Infomotions, Inc.In the Name of the Bodleian and Other Essays / Birrell, Augustine, 1850-1933

Author: Birrell, Augustine, 1850-1933
Title: In the Name of the Bodleian and Other Essays
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Title: In the Name of the Bodleian and Other Essays

Author: Augustine Birrell

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_'Peace be with the soul of that charitable and courteous author who
for the common benefit of his fellow-authors introduced the ingenious
way of miscellaneous writing.'_--LORD SHAFTESBURY.




The first paper appeared in the _Outlook_, New York, the one on Mr.
Bradlaugh in the _Nineteenth Century_, and some of the others at
different times in the _Speaker_.



              I. 'IN THE NAME OF THE BODLEIAN'
             II. BOOKWORMS
             IV. FIRST EDITIONS
              V. GOSSIP IN A LIBRARY
            VII. LAWYERS AT PLAY
            XVI. ARTHUR YOUNG
             XX. A CONNOISSEUR
           XXIV. EPITAPHS
            XXV. 'HANSARD'
          XXVII. 5 EDWARD VII., CHAPTER 12


With what feelings, I wonder, ought one to approach in a famous
University an already venerable foundation, devoted by the last will
and indented deed of a pious benefactor to the collection and housing
of books and the promotion of learning? The Bodleian at this moment
harbours within its walls well-nigh half a million of printed volumes,
some scores of precious manuscripts in all the tongues, and has become
a name famous throughout the whole civilized world. What sort of a
poor scholar would he be whose heart did not beat within him when, for
the first time, he found himself, to quote the words of 'Elia,' 'in
the heart of learning, under the shadow of the mighty Bodley'?

Grave questions these! 'The following episode occurred during one of
Calverley's (then Blayds) appearances at "Collections," the Master
(Dr. Jenkyns) officiating. _Question_: "And with what feelings, Mr.
Blayds, ought we to regard the decalogue?" Calverley who had no very
clear idea of what was meant by the decalogue, but who had a due sense
of the importance both of the occasion and of the question, made the
following reply: "Master, with feelings of devotion, mingled with
awe!" "Quite right, young man; a very proper answer," exclaimed the

 [Footnote A: _Literary Remains of C.S. Calverley_, p. 31.]

'Devotion mingled with awe' might be a very proper answer for me to
make to my own questions, but possessing that acquaintance with the
history of the most picturesque of all libraries which anybody can
have who loves books enough to devote a dozen quiet hours of
rumination to the pages of Mr. Macray's _Annals of the Bodleian
Library_, second edition, Oxford, 'at the Clarendon Press, 1890,' I
cannot honestly profess to entertain in my breast, with regard to it,
the precise emotions which C.S.C. declared took possession of him when
he regarded the decalogue. A great library easily begets affection,
which may deepen into love; but devotion and awe are plants hard to
rear in our harsh climate; besides, can it be well denied that there
is something in a huge collection of the ancient learning, of
mediaeval folios, of controversial pamphlets, and in the thick black
dust these things so woefully collect, provocative of listlessness and
enervation and of a certain Solomonic dissatisfaction? The two writers
of modern times, both pre-eminently sympathetic towards the past, who
have best described this somewhat melancholy and disillusioned frame
of mind are both Americans: Washington Irving, in two essays in _The
Sketch-Book_, 'The Art of Bookmaking' and 'The Mutability of
Literature'; and Nathaniel Hawthorne, in many places, but notably in
that famous chapter on 'The Emptiness of Picture Galleries,' in _The
Marble Faun_.

It is perhaps best not to make too great demands upon our slender
stock of deep emotions, not to rhapsodize too much, or vainly to
pretend, as some travellers have done, that to them the collections
of the Bodleian, its laden shelves and precious cases, are more
attractive than wealth, fame, or family, and that it was stern Fate
that alone compelled them to leave Oxford by train after a visit
rarely exceeding twenty-four hours in duration.

Sir Thomas Bodley's Library at Oxford is, all will admit, a great and
glorious institution, one of England's sacred places; and springing,
as it did, out of the mind, heart, and head of one strong, efficient,
and resolute man, it is matter for rejoicing with every honest
gentleman to be able to observe how quickly the idea took root,
how well it has thriven, by how great a tradition it has become
consecrated, and how studiously the wishes of the founder in all their
essentials are still observed and carried out.

Saith the prophet Isaiah, 'The liberal deviseth liberal things; and by
liberal things he shall stand.' The name of Thomas Bodley still stands
all the world over by the liberal thing he devised.

A few pages about this 'second Ptolemy' will be grudged me by none but
unlettered churls.

He was a west countryman, an excellent thing to be in England if you
want backing through thick and thin, and was born in Exeter on March
2nd, 1544--a most troublesome date. It seems our fate in the old home
never to be for long quit of the religious difficulty--which is very
hard upon us, for nobody, I suppose, would call the English a
'religious' people. Little Thomas Bodley opened his eyes in a land
distracted with the religious difficulty. Listen to his own words;
they are full of the times: 'My father, in the time of Queen Mary,
being noted and known to be an enemy to Popery, was so cruelly
threatened and so narrowly observed by those that maliced his
religion, that for the safeguard of himself and my mother, who was
wholly affected as my father, he knew no way so secure as to fly into
Germany, where after a while he found means to call over my mother
with all his children and family, whom he settled for a time in Wesel
in Cleveland. (For there, there were many English which had left their
country for their conscience and with quietness enjoyed their meetings
and preachings.) From thence he removed to the town of Frankfort,
where there was in like sort another English congregation. Howbeit we
made no longer tarriance in either of these two towns, for that my
father had resolved to fix his abode in the city of Geneva.'

Here the Bodleys remained 'until such time as our Nation was
advertised of the death of Queen Mary and the succession of Elizabeth,
with the change of religion which caused my father to hasten into

In Geneva young Bodley and his brothers enjoyed what now would be
called great educational advantages. Small creature though he was, he
yet attended, so he says, the public lectures of Chevalerius in
Hebrew, Bersaldus in Greek, and of Calvin and Beza in Divinity. He
had also 'domestical teachers,' and was taught Homer by Robert
Constantinus, who was the author of a Greek lexicon, a luxury in those

On returning to England, Bodley proceeded, not to Exeter College, as
by rights he should have done, but to Magdalen, where he became a
'reading man,' and graduated Bachelor of Arts in 1563. The next year
he shifted his quarters to Merton, where he gave public lectures on
Greek. In 1566 he became a Master of Arts, took to the study of
natural philosophy, and three years later was Junior Proctor. He
remained in residence until 1576, thus spending seventeen years in the
University. In the last-mentioned year he obtained leave of absence to
travel on the Continent, and for four years he pursued his studies
abroad, mastering the French, Spanish, and Italian languages. Some
short time after his return home he obtained an introduction to Court
circles and became an Esquire to Queen Elizabeth, who seems to have
entertained varying opinions about him, at one time greatly commending
him and at another time wishing he were hanged--an awkward wish on
Tudor lips. In 1588 Bodley married a wealthy widow, a Mrs. Ball, the
daughter of a Bristol man named Carew. As Bodley survived his wife and
had no children, a good bit of her money remains in the Bodleian to
this day. Blessed be her memory! Nor should the names of Carew and
Ball be wholly forgotten in this connection. From 1588 to 1596 Bodley
was in the diplomatic service, chiefly at The Hague, where he did good
work in troublesome times. On being finally recalled from The Hague,
Bodley had to make up his mind whether to pursue a public life. He
suffered from having too many friends, for not only did Burleigh
patronize him, but Essex must needs do the same. No man can serve two
masters, and though to be the victim of the rival ambitions of greater
men than yourself is no uncommon fate, it is a currish one. Bodley
determined to escape it, and to make for himself after a very
different fashion a name _aere perennius_.

   'I resolved thereupon to possess my soul in peace all the residue
   of my days, to take my full farewell of State employments, to
   satisfy my mind with the mediocrity of worldly living that I had of
   mine own, and so to retire me from the Court.'

But what was he to do?

   'Whereupon, examining exactly for the rest of my life what course I
   might take, and having sought all the ways to the wood to select
   the most proper, I concluded at the last to set up my staff at the
   Library door in Oxford, being thoroughly persuaded that in my
   solitude and surcease from the Commonwealth affairs I could not
   busy myself to better purpose than by reducing that place (which
   then in every part lay ruined waste) to the publick use of

It is pleasant to be admitted into the birth-chamber of a great idea
destined to be translated into action. Bodley proceeds to state the
four qualifications he felt himself to possess to do this great bit of
work: first, the necessary knowledge of ancient and modern tongues and
of 'sundry other sorts of scholastical literature'; second, purse
ability; third, a great store of honourable friends; and fourth,

Bodley's description of the state of the old library as lying in every
part ruined and in waste was but too true.

Richard of Bury, the book-loving Bishop of Durham, seems to have been
the first donor of manuscripts on anything like a large scale to
Oxford, but the library he founded was at Durham College, which stood
where Trinity College now stands, and was in no sense a University
library. The good Bishop, known to all book-hunters as the author of
the _Philobiblon_, died in 1345, but his collection remained intact,
subject to rules he had himself laid down, until the dissolution of
the monasteries, when Durham College, which was attached to a
religious house, was put up for sale, and its library, like so much
else of good learning at this sad period, was dispersed and for the
most part destroyed.

