings. Villains and local antiquaries will, therefore, use
all their parliamentary influence to oppose and delay this bill,
which is certainly hard on the parish archaeologist. The men who
grub in their local registers, and slowly compile parish or county
history, deserve to be encouraged rather than depressed. Mr.
Chester Waters, therefore, has suggested that copies of registers
should be made, and the comparatively legible copy left in the
parish, while the crabbed original is conveyed to the Record Office
in London. Thus the local antiquary would really have his work made
more easy for him (though it may be doubted whether he would quite
enjoy that condescension), while the villain of romance would be
foiled; for it is useless (as a novel of Mr. Christie Murray's
proves) to alter the register in the keeping of the parish when the
original document is safe in the Record Office. But previous
examples of enforced transcription (as in 1603) do not encourage us
to suppose that the copies would be very scrupulously made. Thus,
after the Reformation, the prayers for the dead in the old registers
were omitted by the copyist, who seemed to think (as the contractor
for "sandwich men" said to the poor fellows who carried the letter
H), "I don't want you, and the public don't want you, and you're no
use to nobody." Again, when Laurence Fletcher was buried in St.
Saviour's, Southwark, in 1608, the old register described him as "a
player, the King's servant." But the clerk, keeping a note-book,
simply called Laurence Fletcher "a man," and (in 1625) he also
styled Mr. John Fletcher "a man." Now, the old register calls Mr.
John Fletcher "a poet." To copy all the parish registers in England
would be a very serious task, and would probably be but slovenly
performed. If they were reproduced, again, by any process of
photography, the old difficult court hand would remain as hard as
ever. But this is a minor objection, for the local antiquary revels
in the old court hand.

From the little volume by Mr. Chester Waters, already referred to
('Parish Registers in England;' printed for the author by F. J.
Roberts, Little Britain, E.C.), we proceed to appropriate such
matters of curiosity as may interest minds neither parochial nor
doggedly antiquarian. Parish registers among the civilised peoples
of antiquity do not greatly concern us. It seems certain that many
Polynesian races have managed to record (in verse, or by some rude
marks) the genealogies of their chiefs through many hundreds of
years. These oral registers are accepted as fairly truthful by some
students, yet we must remember that Pindar supposed himself to
possess knowledge of at least twenty-five generations before his own
time, and that only brought him up to the birth of Jason. Nobody
believes in Jason and Medea, and possibly the genealogical records
of Maoris and Fijians are as little trustworthy as those of Pindaric
Greece. However, to consider thus is to consider too curiously. We
only know for certain that genealogy very soon becomes important,
and, therefore, that records are early kept, in a growing
civilisation. "After Nehemiah's return from the captivity in
Babylon, the priests at Jerusalem whose register was not found were
as polluted put from the priesthood." Rome had her parish
registers, which were kept in the temple of Saturn. But modern
parish registers were "discovered" (like America) in 1497, when
Cardinal Ximenes found it desirable to put on record the names of
the godfathers and godmothers of baptised children. When these
relations of "gossip," or God's kin (as the word literally means),
were not certainly known, married persons could easily obtain
divorces, by pretending previous spiritual relationship.

But it was only during the reign of Mary, (called the Bloody) that
this rule of registering godfathers and godmothers prevailed in
England. Henry VIII. introduced the custom of parish registers when
in a Protestant humour. By the way, how curiously has Madame de
Flamareil (la femme de quarante ans, in Charles de Bernard's novel)
anticipated the verdict of Mr. Froude on Henry VIII.! 'On accuse
Henri VIII.,' dit Madame de Flamareil, "moi je le comprends, et je
l'absous; c'etait un coeur genereux, lorsqu'il ne les aimait plus,
il les tuait.'" The public of England mistrusted, in the matter of
parish registers, the generous heart of Henry VIII. It is the fixed
conviction of the public that all novelties in administration mean
new taxes. Thus the Croatian peasantry were once on the point of
revolting because they imagined that they were to be taxed in
proportion to the length of their moustaches. The English believed,
and the insurgents of the famous Pilgrimage of Grace declared, that
baptism was to be refused to all children who did not pay a
"trybette" (tribute) to the king. But Henry, or rather his
minister, Cromwell, stuck to his plan, and (September 29, 1538)
issued an injunction that a weekly register of weddings,
christenings, and burials should be kept by the curate of every
parish. The cost of the book (twopence in the case of St.
Margaret's, Westminster) was defrayed by the parishioners. The
oldest extant register books are those thus acquired in 1597 or
1603. These volumes were of parchment, and entries were copied into
them out of the old books on paper. The copyists, as we have seen,
were indolent, and omitted characteristic points in the more ancient

In the civil war parish registers fell into some confusion, and when
the clergy did make entries they commonly expressed their political
feelings in a mixture of Latin and English. Latin, by the way, went
out as Protestantism came in, but the curate of Rotherby, in
Leicestershire, writes, "Bellum, Bellum, Bellum, interruption!
persecution!" At St. Bridget's, in Chester, is the quaint entry,
"1643. Here the register is defective till 1653. The tymes were
SUCH!" At Hilton, in Dorset, William Snoke, minister, entered his
opinion that persons whose baptism and marriage were not registered
"will be made uncapable of any earthly inheritance if they live.
This I note for the satisfaction of any that do:" though we may
doubt whether these parishioners found the information thus conveyed
highly satisfactory.

The register of Maid's Moreton, Bucks, tells how the reading-desk (a
spread eagle, gilt) was "doomed to perish as an abominable idoll;"
and how the cross on the steeple nearly (but not quite) knocked out
the brains of the Puritan who removed it. The Puritans had their
way with the registers as well as with the eagle ("the vowl," as the
old country people call it), and laymen took the place of parsons as
registrars in 1653. The books from 1653 to 1660, while this regime
lasted, "were kept exceptionally well," new brooms sweeping clean.
The books of the period contain fewer of the old Puritan Christian
names than we might have expected. We find, "REPENTE Kytchens," so
styled before the poor little thing had anything but original sin to
repent of. "FAINT NOT Kennard" is also registered, and "FREEGIFT

A novelty was introduced into registers in 1678. The law required
(for purposes of protecting trade) that all the dead should be
buried in woollen winding-sheets. The price of the wool was the
obolus paid to the Charon of the Revenue. After March 25, 1667, no
person was to be "buried in any shirt, shift, or sheet other that
should be made of woole only." Thus when the children in a little
Oxfordshire village lately beheld a ghost, "dressed in a long narrow
gown of woollen, with bandages round the head and chin," it is clear
that the ghost was much more than a hundred years old, for the act
"had fallen into disuse long before it was repealed in 1814." But
this has little to do with parish registers. The addition made to
the duties of the keeper of the register in 1678 was this--he had to
take and record the affidavit of a kinsman of the dead, to the
effect that the corpse was actually buried in woollen fabric. The
upper classes, however, preferred to bury in linen, and to pay the
fine of 5L. When Mistress Oldfield, the famous actress, was
interred in 1730, her body was arrayed "in a very fine Brussels lace
headdress, a holland shift with a tucker and double ruffles of the
same lace, and a pair of new kid gloves."

In 1694 an empty exchequer was replenished by a tax on marriages,
births, and burials, the very extortion which had been feared by the
insurgents in the Pilgrimage of Grace. The tax collectors had
access without payment of fee to the registers. The registration of
births was discontinued when the Taxation Acts expired. An attempt
to introduce the registration of births was made in 1753, but
unsuccessfully. The public had the old superstitious dread of
anything like a census. Moreover, the custom was denounced as
"French," and therefore abominable. In the same way it was thought
telling to call the cloture "the French gag" during some recent
discussions of parliamentary rules. In 1783 the parish register was
again made the instrument of taxation, and threepence was charged on
every entry. Thus "the clergyman was placed in the invidious light
of a tax collector, and as the poor were often unable or unwilling
to pay the tax, the clergy had a direct inducement to retain their
good-will by keeping the registers defective."

It is easy to imagine the indignation in Scotland when "bang went
saxpence" every time a poor man had twins! Of course the Scotch
rose up against this unparalleled extortion. At last, in 1812,
"Rose's Act" was passed. It is styled "an Act for the better
regulating and preserving registers of births," but the registration
of births is altogether omitted from its provisions. By a stroke of
the wildest wit the penalty of transportation for fourteen years,
for making a false entry, "is to be divided equally between the
informer and the poor of the parish." A more casual Act has rarely
been drafted.

