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whether it is not more repugnant to the kindliness of his nature to refuse such a one as I am describing, than to say no to a poor petitionary rogue (your bastard borrower), who, by his mumping visnomy, tells you that he expects nothing better; and, therefore, whose preconceived notions and expectations you do in reality so much less shock in the refusal.
When I think of this man; his fiery glow of heart; his swell of feeling; how magnificent, how ideal he was; how great at the midnight hour; and when I compare with him the companions with whom I have associated since, I grudge the saving of a few idle ducats, and think that I am fallen into the society of lenders and little
To one like Elia, whose treasures are rather cased in leather covers than closed in iron coffers, there is a class of alienators more formidable than that which I have touched upon; I mean your borrowers of books-those mutilators of collections, spoilers of the symmetry of shelves, and creators of odd volumes. There is Comberbatch, matchless in his depredations!
That foul gap in the bottom shelf facing you, like a great eye-tooth knocked out--(you are now with me in my little back study in Bloomsbury, reader!)-with the huge Switzer-like tomes on each side (like the Guildhall giants, in their reformed posture, guardant of nothing), once held the tallest of my folios, Opera Bonaventuræ, choice and massy divinity, to which its two supporters (school divinity also, but of a lesser calibre-Bellarmine, and Holy Thomas) showed but as dwarfs-itself an Ascapart!--that Comberbatch abstracted upon the faith of a theory he holds, which is more easy, I confess, for me to suffer by than to refute, namely, that "the title
to property in a book (my Bonaventura, for instance) is in exact ratio to the claimant's powers of understanding and appreciating the same." Should he go on acting upon this theory, which of our shelves is safe?
The slight vacuum in the left-hand case-two shelves from the ceiling-scarcely distinguishable but by the quick eye of a loser-was whilom the commodious resting-place of Brown on Urn Burial. C. will hardly allege that he knows more about that treatise than I do, who introduced it to him, and was, indeed, the first (of the moderns) to discover its beauties-but so have I known a foolish lover to praise his mistress in the presence of a rival more qualified to carry her off than himself. Just below, Dodsley's dramas want their fourth volume, where Vittoria Corombona is! The remainder nine are as distasteful as Priam's refuse sons, when the Fates borrowed Hector. Here stood the Anatomy of Melancholy, in sober state. There loitered the Complete Angler; quiet as in life, by some stream-side. In yonder nook, John Buncle, a widower - volume, with "eyes closed," mourns his ravished mate.
One justice I must do my friend, that if he sometimes, like the sea, sweeps away a treasure, at another time, sea-like, he throws up as rich an equivalent to match it. I have a small under-collection of this nature (my friend's gatherings in his various calls), picked up, he has forgotten at what odd places, and deposited with as little memory at mine. I take in these orphans, the twice deserted. These proselytes of the gate are welcome as the true Hebrews. There they stand in conjunction; natives and naturalized. The latter seem as little disposed to inquire out their true lineage as I am.-I charge no warehouseroom for these deodands, nor shall ever put myself to
the ungentlemanly trouble of advertising a sale of them to pay expenses.
To lose a volume to C. carries some sense and meaning in it. You are sure that he will make one hearty meal on your viands, if he can give no account of the platter after it. But what moved thee, wayward, spiteful K., to be so importunate to carry off with thee, in spite of tears and adjurations to thee to forbear, the Letters of that princely woman, the thrice noble Margaret Newcastle?-knowing at the time, and knowing that I knew, also, thou most assuredly wouldst never turn over one leaf of the illustrious folio-what but the mere spirit of contradiction, and childish love of getting the better of thy friend?-Then, worst cut of all! to transport it with thee to the Gallican land
'Unworthy land to harbor such a sweetness,
A virtue in which all ennobling thoughts dwelt,
Pure thoughts, kind thoughts, high thoughts, her sex's wonder!"
-hadst thou not thy play-books, and books of jests and fancies, about thee, to keep thee merry, even as thou keepest all companies with thy quips and mirthful tales? Child of the green-room, it was unkindly done of thee. Thy wife, too, that part-French, better-part Englishwoman!-that she could fix upon no other treatise to bear away, in kindly token of remembering us, than the works of Fulke Greville, Lord Brook-of which no Frenchman, nor woman of France, Italy, or England, was ever by nature constituted to comprehend a tittle!— Was there not Zimmermann on Solitude?
Reader, if haply thou art blessed with a moderate collection, be shy of showing it; or if thy heart overfloweth to lend them, lend thy books; but let it be to
such a one as S. T. C.-he will return them (generally anticipating the time appointed) with usury; enriched with annotations tripling their value. I have had experience. Many of these precious MSS. of his-(in matter oftentimes, and almost in quantity not unfrequently, vying with the originals) in no very clerkly hand-legible in my Daniel; in old Burton; in Sir Thomas Browne; and those abstruser cogitations of the Greville, now, alas! wandering in Pagan lands.—I counsel thee, shut not thy heart, nor thy library, against S. T. C.
EVERY man hath two birthdays; two days, at least, in every year, which set him upon revolving the lapse of time, as it affects his mortal duration. The one is that which in an especial manner he termeth his. In the gradual desuetude of old observances, this custom of solemnizing our proper birthday hath nearly passed away, or is left to children, who reflect nothing at all about the matter, nor understand anything in it beyond cake and orange. But the birth of a New Year is of an interest too wide to be pretermitted by king or cobbler. No one ever regarded the first of January with indifference. It is that from which all date their time, and count upon what is left. It is the nativity of our common Adam.
Of all sound of all bells-bells, the music nighest bordering upon heaven-most solemn and touching is the peal which rings out the Old Year. I never heard it without a gathering-up of my mind to a concentration
of all the images that have been diffused over the past twelvemonth; all I have done or suffered, performed or neglected, in that regretted time. I begin to know its worth, as when a person dies. It takes a personal color; nor was it a poetical flight in a contemporary when bo exclaimed
“I saw the skirts of the departing year.” It is no more than what, in sober sadness, every one of us seems to be conscious of, in that awful leave-taking. I am sure I felt it, and all felt it with me, last night; though some of my companions affected rather to manifest an exhilaration at the birth of the coming year, than any very tender regrets for the decease of its predecessor. But I am none of those who
“Welcome the coming, speed the parting guest.”
I am naturally, beforehand, shy of novelties: new books, new faces, new years from some mental twist which makes it difficult in me to face the prospective. I have almost ceased to hope; and am sanguine only in the prospects of other (former) years. I plunge into foregone visions and conclusions. I encounter pell-mell with past disappointments. I am armor-proof against old discouragements. I forgive, or overcome in fancy, old adversaries. I play over again for love, as the gamesters phrase it, games for which I once paid so dear. I would scarce now have any of those untoward accidents and events of my life reversed. I would no more alter them than the incidents of some well-contrived novel. Methinks it is better that I should have pined away seven of my goldenest years, when I was thrall to the fair hair and fairer eyes of Alice W-n, than that so passion