Bodley's real predecessor, the first begetter of a University library,
was Thomas Cobham, Bishop of Worcester, who in 1320 prepared a chamber
above a vaulted room in the north-east corner of St. Mary's Church for
the reception of the books he intended to bestow upon his University.
When the Bishop of Worcester (as a matter of fact, he had once been
elected Archbishop of Canterbury; but that is another story, as
Laurence Sterne has said) died in 1327, it was discovered that he had
by his will bequeathed his library to Oxford, but he was insolvent! No
rich relict of a defunct Ball was available for a Bishop in those
days. The executors found themselves without sufficient estate to pay
for their testator's funeral expenses, even then the first charge upon
assets. They are not to be blamed for pawning the library. A good
friend redeemed the pledge, and despatched the books--all, of course,
manuscripts--to Oxford. For some reason or another Oriel took them in,
and, having become their bailee, refused to part with them, possibly
and plausibly alleging that the University was not in a position to
give a valid receipt. At Oriel they remained for ten years, when all
of a sudden the scholars of the University, animated by their
notorious affection for sound learning and a good 'row,' took Oriel by
storm, and carried off the books in triumph to Bishop Cobham's room,
where they remained in chests unread for thirty years. In 1367 the
University by statute ratified and confirmed its title to the books,
and published regulations for their use, but the quarrel with Oriel
continued till 1409, when the Cobham Library was for the first time
properly furnished and opened as a place for study and reference.

The librarian of the old Cobham Library had an advantage over Mr.
Nicholson, the Bodley librarian of to-day. Being a clerk in Holy
Orders before the time when, in Bodley's own phrase, already quoted,
we 'changed' our religion, he was authorized by the University to say
masses for the souls of all dead donors of books, whether by gifts
_inter vivos_ or by bequest.

The first great benefactor of Cobham's Library was Duke Humphrey of
Gloucester, the youngest son of Henry IV., and perhaps the most
'pushful' youngest son in our royal annals. Though a dissipated and
unprincipled fellow, he lives in history as 'the good Duke Humphrey,'
because he had the sense to patronize learning, collect manuscripts,
and enrich Universities. He began his gifts to Oxford as early, so say
some authorities, as 1411, and continued his donations of manuscripts
with such vivacity that the little room in St. Mary's could no longer
contain its riches. Hence the resolution of the University in 1444 to
build a new library over the Divinity School. This new room, which
was completed in 1480, forms now the central portion of that great
reading-room so affectionately remembered by thousands of still living

Duke Humphrey's Library, as the new room was popularly called,
continued to flourish and receive valuable accessions of manuscripts
and printed books belonging to divinity, medicine, natural science,
and literature until the ill-omened year 1550. Oxford has never loved
Commissioners revising her statutes and reforming her schools, but
the Commissioners of 1550 were worse than prigs, worse even than
Erastians: they were barbarians and wreckers. They were deputed by
King Edward VI., 'in the spirit of the Reformation,' to make an end of
the Popish superstition. Under their hands the library totally
disappeared, and for a long while the tailors and shoemakers and
bookbinders of Oxford were well supplied with vellum, which they found
useful in their respective callings. It was a hard fate for so
splendid a collection. True it is that for the most part the contents
of the library had been rescued from miserable ill-usage in the
monasteries and chapter-houses where they had their first habitations,
but at last they had found shelter over the Divinity School of a great
University. There at least they might hope to slumber. But our
Reformers thought otherwise. The books and manuscripts being thus
dispersed or destroyed, a prudent if unromantic Convocation exposed
for sale the wooden shelves, desks, and seats of the old library, and
so made a complete end of the whole concern, thus making room for
Thomas Bodley.

On February 23, 1597/8, Thomas Bodley sat himself down in his London
house and addressed to the Vice-Chancellor of his University a certain
famous letter:

    'Altho' you know me not as I suppose, yet for the farthering of an
   offer of evident utilitie to your whole University I will not be
   too scrupulous in craving your assistance. I have been alwaies of
   a mind that if God of his goodness should make me able to do
   anything for the benefit of posteritie, I would shew some token of
   affiction that I have ever more borne to the studies of good
   learning. I know my portion is too slender to perform for the
   present any answerable act to my willing disposition, but yet to
   notify some part of my desire in that behalf I have resolved thus
   to deal. Where there hath been heretofore a public library in
   Oxford which you know is apparent by the room itself remaining and
   by your statute records, I will take the charge and cost upon me to
   reduce it again to its former use and to make it fit and handsome
   with seats and shelves and desks and all that may be needful to
   stir up other mens benevolence to help to furnish it with books.
   And this I purpose to begin as soon as timber can be gotten to the
   intent that you may be of some speedy profit of my project. And
   where before as I conceive it was to be reputed but a store of
   books of divers benefactors because it never had any lasting
   allowance for augmentation of the number or supply of books
   decayed, whereby it came to pass that when those that were in being
   were either wasted or embezzled, the whole foundation came to ruin.
   To meet with that inconvenience, I will so provide hereafter (if
   God do not hinder my present design) as you shall be still assured
   of a standing annual rent to be disbursed every year in buying of
   books, or officers stipends and other pertinent occasions, with
   which provision and some order for the preservation of the place
   and the furniture of it from accustomed abuses, it may perhaps in
   time to come prove a notable treasure for the multitude of volumes,
   an excellent benefit for the use and ease of students, and a
   singular ornament of the University.'

The letter does not stop here, but my quotation has already probably
wearied most of my readers, though for my own part I am not ashamed to
confess that I seldom tire of retracing with my own hand the
_ipsissima verba_ whereby great and truly notable gifts have been
bestowed upon nations or Universities or even municipalities for the
advancement of learning and the spread of science. Bodley's language
is somewhat involved, but through it glows the plain intention of an
honest man.

Convocation, we are told, embraced the offer with wonderful alacrity,
and lost no time in accepting it in good Latin.

From February, 1598, to January, 1613 (when he died), Bodley was happy
with as glorious a hobby-horse as ever man rode astride upon. Though
Bodley, in one of his letters, modestly calls himself a mere
'smatterer,' he was, as indeed he had the sense to recognise,
excellently well fitted to be a collector of books, being both a good
linguist and personally well acquainted with the chief cities of the
Continent and with their booksellers. He was thus able to employ
well-selected agents in different parts of Europe to buy books on his
account, which it was his pleasure to receive, his rapture to unpack,
his pride to despatch in what he calls 'dry-fats'--that is,
weather-tight chests--to Dr. James, the first Bodley librarian.
Despite growing and painful infirmities (stone, ague, dropsy), Bodley
never even for a day dismounted his hobby, but rode it manfully to the
last. Nor had he any mean taint of nature that might have grudged
other men a hand in the great work. The more benefactors there were,
the better pleased was Bodley. He could not, indeed--for had he not
been educated at Geneva and attended the Divinity Lectures of Calvin
and Beza?--direct Dr. James to say masses for the souls of such donors
of money or books as should die, but he did all a poor Protestant can
do to tempt generosity: he opened and kept in a very public place in
the library a great register-book, containing the names and titles of
all benefactors. Bodley was always on the look-out for gifts and
bequests from his store of honourable friends; and in the case of Sir
Henry Savile he even relaxed the rule against lending books from the
library, because, as he frankly admits to Dr. James, he had hopes
(which proved well founded) that Sir Henry would not forget his
obligations to the Bodleian.

The library was formally opened on November 8, 1602, and then
contained some 2,000 volumes. Two years later its founder was knighted
by King James, who on the following June directed letters patent to be
issued styling the library by the founder's name and licensing the
University to hold land in mortmain for its maintenance. The most
learned and by no means the most foolish of our Kings, this same James
I., visited the Bodleian in May, 1605. Sir Thomas was not present.
There it was that the royal pun was made that the founder's name
should have been Godly and not Bodley. King James handled certain old
manuscripts with the familiarity of a scholar, and is reported to have
said, I doubt not with perfect sincerity, that were he not King James
he would be an University man, and that were it his fate at any time
to be a captive, he would wish to be shut up in the Bodleian and to be
bound with its chains, consuming his days amongst its books as his
fellows in captivity. Indeed, he was so carried away by the atmosphere
of the place as to offer to present to the Bodleian whatever books Sir
Thomas Bodley might think fit to lay hands upon in any of the royal
libraries, and he kept this royal word so far as to confirm the gift
under the Privy Seal. But there it seems to have stopped, for the
Bodleian does not contain any volumes traceable to this source. The
King's librarians probably obstructed any such transfer of books.

Authors seem at once to have recognised the importance of the library,
and to have made presentation copies of their works, and in 1605 we
find Bacon sending a copy of his _Advancement of Learning_ to Bodley,
with a letter in which he said: 'You, having built an ark to save
learning from deluge, deserve propriety [ownership] in any new
instrument or engine whereby learning should be improved or advanced.'
The most remarkable letter Bodley ever wrote, now extant, is one to
Bacon; but it has no reference to the library, only to the Baconian
philosophy. We do not get many glimpses of Bodley's habits of life or
ways of thinking, but there is no difficulty in discerning a
strenuous, determined, masterful figure, bent during his later years,
perhaps tyrannously bent, on effecting his object. He was not, we
learn from a correspondent, 'hasty to write but when the posts do urge
him, saying there need be no answer to your letters till more leisure
breed him opportunity.' 'Words are women, deeds are men,' is another
saying of his which I reprint without comment.