Without entering into the modern history of parish registers, we may
borrow a few of the ancient curiosities to be found therein, the
blunders and the waggeries of forgotten priests, and curates, and
parish clerks. In quite recent times (1832) it was thought worth
while to record that Charity Morrell at her wedding had signed her
name in the register with her right foot, and that the ring had been
placed on the fourth toe of her left foot; for poor Charity was born
without arms. Sometimes the time of a birth was recorded with much
minuteness, that the astrologers might draw a more accurate
horoscope. Unlucky children, with no acknowledged fathers, were
entered in a variety of odd ways. In Lambeth (1685), George
Speedwell is put down as "a merry begot;" Anne Twine is "filia
uniuscujusque." At Croydon, a certain William is "terraefilius"
(1582), an autochthonous infant. Among the queer names of
foundlings are "Nameless," "Godsend," "Subpoena," and "Moyses and
Aaron, two children found," not in the bulrushes, but "in the

The rule was to give the foundling for surname the name of the
parish, and from the Temple Church came no fewer than one hundred
and four foundlings named "Temple," between 1728 and 1755. These
Temples are the plebeian gens of the patrician house which claims
descent from Godiva. The use of surnames as Christian names is
later than the Reformation, and is the result of a reaction against
the exclusive use of saints' names from the calendar. Another
example of the same reaction is the use of Old Testament names, and
"Ananias and Sapphira were favourite names with the Presbyterians."
It is only fair to add that these names are no longer popular with
Presbyterians, at any rate in the Kirk of Scotland. The old Puritan
argument was that you would hardly select the name of too notorious
a scriptural sinner, "as bearing testimony to the triumph of grace
over original sin." But in America a clergyman has been known to
decline to christen a child "Pontius Pilate," and no wonder.

Entries of burials in ancient times often contained some
biographical information about the deceased. But nothing could
possibly be vaguer than this: "1615, February 28, St. Martin's,
Ludgate, was buried an anatomy from the College of Physicians."
Man, woman, or child, sinner or saint, we know not, only that "an
anatomy" found Christian burial in St. Martin's, Ludgate. How much
more full and characteristic is this, from St. Peter's-in-the-East,
Oxford (1568): 'There was buried Alyce, the wiff of a naughty
fellow whose name is Matthew Manne.' There is immortality for
Matthew Manne, and there is, in short-hand, the tragedy of "Alyce
his wiff." The reader of this record knows more of Matthew than in
two hundred years any one is likely to know of us who moralise over
Matthew! At Kyloe, in Northumberland, the intellectual defects of
Henry Watson have, like the naughtiness of Manne, secured him a
measure of fame. (1696.) "Henry was so great a fooll, that he never
could put on his own close, nor never went a quarter of a mile off
the house," as Voltaire's Memnon resolved never to do, and as Pascal
partly recommends.

What had Mary Woodfield done to deserve the alias which the Croydon
register gives her of "Queen of Hell"? (1788.) Distinguished people
were buried in effigy, in all the different churches with which they
were connected, and each sham burial service was entered in the
parish registers, a snare and stumbling-block to the historian.
This curious custom is very ancient. Thus we read in the Odyssey
that when Menelaus heard in Egypt of the death of Agamemnon he
reared for him a cenotaph, and piled an empty barrow "that the fame
of the dead man might never be quenched." Probably this old usage
gave rise to the claims of several Greek cities to possess the tomb
of this or that ancient hero. A heroic tomb, as of Cassandra for
example, several towns had to show, but which was the true grave,
which were the cenotaphs? Queen Elizabeth was buried in all the
London churches, and poor Cassandra had her barrow in Argos,
Mycenae, and Amyclae.

"A drynkyng for the soul" of the dead, a [Greek text] or funeral
feast, was as common in England before the Reformation as in ancient
Greece. James Cooke, of Sporle, in Norfolk (1528), left six
shillings and eightpence to pay for this "drynkyng for his soul;"
and the funeral feast, which long survived in the distribution of
wine, wafers, and rosemary, still endures as a slight collation of
wine and cake in Scotland. What a funeral could be, as late as
1731, Mr. Chester Waters proves by the bill for the burial of Andrew
Card, senior bencher of Gray's Inn. The deceased was brave in a
"superfine pinked shroud" (cheap at 1L. 5S. 6D.), and there were
eight large plate candle-sticks on stands round the dais, and
ninety-six buckram escutcheons. The pall-bearers wore Alamode
hatbands covered with frizances, and so did the divines who were
present at the melancholy but gorgeous function. A hundred men in
mourning carried a hundred white wax branch lights, and the gloves
of the porters in Gray's Inn were ash-coloured with black points.
Yet the wine cost no more than 1L. 19S. 6D.; a "deal of sack," by no
means "intolerable."

Leaving the funerals, we find that the parish register sometimes
records ancient and obsolete modes of death. Thus, martyrs are
scarce now, but the register of All Saints', Derby, 1556, mentions
"a poor blinde woman called Joan Waste, of this parish, a martyr,
burned in Windmill pit." She was condemned by Ralph Baynes, Bishop
of Coventry and Lichfield. In 1558, at Richmond, in Yorkshire, we
find "Richard Snell, b'rnt, bur. 9 Sept." At Croydon, in 1585,
Roger Shepherd probably never expected to be eaten by a lioness.
Roger was not, like Wyllyam Barker, "a common drunkard and
blasphemer," and we cannot regard the Croydon lioness, like the
Nemean lion, as a miraculous monster sent against the county of
Surrey for the sins of the people. The lioness "was brought into
the town to be seen of such as would give money to see her. He"
(Roger) "was sore wounded in sundry places, and was buried the 26th

In 1590, the register of St. Oswald's, Durham, informs us that
"Duke, Hyll, Hogge, and Holiday" were hanged and burned for "there
horrible offences." The arm of one of these horrible offenders was
preserved at St. Omer as the relic of a martyr, "a most precious
treasure," in 1686. But no one knew whether the arm belonged
originally to Holiday, Hyll, Duke, or Hogge. The coals, when these
unfortunate men were burned, cost sixpence; the other items in the
account of the abominable execution are, perhaps, too repulsive to
be quoted.

According to some critics of the British government, we do not treat
the Egyptians well. But our conduct towards the Fellahs has
certainly improved since this entry was made in the register of St.
Nicholas, Durham (1592, August 8th): 'Simson, Arington,
Featherston, Fenwick, and Lancaster, WERE HANGED FOR BEING
EGYPTIANS.' They were, in fact, gypsies, or had been consorting
with gypsies, and they suffered under 5 Eliz. c. 20. In 1783 this
statute was abolished, and was even considered "a law of excessive
severity." For even a hundred years ago "the puling cant of sickly
humanitarianism" was making itself heard to the injury of our sturdy
old English legislation. To be killed by a poet is now an unusual
fate, but the St. Leonard's, Shoreditch, register (1598) mentions
how "Gabriel Spencer, being slayne, was buried." Gabriel was
"slayne" by Rare Ben Jonson, in Hoxton Fields.

The burning of witches is, naturally, not an uncommon item in parish
registers, and is set forth in a bold, business-like manner. On
August 21 (1650) fifteen women and one man were executed for the
imaginary crime of witchcraft. "A grave, for a witch, sixpence," is
an item in the municipal accounts. And the grave was a cheap haven
for the poor woman who had been committed to the tender mercies of a
Scotch witch-trier. Cetewayo's medicine-men, who "smelt out"
witches, were only some two centuries in the rear of our
civilisation. Three hundred years ago Bishop Jewell, preaching
before Elizabeth, was quite of the mind of Cetewayo and Saul, as to
the wickedness of suffering a witch to live. As late as 1691, the
register of Holy Island, Northumberland, mentions "William Cleugh,
bewitched to death," and the superstition is almost as powerful as
ever among the rural people. Between July 13 and July 24 (1699) the
widow Comon, in Essex, was thrice swum for a witch. She was not
drowned, but survived her immersion for only five months. A
singular homicide is recorded at Newington Butts, 1689. "John Arris
and Derwick Farlin in one grave, being both Dutch soldiers; one
killed the other drinking brandy." But who slew the slayer? The
register is silent; but "often eating a shoulder of mutton or a peck
of hasty pudding at a time caused the death of James Parsons," at
Teddington, in Middlesex, 1743. Parsons had resisted the effects of
shoulders of mutton and hasty pudding till the age of thirty-six.

And so the registers run on. Sometimes they tell of the death of a
glutton, sometimes of a GRACE WYFE (grosse femme). Now the bell
tolls for the decease of a duke, now of a "dog-whipper."
"Lutenists" and "Saltpetremen"--the skeleton of the old German
allegory whispers to each and twitches him by the sleeve. "Ellis
Thompson, insipiens," leaves Chester-le-Street, where he had gabbled
and scrabbled on the doors, and follows "William, foole to my Lady
Jerningham," and "Edward Errington, the Towne's Fooll" (Newcastle-
on-Tyne) down the way to dusty death. Edward Errington died "of the
pest," and another idiot took his place and office, for Newcastle
had her regular town fools before she acquired her singularly
advanced modern representatives. The "aquavity man" dies (in
Cripplegate), and the "dumb-man who was a fortune-teller" (Stepney,
1628), and the "King's Falkner," and Mr. Gregory Isham, who combined
the professions, not frequently united, of "attorney and
husbandman," in Barwell, Leicestershire (1655). "The lame chimney-
sweeper," and the "King of the gypsies," and Alexander Willis, "qui
calographiam docuit," the linguist, and the Tom o' Bedlam, the
comfit-maker, and the panyer-man, and the tack-maker, and the
suicide, they all found death; or, if they sought him, the
churchyard where they were "hurled into a grave" was interdicted,
and purified, after a fortnight, with "frankincense and sweet
perfumes, and herbs."