By an indenture dated April 20, 1609, Bodley, after reciting how he
had, out of his zealous affection to the advancement of learning,
lately erected upon the ruins of the old decayed library of Oxford
University 'a most ample, commodious, and necessary building, as well
for receipt and conveyance of books as for the use and ease of
students, and had already furnished the same with excellent writers on
all sorts of sciences, arts, and tongues, not only selected out of his
own study and store, but also of others that were freely conferred by
many other men's gifts,' proceeded to grant to trustees lands and
hereditaments in Berkshire and in the city of London for the purpose
of forming a permanent endowment of his library; and so they, or the
proceeds of sale thereof, have remained unto this day.

Sir Thomas Bodley died on January 20, 1613, his last days being
soothed by a letter he received from the Vice-Chancellor of Oxford
University condoling his sickness and signifying how much the Heads of
Houses, etc., prayed for his recovery. A cynical friend--not much of a
friend, as we shall see--called John Chamberlain, was surprised to
observe what pleasure this assurance gave to the dying man. 'Whereby,'
writes Chamberlain to Sir Ralph Winwood, 'I perceive how much fair
words work, as well upon wise men as upon others, for indeed it did
affect him very much.'

Bodley was rather put out in his last illness by the refusal of a
Cambridge doctor, Batter, to come to see him, the doctor saying:
'Words cannot cure him, and I can do nothing else for him.' There is
an occasional curtness about Cambridge men that is hard but not
impossible to reconcile with good feeling.

Bodley's will gave great dissatisfaction to some of his friends,
including this aforesaid John Chamberlain, and yet, on reading it
through, it is not easy to see any cause for just complaint. Bodley's
brother did not grumble, there were no children, Lady Bodley had died
in 1611, and everybody who knew the testator must have known that the
library would be (as it was) the great object of his bounty. What
annoyed Chamberlain seems to be that, whilst he had (so he says,
though I take leave to doubt it) put down Bodley for some trifle in
his will, Bodley forgot to mention Chamberlain in his. There is always
a good deal of human nature exhibited on these occasions. I will
transcribe a bit of one of this gentleman's grumbling letters,
written, one may be sure, with no view to publication, the day after
Bodley's death:

   'Mr. Gent came to me this morning as it were to bemoan himself of
   the little regard hath been had of him and others, and indeed for
   ought I hear there is scant anybody pleased, but for the rest it
   were no great matter if he had had more consideration or
   commiseration where there was most need. But he was so carried away
   with the vanity and vain-glory of his library, that he forgot all
   other respects and duties, almost of Conscience, Friendship, or
   Good-nature, and all he had was too little for that work. To say
   the truth I never did rely much upon his conscience, but I thought
   he had been more real and ingenuous. I cannot learn that he hath
   given anything, no, not a good word nor so much as named any old
   friend he had, but Mr. Gent and Thos. Allen, who like a couple of
   Almesmen must have his best and second gown, and his best and
   second cloak, but to cast a colour or shadow of something upon Mr.
   Gent, he says he forgives him all he owed him, which Mr. Gent
   protests is never a penny. I must intreat you to pardon me if I
   seem somewhat impatient on his [_i.e._, Gent's] behalf, who hath
   been so servile to him, and indeed such a perpetual servant, that
   he deserved a better reward. Neither can I deny that I have a
   little indignation for myself that having been acquainted with him
   for almost forty years, and observed and respected him so much, I
   should not be remembered with the value of a spoon, or a mourning
   garment, whereas if I had gone before him (as poor a man as I am),
   he should not have found himself forgotten.'[A]

 [Footnote A: _Winwood's Memorials_, vol. iii., p. 429.]

Bodley did no more by his will, which is dated January 2, 1613, and is
all in his own handwriting, than he had bound himself to do in his
lifetime, and I feel as certain as I can feel about anything that
happened nearly 300 years ago, that Mr. Gent, of Gloucester Hall, did
owe Bodley money, though, as many another member of the University of
Oxford has done with his debts, he forgot all about it.

The founder of the Bodleian was buried with proper pomp and
circumstance in the chapel of Merton College on March 29, 1613. Two
Latin orations were delivered over his remains, one, that of John
Hales (the ever-memorable), a Fellow of Merton, being of no
inconsiderable length. After all was over, those who had mourning
weeds or 'blacks' retired, with the Heads of Houses, to the refectory
of Merton and had a funeral dinner bestowed upon them, 'amounting to
the sum of L100,' as directed by the founder's will.

The great foundation of Sir Thomas Bodley has, happily for all of us,
had better fortune than befell the generous gifts of the Bishops of
Durham and Worcester. The Protestant layman has had the luck, not the
large-minded prelates of the old religion. Even during the Civil War
Bodley's books remained uninjured, at all events by the Parliament
men. 'When Oxford was surrendered [June 24, 1646], the first thing
General Fairfax did was to set a good guard of soldiers to preserve
the Bodleian Library. 'Tis said there was more hurt done by the
Cavaliers [during their garrison] by way of embezzling and cutting of
chains of books than there was since. He was a lover of learning, and
had he not taken this special care that noble library had been utterly
destroyed, for there were ignorant senators enough who would have been
contented to have it so' (see Macray, p. 101).

Oliver Cromwell, while Lord Protector, presented to the library
twenty-two Greek manuscripts he had purchased, and, what is more, when
Bodley's librarian refused the Lord Protector's request to allow the
Portugal Ambassador to borrow a manuscript, sending instead of the
manuscript a copy of the statutes forbidding loans, Oliver commended
the prudence of the founder, and subsequently made the donation just

A great wave of generosity towards this foundation was early
noticeable. The Bodleian got hold of men's imaginations. In those days
there were learned men in all walks of life, and many more who, if not
learned, were endlessly curious. The great merchants of the city of
London instructed their agents in far lands to be on the look-out for
rare things, and transmit them home to find a resting-place in
Bodley's buildings. All sorts of curiosities found their way
there--crocodiles, whales, mummies, and black negro-boys in spirits.
The Ashmolean now holds most of them; the negro-boy has been
conveniently lost.

In 1649 the total of 2,000 printed books had risen to more than
12,000--viz., folios, 5,889; quartos, 2,067; octavos, 4,918; whilst of
manuscripts there were 3,001. One of the first gifts in money came
from Sir Walter Raleigh, who in 1605 gave L50, whilst among the early
benefactors of books and manuscripts it were a sin not to name the
Earl of Pembroke, Archbishop Laud (one of the library's best friends),
Robert Burton (of the _Anatomy of Melancholy_), Sir Kenelm Digby, John
Selden, Lord Fairfax, Colonel Vernon, and Barlow, Bishop of Lincoln.
No nobler library exists in the world than the Bodleian, unless it be
in the Vatican at Rome. The foundation of Sir Thomas Bodley, though of
no antiquity, shines with unrivalled splendour in the galaxy of Oxford

         'Amidst the stars that own another birth.'

I must not say, being myself a Cambridge man, that the Bodleian
dominates Oxford, yet to many an English, American, and foreign
traveller to that city, which, despite railway-stations and motor-cars
and the never-ending villas and perambulators of the Banbury Road,
still breathes the charm of an earlier age, the Bodleian is the
pulsing heart of the University. Colleges, like ancient homesteads,
unless they are yours, never quite welcome you, though ready enough to
receive with civility your tendered meed of admiration. You wander
through their gardens, and pace their quadrangles with no sense of
co-ownership; not for you are their clustered memories. In the
Bodleian every lettered heart feels itself at home.

Bodley drafted with his own hand the first statutes or rules to be
observed in his library. Speaking generally, they are wise rules. One
mistake, indeed, he made--a great mistake, but a natural one. Let him
give his own reasons:

   'I can see no good reason to alter my rule for excluding such books
   as Almanacks, Plays, and an infinite number that are daily printed
   of very unworthy matters--handling such books as one thinks both
   the Keeper and Under-Keeper should disdain to seek out, to deliver
   to any man. Haply some plays may be worthy the keeping--but hardly
   one in forty.... This is my opinion, wherein if I err I shall err
   with infinite others; and the more I think upon it, the more it
   doth distaste me that such kinds of books should be vouchsafed room
   in so noble a library.'[A]

 [Footnote A: See correspondence in _Reliquiae Bodleianae_, London,

'Baggage-books' was the contemptuous expression elsewhere employed to
describe this 'light infantry' of literature--_Belles Lettres_, as it
is now more politely designated.

One play in forty is liberal measure, but who is to say out of the
forty plays which is the one worthy to be housed in a noble library?
The taste of Vice-Chancellors and Heads of Houses, of keepers and
under-keepers of libraries--can anybody trust it? The Bodleian is
entitled by imperial statutes to receive copies of all books published
within the realm, yet it appears, on the face of a Parliamentary
return made in 1818, that this 'noble library' refused to find room
for Ossian, the favourite poet of Goethe and Napoleon, and labelled
Miss Edgeworth's _Parent's Assistant_ and Miss Hannah More's _Sacred
Dramas_ 'Rubbish.' The sister University, home though she be of nearly
every English poet worth reading, rejected the _Siege of Corinth_,
though the work of a Trinity man; would not take in the _Thanksgiving
Ode_ of Mr. Wordsworth, of St. John's College; declined Leigh Hunt's
_Story of Rimini_; vetoed the _Headlong Hall_ of the inimitable
Peacock, and, most wonderful of all, would have nothing to say to
Scott's _Antiquary_, being probably disgusted to find that a book with
so promising a title was only a novel.