Sometimes people died wholesale of pestilence, and the Longborough
register mentions a fresh way of death, "the swat called New
Acquaintance, alias Stoupe Knave, and know thy master." Another
malady was 'the posting swet, that posted from towne to towne
through England.' The plague of 1591 was imported in bales of cloth
from the Levant, just as British commerce still patriotically tries
to introduce cholera in cargoes of Egyptian rags. The register of
Malpas, in Cheshire (Aug. 24, 1625), has this strange story of the

"Richard Dawson being sicke of the plague, and perceiving he must
die at yt time, arose out of his bed, and made his grave, and caused
his nefew, John Dawson, to cast strawe into the grave which was not
farre from the house, and went and lay'd him down in the say'd
grave, and caused clothes to be lay'd uppon and so dep'ted out of
this world; this he did because he was a strong man, and heavier
than his said nefew and another wench were able to bury."

And John Dawson died, and Rose Smyth, the "wench" already spoken of,
died, the last of the household.

Old customs survive in the parish registers. Scolding wives were
ducked, and in Kingston-on-Thames, 1572, the register tells how the
sexton's wife "was sett on a new cukking-stoole, and brought to
Temes brydge, and there had three duckings over head and eres,
because she was a common scold and fighter." The cucking-stool, a
very elaborate engine of the law, cost 1L. 3S. 4D. Men were ducked
for beating their wives, and if that custom were revived the
profession of cucking-stool maker would become busy and lucrative.
Penances of a graver sort are on record in the registers. Margaret
Sherioux, in Croydon (1597), was ordered to stand three market days
in the town, and three Sundays in the church, in a white sheet. The
sin imputed to her was a dreadful one. "She stood one Saturday, and
one Sunday, and died the next." Innocent or guilty, this world was
no longer a fit abiding-place for Margaret Sherioux. Occasionally
the keeper of the register entered any event which seemed out of the
common. Thus the register of St. Nicholas, Durham (1568), has this
contribution to natural history:-

"A certaine Italian brought into the cittie of Durham a very greate
strange and monstrous serpent, in length sixteen feet, in quantitie
and dimentions greater than a greate horse, which was taken and
killed by special policie, in Ethiopia within the Turkas dominions.
But before it was killed, it had devoured (as is credibly thought)
more than 1,000 persons, and destroyed a great country."

This must have been a descendant of the monster that would have
eaten Andromeda, and was slain by Perseus in the country of the
blameless Ethiopians. Collections of money are recorded
occasionally, as in 1680, when no less than one pound eight
shillings was contributed "for redemption of Christians (taken by ye
Turkish pyrates) out of Turkish slavery." Two hundred years ago the
Turk was pretty "unspeakable" still. Of all blundering Dogberries,
the most confused kept (in 1670) the parish register at Melton

"Here [he writes] is a bill of Burton Lazareth's people, which was
buried, and which was and maried above 10 years old, for because the
clarke was dead, and therefore they was not set down according as
they was, but they all set down sure enough one among another here
in this place."

"They all set down sure enough," nor does it matter much now to know
whom they married, and how long they lived in Melton Mowbray. The
following entry sufficed for the great Villiers that expired "in the
worst inn's worst room,"--"Kirkby Moorside, Yorkshire, 1687.
Georges vilaris Lord dooke of Bookingham, bur. 17. April."

"So much for Buckingham!"


The Rowfant books, how fair they shew,
The Quarto quaint, the Aldine tall,
Print, autograph, portfolio!
Back from the outer air they call,
The athletes from the Tennis ball,
This Rhymer from his rod and hooks,
Would I could sing them one and all,
The Rowfant books!

The Rowfant books! In sun and snow
They're dear, but most when tempests fall;
The folio towers above the row
As once, o'er minor prophets,--Saul!
What jolly jest books and what small
"Dear dumpy Twelves" to fill the nooks.
You do not find on every stall
The Rowfant books!

The Rowfant books! These long ago
Were chained within some College hall;
These manuscripts retain the glow
Of many a coloured capital
While yet the Satires keep their gall,
While the Pastissier puzzles cooks,
Theirs is a joy that does not pall,
The Rowfant books!


The Rowfant books,--ah magical
As famed Armida's "golden looks,"
They hold the rhymer for their thrall,
The Rowfant books.

TO F. L.

I mind that Forest Shepherd's saw,
For, when men preached of Heaven, quoth he,
"It's a' that's bricht, and a' that's braw,
But Bourhope's guid eneuch for me!"

Beneath the green deep-bosomed hills
That guard Saint Mary's Loch it lies,
The silence of the pasture fills
That shepherd's homely paradise.

Enough for him his mountain lake,
His glen the burn went singing through,
And Rowfant, when the thrushes wake,
May well seem good enough for you.

For all is old, and tried, and dear,
And all is fair, and round about
The brook that murmurs from the mere
Is dimpled with the rising trout.

But when the skies of shorter days
Are dark and all the ways are mire,
How bright upon your books the blaze
Gleams from the cheerful study fire,

On quartos where our fathers read,
Enthralled, the book of Shakespeare's play,
On all that Poe could dream of dread,
And all that Herrick sang of gay!

Fair first editions, duly prized,
Above them all, methinks, I rate
The tome where Walton's hand revised
His wonderful receipts for bait!

Happy, who rich in toys like these
Forgets a weary nation's ills,
Who from his study window sees
The circle of the Sussex hills!


There is or used to be a poem for infant minds of a rather
Pharisaical character, which was popular in the nursery when I was a
youngster. It ran something like this:-.

I thank my stars that I was born
A little British child.

Perhaps these were not the very words, but that was decidedly the
sentiment. Look at the Japanese infants, from the pencil of the
famous Hokusai. Though they are not British, were there ever two
jollier, happier small creatures? Did Leech, or Mr. Du Maurier, or
Andrea della Robbia ever present a more delightful view of innocent,
well-pleased childhood? Well, these Japanese children, if they are
in the least inclined to be timid or nervous, must have an awful
time of it at night in the dark, and when they make that eerie
"northwest passage" bedwards through the darkling house of which Mr.
Stevenson sings the perils and the emotions. All of us who did not
suffer under parents brought up on the views of Mr. Herbert Spencer
have endured, in childhood, a good deal from ghosts. But it is
nothing to what Japanese children bear, for our ghosts are to the
spectres of Japan as moonlight is to sunlight, or as water unto
whisky. Personally I may say that few people have been plagued by
the terror that walketh in darkness more than myself. At the early
age of ten I had the tales of the ingenious Mr. Edgar Poe and of
Charlotte Bronte "put into my hands" by a cousin who had served as a
Bashi Bazouk, and knew not the meaning of fear. But I DID, and
perhaps even Nelson would have found out "what fear was," or the boy
in the Norse tale would have "learned to shiver," if he had been
left alone to peruse 'Jane Eyre,' and the 'Black Cat,' and the 'Fall
of the House of Usher,' as I was. Every night I expected to wake up
in my coffin, having been prematurely buried; or to hear sighs in
the area, followed by light, unsteady footsteps on the stairs, and
then to see a lady all in a white shroud stained with blood and clay
stagger into my room, the victim of too rapid interment. As to the
notion that my respected kinsman had a mad wife concealed on the
premises, and that a lunatic aunt, black in the face with suppressed
mania, would burst into my chamber, it was comparatively a harmless
fancy, and not particularly disturbing. Between these and the
'Yellow Dwarf,' who (though only the invention of the Countess
D'Aulnoy) might frighten a nervous infant into hysterics, I
personally had as bad a time of it in the night watches as any happy
British child has survived. But our ogres are nothing to the bogies
which make not only night but day terrible to the studious infants
of Japan and China.

Chinese ghosts are probably much the same as Japanese ghosts. The
Japanese have borrowed most things, including apparitions and
awesome sprites and grisly fiends, from the Chinese, and then have
improved on the original model. Now we have a very full, complete,
and horror-striking account of Chinese harnts (as the country people
in Tennessee call them) from Mr. Herbert Giles, who has translated
scores of Chinese ghost stories in his 'Strange Tales from a Chinese
Studio' (De la Rue, 1880). Mr. Giles's volumes prove that China is
the place for Messrs. Gurney and Myers, the secretaries of the
Psychical Society.

Ghosts do not live a hole-and-corner life in China, but boldly come
out and take their part in the pleasures and business of life. It
has always been a question with me whether ghosts, in a haunted
house, appear when there is no audience. What does the spectre in
the tapestried chamber do when the house is NOT full, and no guest
is put in the room to bury strangers in, the haunted room? Does the
ghost sulk and complain that there is "no house," and refuse to
rehearse his little performance, in a conscientious and
disinterestedly artistic spirit, when deprived of the artist's true
pleasure, the awakening of sympathetic emotion in the mind of the
spectator? We give too little thought and sympathy to ghosts, who
in our old castles and country houses often find no one to appear to
from year's end to year's-end. Only now and then is a guest placed
in the "haunted room." Then I like to fancy the glee of the lady in
green or the radiant boy, or the headless man, or the old gentleman
in snuff-coloured clothes, as he, or she, recognises the presence of
a spectator, and prepares to give his or her best effects in the
familiar style.