Now this is altered, and everything is collected in the Bodleian,
including, so I am told, Christmas-cards and bills of fare.

Bodley's rule has proved an expensive one, for the library has been
forced to buy at latter-day prices 'baggage-books' it could have got
for nothing.

Another ill-advised regulation got rid of duplicates. Thus, when the
third Shakespeare Folio appeared in 1664, the Bodleian disposed of its
copy of the First Folio. However, this wrong was righted in 1821,
when, under the terms of Edmund Malone's bequest, the library once
again became the possessor of the edition of 1623. Quite lately the
original displaced Folio has been recovered.

Against lending books Bodley was adamant, and here his rule prevails.
It is pre-eminently a wise one. The stealing of books, as well as the
losing of books, from public libraries is a melancholy and ancient
chapter in the histories of such institutions; indeed, there is too
much reason to believe that not a few books in the Bodleian itself
were stolen to start with. But the long possession by such a
foundation has doubtless purged the original offence. In the National
Library in Paris is at least one precious manuscript which was stolen
from the Escurial. There are volumes in the British Museum on which
the Bodleian looks with suspicion, and _vice versa_. But let sleeping
dogs lie. Bodley would not give the divines who were engaged upon a
bigger bit of work even than his library--the translation of the Bible
into that matchless English which makes King James's version our
greatest literary possession--permission to borrow 'the one or two
books' they wished to see.

Bodley's Library has sheltered through three centuries many queer
things besides books and strangely-written manuscripts in old tongues;
queerer things even than crocodiles, whales, and mummies--I mean the
librarians and sub-librarians, janitors, and servants. Oddities many
of them have been. Honest old Jacobites, non-jurors, primitive
thinkers, as well as scandalously lazy drunkards and illiterate dogs.
An old foundation can afford to have a varied experience in these

One of the most original of these originals was the famous Thomas
Hearne, an 'honest gentleman'--that is, a Jacobite--and one whose
collections and diaries have given pleasure to thousands. He was
appointed janitor in 1701, and sub-librarian in 1712, but in 1716,
when an Act of Parliament came into operation which imposed a fine of
L500 upon anyone who held any public office without taking the oath of
allegiance to the Hanoverians, Hearne's office was taken away from
him; but he shared with his King over the water the satisfaction of
accounting himself still _de jure_, and though he lived till 1735,
he never failed each half-year to enter his salary and fees as
sub-librarian as being still unpaid. He was perhaps a little spiteful
and vindictive, but none the less a fine old fellow. I will write down
as specimens of his humour a prayer of his and an apology, and then
leave him alone. His prayer ran as follows:

   'O most gracious and merciful Lord God, wonderful in Thy
   Providence, I return all possible thanks to Thee for the care Thou
   hast always taken of me. I continually meet with most signal
   instances of this Thy Providence, and one act yesterday, _when I
   unexpectedly met with three old manuscripts_, for which in a
   particular manner I return my thanks, beseeching Thee to continue
   the same protection to me, a poor helpless sinner, and that for
   Jesus Christ his sake' (_Aubrey's Letters_, i. 118).

His apology, which I do not think was actually published, though kept
in draft, was after this fashion:

   'I, Thomas Hearne, A.M. of the University of Oxford, having ever
   since my matriculation followed my studies with as much application
   as I have been capable of, and having published several books for
   the honour and credit of learning, and particularly for the
   reputation of the foresaid University, am very sorry that by my
   declining to say anything but what I knew to be true in any of my
   writings, and especially in the last book I published entituled,
   &c, I should incur the displeasure of any of the Heads of Houses,
   and as a token of my sorrow for their being offended at truth, I
   subscribe my name to this paper and permit them to make what use of
   it they please.'

Leaping 140 years, an odd tale is thus lovingly recorded of another
sub-librarian, the Rev. A. Hackman, who died in 1874:

   'During all the time of his service in the library (thirty-six
   years) he had used as a cushion in his plain wooden armchair a
   certain vellum-bound folio, which by its indented side, worn down
   by continual pressure, bore testimony to the use to which it had
   been put. No one had ever the curiosity to examine what the book
   might be, but when, after Hackman's departure from the library, it
   was removed from its resting-place of years, some amusement was
   caused by finding that the chief compiler of the last printed
   catalogue had omitted from his catalogue the volume on which he
   sat, of which, too, though of no special value, there was no other
   copy in the library' (Macray, p. 388A).

The spectacle in the mind's eye of this devoted sub-librarian and
sound divine sitting on the vellum-bound folio for six-and-thirty
years, so absorbed in his work as to be oblivious of the fact that he
had failed to include in what was his _magnum opus_, the Great
Catalogue, the very book he was sitting upon, tickles the midriff.

Here I must bring these prolonged but wholly insufficient observations
to a very necessary conclusion. Not a word has been said of the great
collection of bibles, or of the unique copies of the Koran and the
Talmud and the _Arabian Nights_, or of the Dante manuscripts, or of
Bishop Tanner's books (many bought on the dispersion of Archbishop
Sancroft's great library), which in course of removal by water from
Norwich to Oxford fell into the river and remained submerged for
twenty hours, nor of many other splendid benefactions of a later date.

One thing only remains, not to be said, but to be sent round--I mean
the hat. Ignominious to relate, this glorious foundation stands in
need of money. Shade of Sir Thomas Bodley, I invoke thy aid to loosen
the purse-strings of the wealthy! The age of learned and curious
merchants, of high-spirited and learning-loving nobles, of
book-collecting bishops, of antiquaries, is over. The Bodleian cannot
condescend to beg. It is too majestical. But I, an unauthorized
stranger, have no need to be ashamed.

Especially rich is this great library in _Americana_, and America
suggests multi-millionaires. The rich men of the United States have
been patriotically alive to the first claims of their own richly
endowed universities, and long may they so continue; but if by any
happy chance any one of them should accidentally stumble across an odd
million or even half a million of dollars hidden away in some casual
investment he had forgotten, what better thing could he do with it
than send it to this, the most famous foundation of his Old Home? It
would be acknowledged by return of post in English and in Latin, and
the donor's name would be inscribed, not indeed (and this is a
regrettable lapse) in that famous old register which Bodley provided
should always be in a prominent place in his library, but in the
Annual Statement of Accounts now regularly issued. To be associated
with the Bodleian is to share its fame and partake of the blessing it
has inherited. 'The liberal deviseth liberal things; and by liberal
things he shall stand.'


Great is bookishness and the charm of books. No doubt there are times
and seasons in the lives of most reading men when they rebel against
the dust of libraries and kick against the pricks of these monstrously
accumulated heaps of words. We all know 'the dark hour' when the
vanity of learning and the childishness of merely literary things are
brought home to us in such a way as almost to avail to put the pale
student out of conceit with his books, and to make him turn from his
best-loved authors as from a friend who has outstayed his welcome,
whose carriage we wish were at the door. In these unhappy moments we
are apt to call to mind the shrewd men we have known, who have been
our blithe companions on breezy fells, heathery moor, and by the
stream side, who could neither read nor write, or who, at all events,
but rarely practised those Cadmean arts. Yet they could tell the time
of day by the sun, and steer through the silent night by the stars;
and each of them had--as Emerson, a very bookish person, has said--a
dial in his mind for the whole bright calendar of the year. How racy
was their talk; how wise their judgments on men and things; how well
they did all that at the moment seemed worth doing; how universally
useful was their garnered experience--their acquired learning! How
wily were these illiterates in the pursuit of game--how ready in an
emergency! What a charm there is about out-of-door company! Who would
not sooner have spent a summer's day with Sir Walter's humble friend,
Tom Purday, than with Mr. William Wordsworth of Rydal Mount! It is, we
can only suppose, reflections such as these that make country
gentlemen and farmers the sworn foes they are of education and the
enemies of School Boards.

I only indicate this line of thought to condemn it. Such temptations
come from below. Great, we repeat, is bookishness and the charm of
books. Even the writings, the ponderous writings, of that portentous
parson, the Rev. T.F. Dibdin, with all their lumbering gaiety and
dust-choked rapture over first editions, are not hastily to be sent
packing to the auction-room. Much red gold did they cost us, these
portly tomes, in bygone days, and on our shelves they shall remain
till the end of our time, unless our creditors intervene--were it only
to remind us of years when our enthusiasms were pure though our tastes
may have been crude.