Now in China and Japan certainly a ghost does not wait till people
enter the haunted room: a ghost, like a person of fashion, "goes
everywhere." Moreover, he has this artistic excellence, that very
often you don't know him from an embodied person. He counterfeits
mortality so cleverly that he (the ghost) has been known to
personate a candidate for honours, and pass an examination for him.
A pleasing example of this kind, illustrating the limitations of
ghosts, is told in Mr. Giles's book. A gentleman of Huai Shang
named Chou-t'ien-i had arrived at the age of fifty, but his family
consisted of but one son, a fine boy, "strangely averse from study,"
as if there were anything strange in THAT. One day the son
disappeared mysteriously, as people do from West Ham. In a year he
came back, said he had been detained in a Taoist monastery, and, to
all men's amazement, took to his books. Next year he obtained is
B.A. degree, a First Class. All the neighbourhood was overjoyed,
for Huai Shang was like Pembroke College (Oxford), where, according
to the poet, "First Class men are few and far between." It was who
should have the honour of giving his daughter as bride to this
intellectual marvel. A very nice girl was selected, but most
unexpectedly the B.A. would not marry. This nearly broke his
father's heart. The old gentleman knew, according to Chinese
belief, that if he had no grandchild there would be no one in the
next generation to feed his own ghost and pay it all the little
needful attentions. "Picture then the father naming and insisting
on the day;" till K'o-ch'ang, B.A., got up and ran away. His mother
tried to detain him, when his clothes "came off in her hand," and
the bachelor vanished! Next day appeared the real flesh and blood
son, who had been kidnapped and enslaved. The genuine K'o-ch'ang
was overjoyed to hear of his approaching nuptials. The rites were
duly celebrated, and in less than a year the old gentleman welcomed
his much-longed-for grand child. But, oddly enough, K'o-ch'ang,
though very jolly and universally beloved, was as stupid as ever,
and read nothing but the sporting intelligence in the newspapers.
It was now universally admitted that the learned K'o-ch'ang had been
an impostor, a clever ghost. It follows that ghosts can take a very
good degree; but ladies need not be afraid of marrying ghosts, owing
to the inveterate shyness of these learned spectres.

The Chinese ghost is by no means always a malevolent person, as,
indeed, has already been made clear from the affecting narrative of
the ghost who passed an examination. Even the spectre which answers
in China to the statue in 'Don Juan,' the statue which accepts
invitations to dinner, is anything but a malevolent guest. So much
may be gathered from the story of Chu and Lu. Chu was an
undergraduate of great courage and bodily vigour, but dull of wit.
He was a married man, and his children (as in the old Oxford legend)
often rushed into their mother's presence, shouting, "Mamma! mammal
papa's been plucked again!" Once it chanced that Chu was at a wine
party, and the negus (a favourite beverage of the Celestials) had
done its work. His young friends betted Chu a bird's-nest dinner
that he would not go to the nearest temple, enter the room devoted
to coloured sculptures representing the torments of Purgatory, and
carry off the image of the Chinese judge of the dead, their Osiris
or Rhadamanthus. Off went old Chu, and soon returned with the
august effigy (which wore "a green face, a red beard, and a hideous
expression") in his arms. The other men were frightened, and begged
Chu to restore his worship to his place on the infernal bench.
Before carrying back the worthy magistrate, Chu poured a libation on
the ground and said, "Whenever your excellency feels so disposed, I
shall be glad to take a cup of wine with you in a friendly way."
That very night, as Chu was taking a stirrup cup before going to
bed, the ghost of the awful judge came to the door and entered. Chu
promptly put the kettle on, mixed the negus, and made a night of it
with the festive fiend. Their friendship was never interrupted from
that moment. The judge even gave Chu a new heart (literally)
whereby he was enabled to pass examinations; for the heart, in
China, is the seat of all the intellectual faculties. For Mrs. Chu,
a plain woman with a fine figure, the ghost provided a new head, of
a handsome girl recently slain by a robber. Even after Chu's death
the genial spectre did not neglect him, but obtained for him an
appointment as registrar in the next world, with a certain rank

The next world, among the Chinese, seems to be a paradise of
bureaucracy, patent places, jobs, mandarins' buttons and tails, and,
in short, the heaven of officialism. All civilised readers are
acquainted with Mr. Stockton's humorous story of 'The Transferred
Ghost.' In Mr. Stockton's view a man does not always get his own
ghostship; there is a vigorous competition among spirits for good
ghostships, and a great deal of intrigue and party feeling. It may
be long before a disembodied spectre gets any ghostship at all, and
then, if he has little influence, he may be glad to take a chance of
haunting the Board of Trade, or the Post Office, instead of
"walking" in the Foreign Office. One spirit may win a post as White
Lady in the imperial palace, while another is put off with a
position in an old college library, or perhaps has to follow the
fortunes of some seedy "medium" through boarding-houses and third-
rate hotels. Now this is precisely the Chinese view of the fates
and fortunes of ghosts. Quisque suos patimur manes.

In China, to be brief, and to quote a ghost (who ought to know what
he was speaking about), "supernaturals are to be found everywhere."
This is the fact that makes life so puzzling and terrible to a child
of a believing and trustful character. These Oriental bogies do not
appear in the dark alone, or only in haunted houses, or at cross-
roads, or in gloomy woods. They are everywhere: every man has his
own ghost, every place has its peculiar haunting fiend, every
natural phenomenon has its informing spirit; every quality, as
hunger, greed, envy, malice, has an embodied visible shape prowling
about seeking what it may devour. Where our science, for example,
sees (or rather smells) sewer gas, the Japanese behold a slimy,
meagre, insatiate wraith, crawling to devour the lives of men.
Where we see a storm of snow, their livelier fancy beholds a comic
snow-ghost, a queer, grinning old man under a vast umbrella.

The illustrations in this paper are only a few specimens chosen out
of many volumes of Japanese bogies. We have not ventured to copy
the very most awful spectres, nor dared to be as horrid as we can.
These native drawings, too, are generally coloured regardless of
expense, and the colouring is often horribly lurid and satisfactory.
This embellishment, fortunately perhaps, we cannot reproduce.
Meanwhile, if any child looks into this essay, let him (or her) not
be alarmed by the pictures he beholds. Japanese ghosts do not live
in this country; there are none of them even at the Japanese
Legation. Just as bears, lions, and rattlesnakes are not to be
seriously dreaded in our woods and commons, so the Japanese ghost
cannot breathe (any more than a slave can) in the air of England or
America. We do not yet even keep any ghostly zoological garden in
which the bogies of Japanese, Australians, Red Indians, and other
distant peoples may be accommodated. Such an establishment is
perhaps to be desired in the interests of psychical research, but
that form of research has not yet been endowed by a cultivated and
progressive government.

The first to attract our attention represents, as I understand, the
common ghost, or simulacrum vulgare of psychical science. To this
complexion must we all come, according to the best Japanese opinion.
Each of us contains within him "somewhat of a shadowy being," like
the spectre described by Dr. Johnson: something like the Egyptian
"Ka," for which the curious may consult the works of Miss Amelia B.
Edwards and other learned Orientalists. The most recent French
student of these matters, the author of 'L'Homme Posthume,' is of
opinion that we do not all possess this double, with its power of
surviving our bodily death. He thinks, too, that our ghost, when it
does survive, has but rarely the energy and enterprise to make
itself visible to or audible by "shadow-casting men." In some
extreme cases the ghost (according to our French authority, that of
a disciple of M. Comte) feeds fearsomely on the bodies of the
living. In no event does he believe that a ghost lasts much longer
than a hundred years. After that it mizzles into spectre, and is
resolved into its elements, whatever they may be.

A somewhat similar and (to my own mind) probably sound theory of
ghosts prevails among savage tribes, and among such peoples as the
ancient Greeks, the modern Hindoos, and other ancestor worshippers.
When feeding, as they all do, or used to do, the ghosts of the
ancestral dead, they gave special attention to the claims of the
dead of the last three generations, leaving ghosts older than the
century to look after their own supplies of meat and drink. The
negligence testifies to a notion that very old ghosts are of little
account, for good or evil. On the other hand, as regards the
longevity of spectres, we must not shut our eyes to the example of
the bogie in ancient armour which appears in Glamis Castle, or to
the Jesuit of Queen Elizabeth's date that haunts the library (and a
very nice place to haunt: I ask no better, as a ghost in the
Pavilion at Lord's might cause a scandal) of an English nobleman.
With these instantiae contradictoriae, as Bacon calls them, present
to our minds, we must not (in the present condition of psychical
research) dogmatise too hastily about the span of life allotted to
the simulacrum vulgare. Very probably his chances of a prolonged
existence are in inverse ratio to the square of the distance of time
which severs him from our modern days. No one has ever even
pretended to see the ghost of an ancient Roman buried in these
islands, still less of a Pict or Scot, or a Palaeolithic man,
welcome as such an apparition would be to many of us. Thus the
evidence does certainly look as if there were a kind of statute of
limitations among ghosts, which, from many points of view, is not an
arrangement at which we should repine.