Some years ago Mr. Blades, the famous printer and Caxtonist, published
in vellum covers a small volume which he christened _The Enemies of
Books_. It made many friends, and now a revised and enlarged version
in comely form, adorned with pictures, and with a few prefatory words
by Dr. Garnett, has made its appearance. Mr. Blades himself has left
this world for a better one, where--so piety bids us believe--neither
fire nor water nor worm can despoil or destroy the pages of heavenly
wisdom. But the book-collector must not be caught nursing mere
sublunary hopes. There is every reason to believe that in the realms
of the blessed the library, like that of Major Ponto, will be small
though well selected. Mr. Blades had, as his friend Dr. Garnett
observes, a debonair spirit--there was nothing fiery or controversial
about him. His attitude towards the human race and its treatment of
rare books was rather mournful than angry. For example, under the head
of 'Fire,' he has occasion to refer to that great destruction of books
of magic which took place at Ephesus, to which St. Luke has called
attention in his Acts of the Apostles. Mr. Blades describes this
holocaust as righteous, and only permits himself to say in a kind of
undertone that he feels a certain mental disquietude and uneasiness at
the thought of the loss of more than L18,000 worth of books, which
could not but have thrown much light (had they been preserved) on
many curious questions of folk-lore. Personally, I am dead against the
burning of books. A far worse, because a corrupt, proceeding, was the
scandalously horrid fate that befell the monastic libraries at our
disgustingly conducted, even if generally beneficent, Reformation. The
greedy nobles and landed gentry, who grabbed the ancient foundations
of the old religion, cared nothing for the books they found cumbering
the walls, and either devoted them to vile domestic uses or sold them
in shiploads across the seas. It may well be that the monks--fine,
lusty fellows!--cared more for the contents of their fish-ponds than
of their libraries; but, at all events, they left the books alone to
take their chance--they did not rub their boots with them or sell them
at the price of old paper. A man need have a very debonair spirit who
does not lose his temper over our blessed Reformation. Mr. Blades, on
the whole, managed to keep his.

Passing from fire, Mr. Blades has a good deal to say about water, and
the harm it has been allowed to do in our collegiate and cathedral
libraries. With really creditable composure he writes: 'Few old
libraries in England are now so thoroughly neglected as they were
thirty years ago. The state of many of our collegiate and cathedral
libraries was at that time simply appalling. I could mention many
instances--one especially--where, a window having been left broken for
a long time, the ivy had pushed through and crept over a row of books,
each of which was worth hundreds of pounds. In rainy weather the water
was conducted as by a pipe along the tops of the books, and soaked
through the whole.' Ours is indeed a learned Church. Fancy the mingled
amazement and dismay of the Dean and Chapter when they were informed
that all this mouldering literary trash had 'boodle' in it. 'In
another and a smaller collection the rain came through on to a
bookcase through a sky-light, saturating continually the top shelf,
containing Caxtons and other English books, one of which, although
rotten, was sold soon after by permission of the Charity Commissioners
for L200.' Oh, those scoundrelly Charity Commissioners! How
impertinent has been their interference with the loving care and
guardianship of the Lord's property by His lawfully consecrated
ministers! By the side of these anthropoid apes, the genuine
bookworm, the paper-eating insect, ravenous as he once was, has done
comparatively little mischief. Very little seems known of the
creature, though the purchaser of Mr. Blades's book becomes the owner
of a life-size portrait of the miscreant in one, at all events, of his
many shapes. Mr. Birdsall, of Northampton, sent Mr. Blades, in 1879,
by post, a fat little worm he had found in an old volume. Mr. Blades
did all, and more than all, that could be expected of a humane man to
keep the creature alive, actually feeding him with fragments of
Caxtons and seventeenth-century literature; but it availed not, for in
three weeks the thing died, and as the result of a post-mortem was
declared to be _Aecophera pseudopretella_. Some years later Dr.
Garnett, who has spent a long life obliging men of letters, sent Mr.
Blades two Athenian worms, which had travelled to this country in a
Hebrew Commentary; but, lovely and pleasant in their lives, in their
deaths they were not far divided. Mr. Blades, at least, mourned their
loss. The energy of bookworms, like that of men, greatly varies. Some
go much farther than others. However fair they may start on the same
folio, they end very differently. Once upon a time 212 worms began to
eat their way through a stout folio printed in the year 1477, by Peter
Schoeffer, of Mentz. It was an ungodly race they ran, but let me trace
their progress. By the time the sixty-first page was reached all but
four had given in, either slinking back the way they came, or
perishing _en route_. By the time the eighty-sixth page had been
reached but one was left, and he evidently on his last legs, for he
failed to pierce his way through page 87. At the other end of the same
book another lot of worms began to bore, hoping, I presume, to meet
in the middle, like the makers of submarine tunnels, but the last
survivor of this gang only reached the sixty ninth page from the end.
Mr. Blades was of opinion that all these worms belonged to the
_Anobium pertinax_. Worms have fallen upon evil days, for, whether
modern books are readable or not, they have long since ceased to be
edible. The worm's instinct forbids him to 'eat the china clay, the
bleaches, the plaster of Paris, the sulphate of barytes, the scores of
adulterants now used to mix with the fibre.' Alas, poor worm! Alas,
poor author! Neglected by the _Anobium pertinax_, what chance is
there of anyone, man or beast, a hundred years hence reaching his
eighty-seventh page!

Time fails me to refer to bookbinders, frontispiece collectors,
servants and children, and other enemies of books; but the volume I
refer to is to be had of the booksellers, and is a pleasant volume,
worthy of all commendation. Its last words set me thinking; they are:

   'Even a millionaire will ease his toils, lengthen his life, and add
   100 per cent. to his daily pleasures, if he becomes a bibliophile;
   while to the man of business with a taste for books, who through
   the day has struggled in the battle of life, with all its
   irritating rebuffs and anxieties, what a blessed season of
   pleasurable repose opens upon him as he enters his sanctum, where
   every article wafts him a welcome and every book is a personal

As for the millionaire, I frankly say I have no desire his life should
be lengthened, and care nothing about adding 100 per cent. to his
daily pleasures. He is a nuisance, for he has raised prices nearly 100
per cent. We curse the day when he was told it was the thing to buy
old books; and, if he must buy old books, why is he not content with
the works of Gibbon, Hume, and Robertson, and Flavius Josephus, that
learned Jew? But it is not the millionaire who set me thinking; it is
the harassed man of business; and what I am wondering is, whether, in
sober truth and earnestness, it is possible for him, as he shuts his
library door and finds himself inside, to forget his rebuffs and
anxieties--his maturing bills and overdue argosies--and to lose
himself over a favourite volume. The 'article' that wafts him welcome
I take to be his pipe. That he will put the 'article' into his mouth
and smoke it I have no manner of doubt; my dread is lest, in ten
minutes' time, the book should have dropt into his lap and the man's
eyes be staring into the fire. But for a' that, and a' that--great is
bookishness and the charm of books.


Dr. Johnson is perhaps our best example of a confirmed reader. Malone
once found him sitting in his room roasting apples and reading a
history of Birmingham. This staggered even Malone, who was himself a
somewhat far-gone reader.

'Don't you find it rather dull?' he ventured to inquire.

'Yes,' replied the Sage, 'it is dull.'

Malone's eyes then rested on the apples, and he remarked he supposed
they were for medicine.

'Why, no,' said Johnson; 'I believe they are only there because I
wanted something to do. I have been confined to the house for a week,
and so you find me roasting apples and reading the history of

This anecdote pleasingly illustrates the habits of the confirmed
reader. Nor let the worldling sneer. Happy is the man who, in the
hours of solitude and depression, can read a history of Birmingham.
How terrible is the story Welbore Ellis told of Robert Walpole in his
magnificent library, trying book after book, and at last, with tears
in his eyes, exclaiming: 'It is all in vain: I cannot read!'

Edmund Malone, the Shakespearian commentator and first editor of
_Boswell's Johnson_, was as confirmed a reader as it is possible for a
book-collector to be. His own life, by Sir James Prior, is full of
good things, and is not so well known as it should be. It smacks of
books and bookishness.

Malone, who was an Irishman, was once, so he would have us believe,
deeply engaged in politics; but he then fell in love, and the affair,
for some unknown reason, ending unhappily, his interest ceased in
everything, and he was driven as a last resource to books and
writings. Thus are commentators made. They learn in suffering what
they observe in the margin. Malone may have been driven to his
pursuits, but he took to them kindly, and became a vigorous and
skilful book-buyer, operating in the market both on his own behalf and
on that of his Irish friends with great success.

His good fortune was enormous, and this although he had a severely
restricted notion as to price. He was no reckless bidder, like Mr.
Harris, late of Covent Garden, who, just because David Garrick had a
fine library of old plays, was determined to have one himself at
whatever cost. In Malone's opinion half a guinea was a big price for a
book. As he grew older he became less careful, and in 1805, which was
seven years before his death, he gave Ford, a Manchester bookseller,
L25 for the Editio Princeps of _Venus and Adonis_. He already had the
edition of 1596--a friend had given it him--bound up with
Constable's and Daniel's Sonnets and other rarities, but he very
naturally yearned after the edition of 1593. He fondly imagined
Ford's copy to be unique: there he was wrong, but as he died in that
belief, and only gave L25 for his treasure, who dare pity him? His
copy now reposes in the Bodleian. He secured Shakespeare's Sonnets
(1609) and the first edition of the _Rape of Lucrece_ for two guineas,
and accounted half a crown a fair average price for quarto copies of
Elizabethan plays.

Malone was a truly amiable man, of private fortune and endearing
habits. He lived on terms of intimacy with his brother
book-collectors, and when they died attended the sale of their
libraries and bid for his favourite lots, grumbling greatly if they
were not knocked down to him. At Topham Beauclerk's sale in 1781,
which lasted nine days, Malone bought for Lord Charlemont 'the
pleasauntest workes of George Gascoigne, Esquire, with the princely
pleasures at Kenilworth Castle, 1587.' He got it cheap (L1 7s.), as it
wanted a few leaves, which Malone thought he had; but to his horror,
when it came to be examined, it was found to want eleven more leaves
than he had supposed. 'Poor Mr. Beauclerk,' he writes, 'seems never to
have had his books examined or collated, otherwise he would have found
out the imperfections.' Malone was far too good a book-collector to
suggest a third method of discovering a book's imperfections--namely,
reading it. Beauclerk's library only realized L5,011, and as the Duke
of Marlborough had a mortgage upon it of L5,000, there must have been
after payment of the auctioneer's charges a considerable deficit.