The Japanese artist expresses his own sense of the casual and
fluctuating nature of ghosts by drawing his spectre in shaky lines,
as if the model had given the artist the horrors. This simulacrum
rises out of the earth like an exhalation, and groups itself into
shape above the spade with which all that is corporeal of its late
owner has been interred. Please remark the uncomforted and dismal
expression of the simulacrum. We must remember that the ghost or
"Ka" is not the "soul," which has other destinies in the future
world, good or evil, but is only a shadowy resemblance, condemned,
as in the Egyptian creed, to dwell in the tomb and hover near it.
The Chinese and Japanese have their own definite theory of the next
world, and we must by no means confuse the eternal fortunes of the
permanent, conscious, and responsible self, already inhabiting other
worlds than ours, with the eccentric vagaries of the semi-material
tomb-haunting larva, which so often develops a noisy and bear-
fighting disposition quite unlike the character of its proprietor in

The next bogie, so limp and washed-out as he seems, with his white,
drooping, dripping arms and hands, reminds us of that horrid French
species of apparition, "la lavandiere de la nuit," who washes dead
men's linen in the moonlit pools and rivers. Whether this
simulacrum be meant for the spirit of the well (for everything has
its spirit in Japan), or whether it be the ghost of some mortal
drowned in the well, I cannot say with absolute certainty; but the
opinion of the learned tends to the former conclusion. Naturally a
Japanese child, when sent in the dusk to draw water, will do so with
fear and trembling, for this limp, floppy apparition might scare the
boldest. Another bogie, a terrible creation of fancy, I take to be
a vampire, about which the curious can read in Dom Calmet, who will
tell them how whole villages in Hungary have been depopulated by
vampires; or he may study in Fauriel's 'Chansons de la Grece
Moderne' the vampires of modern Hellas.

Another plan, and perhaps even more satisfactory to a timid or
superstitious mind, is to read in a lonely house at midnight a story
named 'Carmilla,' printed in Mr. Sheridan Le Fanu's 'In a Glass
Darkly.' That work will give you the peculiar sentiment of
vampirism, will produce a gelid perspiration, and reduce the patient
to a condition in which he will be afraid to look round the room.
If, while in this mood, some one tells him Mr. Augustus Hare's story
of Crooglin Grange, his education in the practice and theory of
vampires will be complete, and he will be a very proper and well-
qualified inmate of Earlswood Asylum. The most awful Japanese
vampire, caught red-handed in the act, a hideous, bestial
incarnation of ghoulishness, we have carefully refrained from

Scarcely more agreeable is the bogie, or witch, blowing from her
mouth a malevolent exhalation, an embodiment of malignant and
maleficent sorcery. The vapour which flies and curls from the mouth
constitutes "a sending," in the technical language of Icelandic
wizards, and is capable (in Iceland, at all events) of assuming the
form of some detestable supernatural animal, to destroy the life of
a hated rival. In the case of our last example it is very hard
indeed to make head or tail of the spectre represented. Chinks and
crannies are his domain; through these he drops upon you. He is a
merry but not an attractive or genial ghost. Where there are such
"visions about" it may be admitted that children, apt to believe in
all such fancies, have a youth of variegated and intense misery,
recurring with special vigour at bed-time. But we look again at our
first picture, and hope and trust that Japanese boys and girls are
as happy as these jolly little creatures appear.


Suppose, when now the house is dumb,
When lights are out, and ashes fall -
Suppose their ancient owners come
To claim our spoils of shop and stall,
Ah me! within the narrow hall
How strange a mob would meet and go,
What famous folk would haunt them all,
Octavo, quarto, folio!

The great Napoleon lays his hand
Upon this eagle-headed N,
That marks for his a pamphlet banned
By all but scandal-loving men, -
A libel from some nameless den
Of Frankfort,--Arnaud a la Sphere,
Wherein one spilt, with venal pen,
Lies o'er the loves of Moliere. {3}

Another shade--he does not see
"Boney," the foeman of his race -
The great Sir Walter, this is he
With that grave homely Border face.
He claims his poem of the chase
That rang Benvoirlich's valley through;
And THIS, that doth the lineage trace
And fortunes of the bold Buccleuch; {4}

For these were his, and these he gave
To one who dwelt beside the Peel,
That murmurs with its tiny wave
To join the Tweed at Ashestiel.
Now thick as motes the shadows wheel,
And find their own, and claim a share
Of books wherein Ribou did deal,
Or Roulland sold to wise Colbert. {5}

What famous folk of old are here!
A royal duke comes down to us,
And greatly wants his Elzevir,
His Pagan tutor, Lucius. {6}
And Beckford claims an amorous
Old heathen in morocco blue; {7}
And who demands Eobanus
But stately Jacques Auguste de Thou! {8}

They come, the wise, the great, the true,
They jostle on the narrow stair,
The frolic Countess de Verrue,
Lamoignon, ay, and Longepierre,
The new and elder dead are there -
The lords of speech, and song, and pen,
Gambetta, {9} Schlegel {10} and the rare
Drummond of haunted Hawthornden. {11}

Ah, and with those, a hundred more,
Whose names, whose deeds, are quite forgot:
Brave "Smiths" and "Thompsons" by the score,
Scrawled upon many a shabby "lot."
This playbook was the joy of Pott {12} -
Pott, for whom now no mortal grieves.
Our names, like his, remembered not,
Like his, shall flutter on fly-leaves!

At least in pleasant company
We bookish ghosts, perchance, may flit;
A man may turn a page, and sigh,
Seeing one's name, to think of it.
Beauty, or Poet, Sage, or Wit,
May ope our book, and muse awhile,
And fall into a dreaming fit,
As now we dream, and wake, and smile!


In the whole amusing history of impostures, there is no more
diverting chapter than that which deals with literary frauds. None
contains a more grotesque revelation of the smallness and the
complexity of human nature, and none--not even the records of the
Tichborne trial, nor of general elections--displays more pleasantly
the depths of mortal credulity. The literary forger is usually a
clever man, and it is necessary for him to be at least on a level
with the literary knowledge and critical science of his time. But
how low that level commonly appears to be! Think of the success of
Ireland, a boy of eighteen; think of Chatterton; think of Surtees of
Mainsforth, who took in the great Sir Walter himself, the father of
all them that are skilled in ballad lore. How simple were the
artifices of these ingenious impostors, their resources how scanty;
how hand-to-mouth and improvised was their whole procedure! Times
have altered a little. Jo Smith's revelation and famed 'Golden
Bible' only carried captive the polygamous populus qui vult decipi,
reasoners a little lower than even the believers in Anglo-Israel.
The Moabite Ireland, who once gave Mr. Shapira the famous MS. of
Deuteronomy, but did not delude M. Clermont-Ganneau, was doubtless a
smart man; he was, however, a little too indolent, a little too
easily satisfied. He might have procured better and less
recognisable materials than his old "synagogue rolls;" in short, he
took rather too little trouble, and came to the wrong market. A
literary forgery ought first, perhaps, to appeal to the credulous,
and only slowly should it come, with the prestige of having already
won many believers, before the learned world. The inscriber of the
Phoenician inscriptions in Brazil (of all places) was a clever man.
His account of the voyage of Hiram to South America probably gained
some credence in Brazil, while in England it only carried captive
Mr. Day, author of 'The Prehistoric Use of Iron and Steel.' But the
Brazilians, from lack of energy, have dropped the subject, and the
Phoenician inscriptions of Brazil are less successful, after all,
than the Moabite stone, about which one begins to entertain
disagreeable doubts.

The motives of the literary forger are curiously mixed; but they
may, perhaps, be analysed roughly into piety, greed, "push," and
love of fun. Many literary forgeries have been pious frauds,
perpetrated in the interests of a church, a priesthood, or a dogma.
Then we have frauds of greed, as if, for example, a forger should
offer his wares for a million of money to the British Museum; or
when he tries to palm off his Samaritan Gospel on the "Bad
Samaritan" of the Bodleian. Next we come to playful frauds, or
frauds in their origin playful, like (perhaps) the Shakespearian
forgeries of Ireland, the supercheries of Prosper Merimee, the sham
antique ballads (very spirited poems in their way) of Surtees, and
many other examples. Occasionally it has happened that forgeries,
begun for the mere sake of exerting the imitative faculty, and of
raising a laugh against the learned, have been persevered with in
earnest. The humorous deceits are, of course, the most pardonable,
though it is difficult to forgive the young archaeologist who took
in his own father with false Greek inscriptions. But this story may
be a mere fable amongst archaeologists, who are constantly accusing
each other of all manner of crimes. Then there are forgeries by
"pushing" men, who hope to get a reading for poems which, if put
forth as new, would be neglected. There remain forgeries of which
the motives are so complex as to remain for ever obscure. We may
generally ascribe them to love of notoriety in the forger; such
notoriety as Macpherson won by his dubious pinchbeck Ossian. More
difficult still to understand are the forgeries which real scholars
have committed or connived at for the purpose of supporting some
opinion which they held with earnestness. There is a vein of
madness and self-deceit in the character of the man who half-
persuades himself that his own false facts are true. The Payne
Collier case is thus one of the most difficult in the world to
explain, for it is equally hard to suppose that Mr. Payne Collier
was taken in by the notes on the folio he gave the world, and to
hold that he was himself guilty of forgery to support his own

The further we go back in the history of literary forgeries, the
more (as is natural) do we find them to be of a pious or priestly
character. When the clergy alone can write, only the clergy can
forge. In such ages people are interested chiefly in prophecies and
warnings, or, if they are careful about literature, it is only when
literature contains some kind of title-deeds. Thus Solon is said to
have forged a line in the Homeric catalogue of the ships for the
purpose of proving that Salamis belonged to Athens. But the great
antique forger, the "Ionian father of the rest," is, doubtless,
Onomacritus. There exists, to be sure, an Egyptian inscription
professing to be of the fourth, but probably of the twenty-sixth,
dynasty. The Germans hold the latter view; the French, from
patriotic motives, maintain the opposite opinion. But this forgery
is scarcely "literary."

I never can think of Onomacritus without a certain respect: he
began the forging business so very early, and was (apart from this
failing) such an imposing and magnificently respectable character.
The scene of the error and the detection of Onomacritus presents
itself always to me in a kind of pictorial vision. It is night, the
clear, windless night of Athens; not of the Athens whose ruins
remain, but of the ancient city that sank in ashes during the
invasion of Xerxes. The time is the time of Pisistratus the
successful tyrant; the scene is the ancient temple, the stately
house of Athene, the fane where the sacred serpent was fed on cakes,
and the primeval olive-tree grew beside the well of Posidon. The
darkness of the temple's inmost shrine is lit by the ray of one
earthen lamp. You dimly discern the majestic form of a venerable
man stooping above a coffer of cedar and ivory, carved with the
exploits of the goddess, and with boustrophedon inscriptions. In
his hair this archaic Athenian wears the badge of the golden
grasshopper. He is Onomacritus, the famous poet, and the trusted
guardian of the ancient oracles of Musaeus and Bacis.

What is he doing? Why, he takes from the fragrant cedar coffer
certain thin stained sheets of lead, whereon are scratched the words
of doom, the prophecies of the Greek Thomas the Rhymer. From his
bosom he draws another thin sheet of lead, also stained and
corroded. On this he scratches, in imitation of the old "Cadmeian
letters," a prophecy that "the Isles near Lemnos shall disappear
under the sea." So busy is he in this task, that he does not hear
the rustle of a chiton behind, and suddenly a man's hand is on his
shoulder! Onomacritus turns in horror. Has the goddess punished
him for tampering with the oracles? No; it is Lasus, the son of
Hermiones, a rival poet, who has caught the keeper of the oracles in
the very act of a pious forgery. (Herodotus, vii. 6.)

Pisistratus expelled the learned Onomacritus from Athens, but his
conduct proved, in the long run, highly profitable to the
reputations of Musaeus and Bacis. Whenever one of their oracles was
not fulfilled, people said, "Oh, THAT is merely one of the
interpolations of Onomacritus!" and the matter was passed over.
This Onomacritus is said to have been among the original editors of
Homer under Pisistratus. {13} He lived long, never repented, and,
many years later, deceived Xerxes into attempting his disastrous
expedition. This he did by "keeping back the oracles unfavourable
to the barbarians," and putting forward any that seemed favourable.
The children of Pisistratus believed in him as spiritualists go on
giving credit to exposed and exploded "mediums."

Having once practised deceit, it is to be feared that Onomacritus
acquired a liking for the art of literary forgery, which, as will be
seen in the case of Ireland, grows on a man like dram-drinking.
Onomacritus is generally charged with the authorship of the poems
which the ancients usually attributed to Orpheus, the companion of
Jason. Perhaps the most interesting of the poems of Orpheus to us
would have been his 'Inferno,' or [Greek text], in which the poet
gave his own account of his descent to Hades in search of Eurydice.
But only a dubious reference to one adventure in the journey is
quoted by Plutarch. Whatever the exact truth about the Orphic poems
may be (the reader may pursue the hard and fruitless quest in
Lobeck's 'Aglaophamus' {14}), it seems certain that the period
between Pisistratus and Pericles, like the Alexandrian time, was a
great age for literary forgeries. But of all these frauds the
greatest (according to the most "advanced" theory on the subject) is
the "Forgery of the Iliad and Odyssey!" The opinions of the
scholars who hold that the Iliad and Odyssey, which we know and
which Plato knew, are not the epics known to Herodotus, but later
compositions, are not very clear nor consistent. But it seems to be
vaguely held that about the time of Pericles there arose a kind of
Greek Macpherson. This ingenious impostor worked on old epic
materials, but added many new ideas of his own about the gods,
converting the Iliad (the poem which we now possess) into a kind of
mocking romance, a Greek Don Quixote. He also forged a number of
pseudo-archaic words, tenses, and expressions, and added the
numerous references to iron, a metal practically unknown, it is
asserted, to Greece before the sixth century. If we are to believe,
with Professor Paley, that the chief incidents of the Iliad and
Odyssey were unknown to Sophocles, AEschylus, and the contemporary
vase painters, we must also suppose that the Greek Macpherson
invented most of the situations in the Odyssey and Iliad. According
to this theory the 'cooker' of the extant epics was far the greatest
and most successful of all literary impostors, for he deceived the
whole world, from Plato downwards, till he was exposed by Mr. Paley.
There are times when one is inclined to believe that Plato must have
been the forger himself, as Bacon (according to the other
hypothesis) was the author of Shakespeare's plays. Thus "Plato the
wise, and large-browed Verulam," would be "the first of those who"
forge! Next to this prodigious imposture, no doubt, the false
'Letters of Phalaris' are the most important of classical forgeries.
And these illustrate, like most literary forgeries, the extreme
worthlessness of literary taste as a criterion of the authenticity
of writings. For what man ever was more a man of taste than Sir
William Temple, "the most accomplished writer of the age," whom Mr.
Boyle never thought of without calling to mind those happy lines of
Lucretius, -

Quem tu, dea, tempore in omni
Omnibus ornatum voluisti excellere rebus.

Well, the ornate and excellent Temple held that "the Epistles of
Phalaris have more race, more spirit, more force of wit and genius,
than any others he had ever seen, either ancient or modern." So
much for what Bentley calls Temple's "Nicety of Tast." The greatest
of English scholars readily proved that Phalaris used (in the spirit
of prophecy) an idiom which did not exist to write about matters in
his time not invented, but "many centuries younger than he." So let
the Nicety of Temple's Tast and its absolute failure be a warning to
us when we read (if read we must) German critics who deny Homer's
claim to this or that passage, and Plato's right to half his
accepted dialogues, on grounds of literary taste. And farewell, as
Herodotus would have said, to the Letters of Phalaris, of Socrates,
of Plato; to the Lives of Pythagoras and of Homer, and to all the
other uncounted literary forgeries of the classical world, from the
Sibylline prophecies to the battle of the frogs and mice.

Early Christian frauds were, naturally, pious. We have the
apocryphal Gospels, and the works of Dionysius the Areopagite, which
were not exposed till Erasmus's time. Perhaps the most important of
pious forgeries (if forgery be exactly the right word in this case)
was that of 'The False Decretals.' "Of a sudden," says Milman,
speaking of the pontificate of Nicholas I. (ob. 867 A.D.), "Of a
sudden was promulgated, unannounced, without preparation, not
absolutely unquestioned, but apparently over-awing at once all
doubt, a new Code, which to the former authentic documents added
fifty-nine letters and decrees of the twenty oldest Popes from
Clement to Melchiades, and the donation of Constantine, and in the
third part, among the decrees of the Popes and of the Councils from
Sylvester to Gregory II., thirty-nine false decrees, and the acts of
several unauthentic Councils." "The whole is composed," Milman
adds, "with an air of profound piety and reverence." The False
Decretals naturally assert the supremacy of the Bishop of Rome.
"They are full and minute on Church Property" (they were sure to be
that); in fact, they remind one of another forgery, pious and Aryan,
'The Institutes of Vishnu.' "Let him not levy any tax upon
Brahmans," says the Brahman forger of the Institutes, which "came
from the mouths of Vishnu," as he sat "clad in a yellow robe,
imperturbable, decorated with all kinds of gems, while Lakshmi was
stroking his feet with her soft palms." The Institutes took
excellent care of Brahmans and cows, as the Decretals did of the
Pope and the clergy, and the earliest Popes had about as much hand
in the Decretals as Vishnu had in his Institutes. Hommenay, in
'Pantagruel,' did well to have the praise of the Decretals sung by
filles belles, blondelettes, doulcettes, et de bonne grace. And
then Hommenay drank to the Decretals and their very good health. "O
dives Decretales, tant par vous est le vin bon bon trouve"--"O
divine Decretals, how good you make good wine taste!" "The miracle
would be greater," said Pantagruel, "if they made bad wine taste
good." The most that can now be done by the devout for the
Decretals is "to palliate the guilt of their forger," whose name,
like that of the Greek Macpherson, is unknown.

If the early Christian centuries, and the Middle Ages, were chiefly
occupied with pious frauds, with forgeries of gospels, epistles, and
Decretals, the impostors of the Renaissance were busy, as an Oxford
scholar said, when he heard of a new MS. of the Greek Testament,
"with something really important," that is with classical
imitations. After the Turks took Constantinople, when the learned
Greeks were scattered all over Southern Europe, when many genuine
classical manuscripts were recovered by the zeal of scholars, when
the plays of Menander were seen once, and then lost for ever, it was
natural that literary forgery should thrive. As yet scholars were
eager rather than critical; they were collecting and unearthing,
rather than minutely examining the remains of classic literature.
They had found so much, and every year were finding so much more,
that no discovery seemed impossible. The lost books of Livy and
Cicero, the songs of Sappho, the perished plays of Sophocles and
AEschylus might any day be brought to light. This was the very
moment for the literary forger; but it is improbable that any
forgery of the period has escaped detection. Three or four years
ago some one published a book to show that the 'Annals of Tacitus'
were written by Poggio Bracciolini. This paradox gained no more
converts than the bolder hypothesis of Hardouin. The theory of
Hardouin was all that the ancient classics were productions of a
learned company which worked, in the thirteenth century, under
Severus Archontius. Hardouin made some exceptions to his sweeping
general theory. Cicero's writings were genuine, he admitted, so
were Pliny's, of Virgil the Georgics; the satires and epistles of
Horace; Herodotus, and Homer. All the rest of the classics were a
magnificent forgery of the illiterate thirteenth century, which had
scarce any Greek, and whose Latin, abundant in quantity, in quality
left much to be desired.