But Malone was more than a book-buyer, more even than a commentator:
he was a member of the Literary Club, and the friend of Johnson,
Reynolds, and Burke. On July 28, 1789, he went to Burke's place, the
Gregories, near Beaconsfield, with Sir Joshua, Wyndham, and Mr.
Courtenay, and spent three very agreeable days. The following extract
from the recently published Charlemont papers has interest:

   'As I walked out before breakfast with Mr. Burke, I proposed to him
   to revise and enlarge his admirable book on the _Sublime and
   Beautiful_, which the experience, reading, and observation of
   thirty years could not but enable him to improve considerably. But
   he said the train of his thoughts had gone another way, and the
   whole bent of his mind turned from such subjects, and that he was
   much fitter for such speculations at the time he published that
   book than now.'

Between the Burke of 1758 and the Burke of 1789 there was a difference
indeed, but the forcible expressions, 'the train of my thoughts' and
'the whole bent of my mind,' serve to create a new impression of the
tremendous energy and fertile vigour of this amazing man. The next day
the party went over to Amersham and admired Mr. Drake's trees, and
listened to Sir Joshua's criticisms of Mr. Drake's pictures. This was
a fortnight after the taking of the Bastille. Burke's hopes were still
high. The Revolution had not yet spoilt his temper.

Amongst the Charlemont papers is an amusing tale I do not remember
having ever seen before of young Philip Stanhope, the recipient of
Lord Chesterfield's famous letters:

   'When at Berne, where he passed some of his boyhood in company with
   Harte and the excellent Mr., now Lord, Eliott (Heathfield of
   Gibraltar), he was one evening invited to a party where, together
   with some ladies, there happened to be a considerable number of
   Bernese senators, a dignified set of elderly gentlemen,
   aristocratically proud, and perfect strangers to fun. These most
   potent, grave, and reverend signors were set down to whist, and
   were so studiously attentive to the game, that the unlucky brat
   found little difficulty in fastening to the backs of their chairs
   the flowing tails of their ample periwigs and in cutting,
   unobserved by them, the tyes of their breeches. This done, he left
   the room, and presently re-entered crying out, "Fire! Fire!" The
   affrighted burgomasters suddenly bounced up, and exhibited to the
   amazed spectators their senatorial heads and backs totally deprived
   of ornament or covering.'

Young Stanhope was no ordinary child. There is a completeness about
this jest which proclaims it a masterpiece. One or other of its points
might have occurred to anyone, but to accomplish both at once was to
show real distinction.

Sir William Stanhope, Lord Chesterfield's brother, felt no surprise at
his nephew's failure to acquire the graces. 'What,' said he, 'could
Chesterfield expect? His mother was Dutch, he was educated at Leipsic,
and his tutor was a pedant from Oxford.'

Papers which contain anecdotes of this kind carry with them their own
recommendation. We hear on all sides complaints--and I hold them to be
just complaints--of the abominable high prices of English books.
Thirty shillings, thirty-six shillings, are common prices. The thing
is too barefaced. His Majesty's Stationery Office set an excellent
example. They sell an octavo volume of 460 closely but well-printed
pages, provided with an excellent index, for one shilling and
elevenpence. There is not much editing, but the quality of it is

If anyone is confined to his room, even as Johnson was when Malone
found him roasting apples and reading a history of Birmingham, he
cannot do better than surround himself with the publications of the
Historical Manuscripts Commission; they will cost him next to nothing,
tell him something new on every page, revive a host of old memories
and scores of half-forgotten names, and perhaps tempt him to become a
confirmed reader.


This is an age of great publicity. Not only are our streets well
lighted, but also our lives. The cosy nooks and corners, crannies, and
dark places where, in old-fashioned days, men hugged their private
vices without shamefacedness have been swept away as ruthlessly as
Seven Dials. All the questionable pursuits, fancies, foibles of silly,
childish man are discussed grimly and at length in the newspapers and
magazines. Our poor hobby-horses are dragged out of the stable, and
made to show their shambling paces before the mob of gentlemen who
read with ease. There has been much prate lately of as innocent a
foible as ever served to make men self-forgetful for a few seconds of
time--the collecting of first editions. Somebody hard up for 'copy'
denounced this pastime, and made merry over a _virtuoso's_ whim.
Somebody else--Mr. Slater, I think it was--thought fit to put in a
defence, and thereupon a dispute arose as to why men bought first
editions dear when they could buy last editions cheap. Brutal,
domineering fellows bellowed their complete indifference to
Shakespeare's Quartos till timid _dilettanti_ turned pale and fled.

The fact, of course, is that in such a dispute as this there is but
one thing to do--namely, to persuade the Attorney-General of the day
to enter up a _nolle prosequi_, and for him who collects first
editions to go on collecting. There is nothing to be serious about in
the matter. It is not literature. Some of the greatest lovers of
letters who have ever lived--Dr. Johnson, for example, and Thomas de
Quincey and Carlyle--have cared no more for first editions than I do
for Brussels sprouts. You may love Moliere with a love surpassing your
love of woman without any desire to beggar yourself in Paris by
purchasing early copies of the plays. You may be perfectly content to
read Walton's _Lives_ in an edition of 1905, if there is one; and as
for _Robinson Crusoe_ and _Gulliver_ and the _Vicar of Wakefield_--are
they not eternal favourites, and just as tickling to the fancy in
their nineteenth-century dress as in their eighteenth? The whole thing
is but a hobby--but a paragraph in one chapter of the vast, but most
agreeable, history of human folly. If John Doe is blankly indifferent
to Richard Roe's Elizabethan dramatists, it is only fair to remember
how sublime is Richard's contempt for John's collection of old musical
instruments. If these gentlemen are wise they will discuss, when they
meet, the weather, or the Death Duties, or some other extraneous
subject, and leave their respective hobbies in the stable. Never mind
what your hobby is--books, prints, drawings, china, scarabaei,
lepidoptera--keep it to yourself and for those like-minded with you.
Sweet indeed is the community of interest, delightful the intercourse
which a common foible begets; but correspondingly bitter and
distressful is the forced union of nervous zeal and pitiless
indifference. Spare us the so-called friends who come and gape and
stare and go! What is more painful than the chatter of the connoisseur
as it falls upon the long ears of the ignoramus! Collecting is a
secret sin--the great pushing public must be kept out. It is sheer
madness to puff and praise your hobby, and to invite Dick, Tom, and
Harry to inspect your stable: such conduct is to invite rebuff, to
expose yourself to just animadversion. Keep the beast in its box. This
is my first advice to the hobby-hunter.

My second piece of advice is equally important, particularly at the
present time, when the world is too much with us, and it is
this--never convert a taste into a trade. The moment you become a
tradesman you cease to be a hobbyist. When the love of money comes in
at the window the love of books runs out at the door. There has been
of late years a good deal of sham book-collecting. The morals of the
Stock Exchange have corrupted even the library. Sordid souls have been
induced by wily second-hand booksellers to buy books for no other
reason than because the price demanded was a high one. This is the
very worst possible reason for buying a book. Whether it is ever wise
to buy a book, as Aulus Gellius used to do, simply because it is
cheap, and regardless of its condition, is a debatable point, but to
buy one dear at the mere bidding of a bookseller is to debase
yourself. The result of this ungodly traffic has been to enlarge for
the moment the circle of book-buyers by including in it men with
commercial instincts, sham hobbyists. But these impostors have been
lately punished in the only way they could be punished--namely, in
their pockets--by a heavy fall of prices. The stuff they were induced
to buy has not, and could not, maintain its price, and the shops are
now full of the volumes which, seven or ten years ago, fetched fancy

If a young book-collector does but bear in mind the two bits of advice
I have proffered him, he may safely be bidden godspeed and
congratulated on his choice of a hobby, for it is, without a shadow of
a doubt, the cheapest he could have chosen. Even without means to
acquire the treasures of a Quaritch or a Pickering, he may yet derive
infinite delight from the perusal of the many hundreds of catalogues
that now weekly issue from the second-hand booksellers in town and
country. He may write an imaginary letter, ordering the books he has
previously selected from the catalogue, and then he has only to forget
to post it to avoid all disagreeable consequences.

The constant turnover of old books is amazing. There seems no rest in
this world even for folios and quartos. The first edition of old
Burton's _Anatomy_, printed at Oxford in a small quarto in 1621, rises
to the surface as a rule no less than four times a year; so, too, does
Coryat's _Crudities_, hastily gobbled up in five months' travels in
France, Savoy, Italy, Germany, etc., 1611. What a seething, restless
place this world is, to be sure! The constant recurrence of copies of
the same books is almost startling. Hardly a year passes but every
book of first-rate importance and interest is knocked down to the
highest bidder. No doubt there are still old libraries where, buried
in dust and cobwebs, the folios and quartos lie undisturbed; but to
turn the pages or examine the index of _Book Prices Current_ is to
have a vision before your eyes of whole regiments of books passing
and repassing across the stage amidst the loud cries of auctioneers
and the bidding of booksellers.

In the auction-mart taste is pretty steady. The old favourites hold
their own. Every now and again an immortal joins their ranks. Puffing
and pretension may win the ear of the outside public, and extort
praise from the press, but inside the rooms of a Sotheby, a Puttick,
or a Hodgson, these foolish persons count for nothing, and their names
are seldom heard. Were an author to turn the pages of _Book Prices
Current_, he could hardly fail, as he there read the names of famous
men of old, to breathe the prayer, 'May my books some day be found
forming part of this great tidal wave of literature which is for ever
breaking on Earth's human shores!' But the vanity of authors is
endless, and their prayers are apt to be but empty things.


There were no books in Eden, and there will be none in heaven; but
between times--and it is of those I speak--it is otherwise. Mr. Thomas
Greenwood, in a most meritorious work on Public Libraries, supplies
figures which show that, without counting pamphlets (which are books
gone wrong) or manuscripts (which are books _in terrorem_), there are
at this present moment upwards of 71,000,000 printed books in bindings
in the several public libraries of Europe and America. To estimate
the number and extent of private libraries in those countries is
impossible. In many large houses there are no books at all--which is
to make ignorance visible; whilst in many small houses there are, or
seem to be, nothing else--which is to make knowledge inconvenient; yet
as there are upwards of 280,000,000 of inhabitants of Europe and
America, I cannot greatly err if a passion for round numbers drives me
to the assertion that there are at least 300,000,000 books in these
countries, not counting bibles and prayer-books. It is a poor show!
Russia is greatly to blame, her European population of 88,000,000
being so badly provided for that it brings down the average. Were
Russia left out in the cold, we might, were our books to be divided
amongst our population _per capita_, rely upon having two volumes
apiece. This would not afford Mr. Gosse (the title of one of whose
books I have stolen) much material for gossip, particularly as his two
books might easily chance to be duplicates. There are no habits of man
more alien to the doctrine of the Communist than those of the
collector, and there is no collector, not even that basest of them
all, the Belial of his tribe, the man who collects money, whose love
of private property is intenser, whose sense of the joys of ownership
is keener than the book-collector's. Mr. William Morris once hinted at
a good time coming, when at almost every street corner there would be
a public library, where beautiful and rare books will be kept for
citizens to examine. The citizen will first wash his hands in a
parochial basin, and then dry them on a parochial towel, after which
ritual he will walk in and stand _en queue_ until it comes to be his
turn to feast his eye upon some triumph of modern or some miracle of
old typography. He will then return to a bookless home proud and
satisfied, tasting of the joy that is in widest commonalty spread.
Alas! he will do nothing of the kind, not, at least, if he is one of
those in whom the old Adam of the bookstalls still breathes. A public
library must always be an abomination. To enjoy a book, you must own
it. 'John Jones his book,' that is the best bookplate. I have never
admired the much-talked-of bookplate of Grolier, which, in addition to
his own name, bore the ridiculous advice _Et Amicorum_. Fudge! There
is no evidence that Grolier ever lent any man a book with his plate
in it. His collection was dispersed after his death, and then
sentimentalists fell a-weeping over his supposed generosity. It would
be as reasonable to commend the hospitality of a dead man because you
found amongst his papers a vast number of unposted invitations to
dinner upon a date he long outlived. Sentiment is seldom in place, but
on a bookplate it is peculiarly odious. To paste in each book an
invitation to steal it, as Grolier seems to have done, is foolish; but
so also is it to invoke, as some book-plates do, curses upon the heads
of all subsequent possessors--as if any man who wanted to add a volume
to his collection would be deterred by such braggadocio. But this is a
digression. Public libraries can never satisfy the longings of
book-collectors any more than can the private libraries of other
people. Whoever really cared a snap of his fingers for the contents of
another man's library, unless he is known to be dying? It is a
humorous spectacle to watch one book-collector exhibiting his stores
to another. If the owner is a gentleman, as he usually is, he affects
indifference--'A poor thing,' he seems to say, 'yet mine own'; whilst
the visitor, if human, as he always is, exhibits disgust. If the
volume proffered for the visitor's examination is a genuine rarity,
not in his own collection, he surlily inquires how it was come by;
whilst if it is no great thing, he testily expresses his astonishment
it should be thought worth keeping, and this although he has the very
same edition at home.

On the other hand, though actual visits to other men's libraries
rarely seem to give pleasure, the perusal of the catalogues of such
libraries has always been a favourite pastime of collectors; but this
can be accounted for without in any way aspersing the truth of the
general statement that the only books a lover of them takes pleasure
in are his own.

Mr. Gosse's recent volume, _Gossip in a Library_, is a very pleasing
example of the pleasure taken by a book-hunter in his own books. Just
as some men and more women assume your interest in the contents of
their nurseries, so Mr. Gosse seeks to win our ears as he talks to us
about some of the books on his shelves. He has secured my willing
attention, and is not likely to be disappointed of a considerable

We live in vocal times, when small birds make melody on every bough.
The old book-collectors were a taciturn race--the Bindleys, the
Sykeses, the Hebers. They made their vast collections in silence;
their own tastes, fancies, predilections, they concealed. They never
gossiped of their libraries; their names are only preserved to us by
the prices given for their books after their deaths. Bindley's copy
fetched L3 10s., Sykes' L4 15s. Thus is the buyer of to-day tempted to
his doom, forgetful of the fact that these great names are only quoted
when the prices realized at their sales were less than those now

But solacing as is the thought of those grave, silent times,
indisposed as one often is for the chirpy familiarities of this
present, it is, or it ought to be, a pious, and therefore pleasant,
reflection that there never was a time when more people found delight
in book-hunting, or were more willing to pay for and read about their
pastime than now.

Rich people may, no doubt, still be met with who think it a serious
matter to buy a book if it cost more than 3s. 9d. It was recently
alleged in an affidavit made by a doctor in lunacy that for a
well-to-do bachelor to go into the Strand, and in the course of the
same morning spend L5 in the purchase of 'old books,' was a ground for
belief in his insanity and for locking him up. These, however, are but
vagaries, for it is certain that the number of people who will read a
book like Mr. Gosse's steadily increases. This is its justification,
and it is a complete one. It can never be wrong to give pleasure. To
talk about books is better than to read about them, but, as a matter
of hard fact, the opportunities life affords of talking about books
are very few. The mood and the company seldom coincide; when they do,
it is delightful, but they seldom do.

Mr. Gosse's book ought not to be read in a fierce, nagging spirit
which demands, What is the good of this? or, Who cares for that? His
talk, it must be admitted, is not of masterpieces. The books he takes
down are--in some instances, at all events--sad trash. Smart's poems,
for example, in an edition of 1752, which does not contain the
'David,' is not a book which, viewed baldly and by itself, can be
honestly described as worth reading. This remark is not prompted by
jealousy, for I have the book myself, and seldom fail to find the list
of subscribers interesting, for, among many other famous names, it
contains those of 'Mr. Gray, Peter's College, Cambridge,' 'Mr. Samuel
Richardson, editor of _Clarissa_, two books,' and 'Mr. Voltaire,
Historiographer of France.' There are various Johnsons among the
subscribers, but not Samuel, who apparently would liefer pray with Kit
Smart than buy his poetry, thereby showing the doctor's usual piety
and good sense.[A]

 [Footnote A: 'He insisted on people praying with him, and I'd as lief
 pray with Kit Smart as with anyone else.']

Although the nagging spirit before referred to is to be deprecated, it
is sometimes amusing to lose your temper with your own hobby. If a
book-collector ever does this, he longs to silence whole libraries of
bad authors. ''Tis an inglorious acquist,' says Joseph Glanvill in his
famous _Vanity of Dogmatizing_--I quote from the first edition, 1661,
though the second is the rarer--'to have our heads or volumes laden as
were Cardinal Campeius his mules, with old and useless luggage.'
''Twas this vain idolizing of authors,' Glanvill had just before
observed, 'which gave birth to that silly vanity of _impertinent
citations_, and inducing authority in things neither requiring nor
deserving it.' In the same strain he proceeds, 'Methinks 'tis a
pitiful piece of knowledge that can be learnt from an _Index_ and a
poor ambition to be rich in the inventory of another's Treasure. To
boast a _Memory_ (the most that these pedants can aim at) is but an
humble ostentation. 'Tis better to own a Judgment, though but with a
_Curta Supellex_ of coherent notions, than a _Memory_ like a sepulchre
furnished with a load of broken and discarnate bones.' Thus far the
fascinating Glanvill, whose mode of putting things is powerful.

There are times when the contemplation of huge libraries wearies, and
when even the names of Bindley and Sykes fail to please. Dr. Johnson's
library sold at Christie's for L247 9s. Let those sneer who dare. It
was Johnson, not Bindley, who wrote the _Lives of the Poets_.