Among literary forgers, or passers of false literary coin, at the
time of the Renaissance, Annius is the most notorious. Annius (his
real vernacular name was Nanni) was born at Viterbo, in 1432. He
became a Dominican, and (after publishing his forged classics) rose
to the position of Maitre du Palais to the Pope, Alexander Borgia.
With Caesar Borgia it is said that Annius was never on good terms.
He persisted in preaching "the sacred truth" to his highness and
this (according to the detractors of Annius) was the only use he
made of the sacred truth. There is a legend that Caesar Borgia
poisoned the preacher (1502), but people usually brought that charge
against Caesar when any one in any way connected with him happened
to die. Annius wrote on the History and Empire of the Turks, who
took Constantinople in his time; but he is better remembered by his
'Antiquitatum Variarum Volumina XVII. cum comment. Fr. Jo. Annii.'
These fragments of antiquity included, among many other desirable
things, the historical writings of Fabius Pictor, the predecessor of
Livy. One is surprised that Annius, when he had his hand in, did
not publish choice extracts from the 'Libri Lintei,' the ancient
Roman annals, written on linen and preserved in the temple of Juno
Moneta. Among the other discoveries of Annius were treatises by
Berosus, Manetho, Cato, and poems by Archilochus. Opinion has been
divided as to whether Annius was wholly a knave, or whether he was
himself imposed upon. Or, again, whether he had some genuine
fragments, and eked them out with his own inventions. It is
observed that he did not dovetail the really genuine relics of
Berosus and Manetho into the works attributed to them. This may be
explained as the result of ignorance or of cunning; there can be no
certain inference. "Even the Dominicans," as Bayle says, admit that
Annius's discoveries are false, though they excuse them by averring
that the pious man was the dupe of others. But a learned Lutheran
has been found to defend the 'Antiquitates' of the Dominican.

It is amusing to remember that the great and erudite Rabelais was
taken in by some pseudo-classical fragments. The joker of jokes was
hoaxed. He published, says Mr. Besant, "a couple of Latin
forgeries, which he proudly called 'Ex reliquiis venerandae
antiquitatis,' consisting of a pretended will and a contract." The
name of the book is 'Ex reliquiis venerandae antiquitatis. Lucii
Cuspidii Testamentum. Item contractus venditionis antiquis
Romanorum temporibus initus. Lugduni apud Gryphium (1532).'
Pomponius Laetus and Jovianus Pontanus were apparently authors of
the hoax.

Socrates said that he "would never lift up his hand against his
father Parmenides." The fathers of the Church have not been so
respectfully treated by literary forgers during the Renaissance.
The 'Flowers of Theology' of St. Bernard, which were to be a
primrose path ad gaudia Paradisi (Strasburg, 1478), were really, it
seems, the production of Jean de Garlande. Athanasius, his 'Eleven
Books concerning the Trinity,' are attributed to Vigilius, a
colonial Bishop in Northern Africa. Among false classics were two
comic Latin fragments with which Muretus beguiled Scaliger.
Meursius has suffered, posthumously, from the attribution to him of
a very disreputable volume indeed. In 1583, a book on
'Consolations,' by Cicero, was published at Venice, containing the
reflections with which Cicero consoled himself for the death of
Tullia. It might as well have been attributed to Mrs. Blimber, and
described as replete with the thoughts by which that lady supported
herself under the affliction of never having seen Cicero or his
Tusculan villa. The real author was Charles Sigonius, of Modena.
Sigonius actually did discover some Ciceronian fragments, and, if he
was not the builder, at least he was the restorer of Tully's lofty
theme. In 1693, Francois Nodot, conceiving the world had not
already enough of Petronius Arbiter, published an edition, in which
he added to the works of that lax though accomplished author.
Nodot's story was that he had found a whole MS. of Petronius at
Belgrade, and he published it with a translation of his own Latin
into French. Still dissatisfied with the existing supply of
Petronius' humour was Marchena, a writer of Spanish books, who
printed at Bale a translation and edition of a new fragment. This
fragment was very cleverly inserted in a presumed lacuna. In spite
of the ironical style of the preface many scholars were taken in by
this fragment, and their credulity led Marchena to find a new morsel
(of Catullus this time) at Herculaneum. Eichstadt, a Jena
professor, gravely announced that the same fragment existed in a MS.
in the university library, and, under pretence of giving various
readings, corrected Marchena's faults in prosody. Another sham
Catullus, by Corradino, a Venetian, was published in 1738.

The most famous forgeries of the eighteenth century were those of
Macpherson, Chatterton, and Ireland. Space (fortunately) does not
permit a discussion of the Ossianic question. That fragments of
Ossianic legend (if not of Ossianic poetry) survive in oral Gaelic
traditions, seems certain. How much Macpherson knew of these, and
how little he used them in the bombastic prose which Napoleon loved
(and spelled "Ocean"), it is next to impossible to discover. The
case of Chatterton is too well known to need much more than mention.
The most extraordinary poet for his years who ever lived began with
the forgery of a sham feudal pedigree for Mr. Bergum, a pewterer.
Ireland started on his career in much the same way, unless Ireland's
'Confessions' be themselves a fraud, based on what he knew about
Chatterton. Once launched in his career, Chatterton drew endless
stores of poetry from "Rowley's MS." and the muniment chest in St.
Mary Redcliffe's. Jacob Bryant believed in them and wrote an
'Apology' for the credulous. Bryant, who believed in his own system
of mythology, might have believed in anything. When Chatterton sent
his "discoveries" to Walpole (himself somewhat of a mediaeval
imitator), Gray and Mason detected the imposture, and Walpole, his
feelings as an antiquary injured took no more notice of the boy.
Chatterton's death was due to his precocity. Had his genius come to
him later, it would have found him wiser, and better able to command
the fatal demon of intellect, for which he had to find work, like
Michael Scott in the legend.

The end of the eighteenth century, which had been puzzled or
diverted by the Chatterton and Macpherson frauds, witnessed also the
great and famous Shakespearian forgeries. We shall never know the
exact truth about the fabrication of the Shakespearian documents,
and 'Vortigern' and the other plays. We have, indeed, the
confession of the culprit: habemus confitentem reum, but Mr. W. H.
Ireland was a liar and a solicitor's clerk, so versatile and
accomplished that we cannot always trust him, even when he is
narrating the tale of his own iniquities. The temporary but wide
and turbulent success of the Ireland forgeries suggests the
disagreeable reflection that criticism and learning are (or a
hundred years ago were) worth very little as literary touchstones.
A polished and learned society, a society devoted to Shakespeare and
to the stage, was taken in by a boy of eighteen. Young Ireland not
only palmed off his sham prose documents, most makeshift imitations
of the antique, but even his ridiculous verses on the experts.
James Boswell went down on his knees and thanked Heaven for the
sight of them, and, feeling thirsty after these devotions, drank hot
brandy and water. Dr. Parr was not less readily gulled, and
probably the experts, like Malone, who held aloof, were as much
influenced by jealousy as by science. The whole story of young
Ireland's forgeries is not only too long to be told here, but forms
the topic of a novel ('The Talk of the Town') by Mr. James Payn.
The frauds in his hands lose neither their humour nor their
complicated interest of plot. To be brief, then, Mr. Samuel Ireland
was a gentleman extremely fond of old literature and old books. If
we may trust the 'Confessions' (1805) of his candid son, Mr. W. H.
Ireland, a more harmless and confiding old person than Samuel never
collected early English tracts. Living in his learned society, his
son, Mr. W. H. Ireland, acquired not only a passion for black
letters, but a desire to emulate Chatterton. His first step in
guilt was the forgery of an autograph on an old pamphlet, with which
he gratified Samuel Ireland. He also wrote a sham inscription on a
modern bust of Cromwell, which he represented as an authentic
antique. Finding that the critics were taken in, and attributed
this new bust to the old sculptor Simeon, Ireland conceived a very
low and not unjustifiable opinion of critical tact. Critics would
find merit in anything which seemed old enough. Ireland's next
achievement was the forgery of some legal documents concerning
Shakespeare. Just as the bad man who deceived the guileless Mr.
Shapira forged his 'Deuteronomy' on the blank spaces of old
synagogue rolls, so young Ireland used the cut-off ends of old rent
rolls. He next bought up quantities of old fly-leaves of books, and
on this ancient paper he indicted a sham confession of faith, which
he attributed to Shakespeare. Being a strong "evangelical," young
Mr. Ireland gave a very Protestant complexion to this edifying
document. And still the critics gaped and wondered and believed.

Ireland's method was to write in an ink made by blending various
liquids used in the marbling of paper for bookbinding. This stuff
was supplied to him by a bookbinder's apprentice. When people asked
questions as to whence all the new Shakespeare manuscripts came, he
said they were presented to him by a gentleman who wished to remain
anonymous. Finally, the impossibility of producing this gentleman
was one of the causes of the detection of the fraud. According to
himself, Ireland performed prodigies of acuteness. Once he had
forged, at random, the name of a contemporary of Shakespeare. He
was confronted with a genuine signature, which, of course, was quite
different. He obtained leave to consult his "anonymous gentleman,"
rushed home, forged the name again on the model of what had been
shown to him, and returned with this signature as a new gift from
his benefactor. That nameless friend had informed him (he swore)
that there were two persons of the same name, and that both
signatures were genuine. Ireland's impudence went the length of
introducing an ancestor of his own, with the same name as himself,
among the companions of Shakespeare. If 'Vortigern' had succeeded
(and it was actually put on the stage with all possible pomp),
Ireland meant to have produced a series of pseudo-Shakespearian
plays from William the Conqueror to Queen Elizabeth. When busy with
'Vortigern,' he was detected by a friend of his own age, who pounced
on him while he was at work, as Lasus pounced on Onomacritus. The
discoverer, however, consented to "stand in" with Ireland, and did
not divulge his secret. At last, after the fiasco of 'Vortigern,'
suspicion waxed so strong, and disagreeable inquiries for the
anonymous benefactor were so numerous, that Ireland fled from his
father's house. He confessed all, and, according to his own
account, fell under the undying wrath of Samuel Ireland. Any reader
of Ireland's confessions will be likely to sympathise with old
Samuel as the dupe of his son. The whole story is told with a
curious mixture of impudence and humour, and with great
plausibility. Young Ireland admits that his "desire for laughter"
was almost irresistible, when people--learned, pompous, sagacious
people--listened attentively to the papers. One feels half inclined
to forgive the rogue for the sake of his youth, his cleverness, his
humour. But the 'Confessions' are, not improbably, almost as
apocryphal as the original documents. They were written for the
sake of money, and it is impossible to say how far the same
mercenary motive actuated Ireland in his forgeries. Dr. Ingleby, in
his 'Shakespeare Fabrications,' takes a very rigid view of the
conduct, not only of William, but of old Samuel Ireland. Sam,
according to Dr. Ingleby, was a partner in the whole imposture, and
the confession was only one element in the scheme of fraud. Old
Samuel was the Fagin of a band of young literary Dodgers. He
"positively trained his whole family to trade in forgery," and as
for Mr. W. H. Ireland, he was "the most accomplished liar that ever
lived," which is certainly a distinction in its way. The point of
the joke is that, after the whole conspiracy exploded, people were
anxious to buy examples of the forgeries. Mr. W. H. Ireland was
equal to the occasion. He actually forged his own, or (according to
Dr. Ingleby) his father's forgeries, and, by thus increasing the
supply, he deluged the market with sham shams, with imitations of
imitations. If this accusation be correct, it is impossible not to
admire the colossal impudence of Mr. W. H. Ireland. Dr. Ingleby, in
the ardour of his honest indignation, pursues William into his
private life, which, it appears, was far from exemplary. But
literary criticism should be content with a man's works; his
domestic life is matter, as Aristotle often says, "for a separate
kind of investigation." Old Ritson used to say that "every literary
impostor deserved hanging as much as a common thief." W. H.
Ireland's merits were never recognised by the law.

How old Ritson would have punished "the old corrector," it is
"better only guessing," as the wicked say, according to Clough, in
regard to their own possible chastisement. The difficulty is to
ascertain who the apocryphal old corrector really was. The story of
his misdeeds was recently brought back to mind by the death, at an
advanced age, of the learned Shakespearian, Mr. J. Payne Collier.
Mr. Collier was, to put it mildly, the Shapira of the old corrector.
He brought that artist's works before the public; but WHY? how
deceived, or how influenced, it is once more "better only guessing."
Mr. Collier first introduced to the public notice his singular copy
of a folio Shakespeare (second edition), loaded with ancient
manuscript emendations, in 1849. His account of this book was
simple and plausible. He chanced, one day, to be in the shop of Mr.
Rudd, the bookseller, in Great Newport Street, when a parcel of
second-hand volumes arrived from the country. When the parcel was
opened, the heart of the Bibliophile began to sing, for the packet
contained two old folios, one of them an old folio Shakespeare of
the second edition (1632). The volume (mark this) was "much
cropped," greasy, and imperfect. Now the student of Mr. Hamilton's
'Inquiry' into the whole affair is already puzzled. In later days,
Mr. Collier said that his folio had previously been in the
possession of a Mr. Parry. On the other hand, Mr. Parry (then a
very aged man) failed to recognise his folio in Mr. Collier's, for
HIS copy was "cropped," whereas the leaves of Mr. Collier's example
were NOT mutilated. Here, then ('Inquiry,' pp. 12, 61), we have
two descriptions of the outward aspect of Mr. Collier's dubious
treasure. In one account it is "much cropped" by the book-binder's
cruel shears; in the other, its unmutilated condition is contrasted
with that of a copy which has been "cropped." In any case, Mr.
Collier hoped, he says, to complete an imperfect folio he possessed,
with leaves taken from the folio newly acquired for thirty
shillings. But the volumes happened to have the same defects, and
the healing process was impossible. Mr. Collier chanced to be going
into the country, when in packing the folio he had bought of Rudd he
saw it was covered with manuscript corrections in an old hand.
These he was inclined to attribute to one Thomas Perkins, whose name
was written on the fly-leaf, and who might have been a connection of
Richard Perkins, the actor (flor. 1633) The notes contained many
various readings, and very numerous changes in punctuation. Some of
these Mr. Collier published in his 'Notes and Emendations' (1852),
and in an edition of the 'Plays.' There was much discussion, much
doubt, and the folio of the old corrector (who was presumed to have
marked the book in the theatre during early performances) was
exhibited to the Society of Antiquaries. Then Mr. Collier presented
the treasure to the Duke of Devonshire, who again lent it for
examination to the British Museum. Mr. Hamilton published in the
Times (July, 1859) the results of his examination of the old
corrector. It turned out that the old corrector was a modern myth.
He had first made his corrections in pencil and in a modern hand,
and then he had copied them over in ink, and in a forged ancient
hand. The same word sometimes recurred in both handwritings. The
ink, which looked old, was really no English ink at all, not even
Ireland's mixture. It seemed to be sepia, sometimes mixed with a
little Indian ink. Mr. Hamilton made many other sad discoveries.
He pointed out that Mr. Collier had published, from a Dulwich MS., a
letter of Mrs. Alleyne's (the actor's wife), referring to
Shakespeare as "Mr. Shakespeare of the Globe." Now the Dulwich MS.
was mutilated and blank in the very place where this interesting
reference should have occurred. Such is a skeleton history of the
old corrector, his works and ways. It is probable that--thanks to
his assiduities--new Shakespearian documents will in future be
received with extreme scepticism; and this is all the fruit, except
acres of newspaper correspondence, which the world has derived from
Mr. Collier's greasy and imperfect but unique "corrected folio."

The recency and (to a Shakespearian critic) the importance of these
forgeries obscures the humble merit of Surtees, with his ballads of
the 'Slaying of Antony Featherstonhaugh,' and of 'Bartram's Dirge.'
Surtees left clever lacunae in these songs, 'collected from oral
tradition,' and furnished notes so learned that they took in Sir
Walter Scott. There are moments when I half suspect "the Shirra
himsel" (who blamelessly forged so many extracts from 'Old Plays')
of having composed 'Kinmont Willie.' To compare old Scott of
Satchell's account of Kinmont Willie with the ballad is to feel
uncomfortable doubts. But this is a rank impiety. The last ballad
forgery of much note was the set of sham Macedonian epics and
popular songs (all about Alexander the Great, and other heroes)
which a schoolmaster in the Rhodope imposed on M. Verkovitch. The
trick was not badly done, and the imitation of "ballad slang" was
excellent. The 'Oera Linda' book, too, was successful enough to be
translated into English. With this latest effort of the tenth muse,
the crafty muse of Literary Forgery, we may leave a topic which
could not be exhausted in a ponderous volume. We have not room even
for the forged letters of Shelley, to which Mr. Browning, being
taken in thereby, wrote a preface, nor for the forged letters of Mr.
Ruskin, which occasionally hoax all the newspapers.


The love of books for their own sake, for their paper, print,
binding, and for their associations, as distinct from the love of
literature, is a stronger and more universal passion in France than
elsewhere in Europe. In England publishers are men of business; in
France they aspire to be artists. In England people borrow what
they read from the libraries, and take what gaudy cloth-binding
chance chooses to send them. In France people buy books, and bind
them to their heart's desire with quaint and dainty devices on the
morocco covers. Books are lifelong friends in that country; in
England they are the guests of a week or of a fortnight. The
greatest French writers have been collectors of curious editions;
they have devoted whole treatises to the love of books. The
literature and history of France are full of anecdotes of the good
and bad fortunes of bibliophiles, of their bargains, discoveries,
disappointments. There lies before us at this moment a small

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