But, of course, no sensible man ever really quarrels with his hobby. A
little petulance every now and again variegates the monotony of
routine. Mr. Gosse tells us in his book that he cannot resist
Restoration comedies. The bulk of them he knows to be as bad as bad
can be. He admits they are not literature--whatever that may
mean--but he intends to go on collecting them all the same till the
inevitable hour when Death collects him. This is the true spirit;
herein lies happiness, which consists in being interested in
something, it does not much matter what. In this spirit let me take up
Mr. Gosse's book again, and read what he has to tell about _Pharamond;
or, the History of France. A Fam'd Romance. In Twelve Parts_, or about
Mr. John Hopkins' collection of poems, printed by Thomas Warren for
Bennet Bunbury at the Blue Anchor, in the Lower Walk of the New
Exchange, 1700. The Romance is dull, and as it occupies more than
1,100 folio pages may be pronounced tedious, and the poetry is bad,
but as I do not seriously intend ever to read a line of either the
Romance or the poetry, this is no great matter.


No man of feeling will grudge the librarians of the universe their
annual outing. Their pursuits are not indeed entirely sedentary, since
at times they have to climb tall ladders, but of exercise they must
always stand in need, and as for air, the exclusively bookish
atmosphere is as bad for the lungs as it is for the intellectuals. In
1897 the Second International Library Conference met in London,
attended several concerts, was entertained by the Marchioness of Bute
and Lady Lubbock; visited Lambeth Palace and Stafford and Apsley
Houses; witnessed a special performance of Irving's _Merchant of
Venice_; were elected honorary members of the City Liberal, Junior
Athaeneum, National Liberal, and Savage Clubs; and, generally
speaking, enjoyed themselves after the methods current during that
period. They also read forty-six papers, which now alone remain a
stately record of their proceedings.

I have lately spent a pleasant afternoon musing over these papers.
Their variety is endless, and the dispositions of mind displayed by
these librarians are wide as the poles asunder. Some of them babble
like babies, others are evidently austere scholars; some are gravely
bent on the best methods of classifying catalogues, economizing space,
and sorting borrowers' cards; others, scorning such mechanical
details, bid us regard libraries, and consequently librarians, as the
primary factors in human evolution. 'Where,' asks Mr. Ernest Cushing
Richardson, the librarian of Princetown University, New Jersey,
U.S.A., 'lies the germ of the library?' He answers his own question
after the following convincing fashion: 'At the point where a
definitely formed concept from another's mind is placed beside one's
own idea for integration, the result being a definite new form,
including the substance of both.' The pointsman who presides over this
junction is the librarian.

The young woman of whom Mr. Matthews, the well-known librarian of
Bristol, tells us, who, being a candidate for the post of assistant
librarian, boldly pronounced Rider Haggard to be the author of the
_Idylls of the King_, Southey of _The Mill on the Floss_, and Mark
Twain of _Modern Painters_, undoubtedly placed her own ideas at the
service of Bristol alongside the preconceived conceptions of Mr.
Matthews; but she was rejected all the same.

To speak seriously, who are librarians, and whence come they in such
numbers? Of Bodley's librarian we have heard, and all the lettered
world honours the name of Richard Garnett, late keeper of the printed
books at the British Museum. But beyond these and half a dozen others
a great darkness prevails. This ignorance is well illustrated by a
pleasing anecdote told at the Conference by Mr. MacAlister:

   'Only the day before yesterday, on the Calais boat, I was
   introduced to a world-famed military officer who, when he
   understood I had some connection with the Library Association,
   exclaimed: "Why, you're just the man I want! I have been anxious of
   late about my man, old Atkins. You see the old boy, with a stoop,
   sheltering behind the funnel. Poor old beggar! quite past his work,
   but as faithful as a dog. It has just occurred to me that if you
   could shove him into some snug library in the country, I'd be
   awfully grateful to you. His one fault is a fondness for reading,
   and so a library would be just the thing."'

The usual titled lady also turned up at the Conference. This time she
was recommending her late cook for the post of librarian, alleging on
her behalf the same strange trait of character--her fondness for
reading. Here, of course, one recalls Mark Pattison's famous dictum,
'The librarian who reads is lost,' about which there is much to be
said, both _pro_ and _con_; but we must not be put off our inquiry,
which is: Who are these librarians, and whence come they? They are the
custodians of the 70,000,000 printed books (be the numbers a little
more or less) in the public libraries of the Western world, and they
come from guarding their treasures. They deserve our friendliest
consideration. If occasionally their enthusiasm provokes a smile, it
is, or should be, of the kindliest. When you think of 70,000,000
books, instinctively you wish to wash your hands. Nobody knows what
dust is who has not divided his time between the wine-cellar and the
library. The work of classification, of indexing, of packing away,
must be endless. Great men have arisen who have grappled with these
huge problems. We read respectfully of Cutter's rules, which are to
the librarian even as Kepler's laws to the astronomer. We have also
heard of Poole's index. We bow our heads. Both Cutter and Poole are
Americans. The parish of St. Pancras has just, by an overwhelming
majority, declined to have a free library, and consequently a
librarian. Brutish St. Pancras!

Libraries are obviously of two kinds: those intended for popular use
and those meant for the scholar. The ordinary free library, in the
sense of Mr. Ewart's Act of Parliament of 1850, is a popular library
where a wearied population turns for distraction. Fiction plays a
large part. In some libraries 80 per cent. of the books in circulation
are novels. Hence Mr. Goldwin Smith's splenetic remark, 'People have
no more right to novels than to theatre-tickets out of the taxes.'
Quite true; no more they have--or to public gardens or to beautiful
pictures or to anything save to peep through the railings and down the
areas of Mr. Gradgrind's fine new house in Park Lane.

When we are considering popular libraries, it does not do to expect
too much of tired human nature. This popular kind of library was well
represented--perhaps a little over-represented, at the Conference. All
our American cousins are not Cutters and Pooles. There was Mr.
Crunden, who keeps the public library at St. Louis, U.S.A. He is all
against dull text-books. As a boy he derived his inspiration from
Sargent's _Standard Speaker_, and the interesting sketch he gives us
of his education makes us wonder whether amidst his multitudinous
reading he ever encountered Newman's marvellous description and
handling of the young and over-read Mr. Brown, which is to be found
under the heading 'Elementary Studies' in _Lectures and Essays on
University Subjects_.

I shuddered just a little on reading in Mr. Crunden's paper of the boy
who, before he was nine, had read Bulfinch's _Age of Chivalry_ and
_Age of Charlemagne_, Bryant's _Translation of the 'Iliad'_, a prose
translation of the _Odyssey_, Malory's _King Arthur, and several other
versions of the Arthurian legend_, Prescott's _Peru and Mexico_,
Macaulay's _Lays_, Longfellow's _Hiawatha_ and _Miles Standish_, the
Jungle Books, and other books too numerous to mention. A famous list,
but perilously long.

Mr. Crunden supports his case for varied reading by quotations from
all quarters--Dr. William T. Harris, President Eliot, Professor
Mackenzie, Charles Dudley Warner, Sir John Lubbock--but their scraps
of wisdom or of folly do not remove my uneasiness about the digestion
of the little boy who, before he was nine years old, had (not content
with Malory) read several versions of the Arthurian legend!

Ladies make excellent librarians, and have tender hearts for children,
and so we find a paper written by a lady librarian, entitled _Books
that Children Like_. She quotes some interesting letters from
children: 'I like books about ancient history and books about knights,
also stories of adventure, and mostly books with a deep plot and
mystery about them.' 'I do not like _Gulliver's Travels_, because I
think they are silly.' 'I read _Little Men_. I did not like this
book.' 'I like _Ivanhoe_, by Scott, better than any.' 'My favourite
books are _Tom Sawyer_, _Uncle Tom's Cabin_, and _Scudder's American
History_. I like Tom Sawyer because he was so jolly, Uncle Tom because
he was so faithful, and Nathan Hale because he was so brave.' These
are unbought verdicts no wise man will despise.

All this is popular enough. But the unpopular library must not be
overlooked, for, after all, libraries are for the learned. We must not
let the babes and sucklings, or the weary seamstress or badgered
clerk, or even the working-man, ride rough-shod over Salmasius and
Scaliger. In the papers of Mr. Garnett, Mr. Pollard, Mr. Dziatzko, Mr.
Cutter, and others, the less popular and nobler side of the library is
duly exhibited.

My anxiety about these librarians, who are beginning to be a
profession by themselves, is how they are to be paid. That librarians
must live is at least as obvious in their case as in that of any other
class. They must also, if they are to be of any use, be educated. In
1878 the late Mr. Robert Harrison, who for many years led a grimy life
in the London Library, advocated L250 as a minimum annual salary for a
competent librarian. But, as Mr. Ogle, of Bootle, pertinently asked at
the Conference, 'Are his views yet accepted?' We fear not. Mr. Ogle
courageously proceeds:

   'The fear of a charge of trades unionism has long kept librarians
   silent, but this matter is one of public importance, and affects
   educational progress. A School-Board rate of 6d. or 1s. is
   willingly paid to teach our youth to read. Shall an additional 2d.
   be grudged to turn that reading talent into right and safe
   channels, where it may work for the public welfare and economy?'

_Festina lente_, good Mr. Ogle, I beseech you. That way fierce
controversy and, it may be, disaster lies. Do not stir the Philistine
within us. The British nation is still savage under the skin. It has
no real love for books, libraries, or librarians. In its hidden heart
it deems them all superfluous. Anger it, and it may in a fit of temper
sweep you all away. The loss of our free librarians would indeed be
grievous. Never again could they meet in conference and read papers
full of quaint things and odd memories. What, for example, can be more
amusing than Mr. Cowell's reminiscences of forty years' library work
in Liverpool, of the primitive days when a youthful Dicky Sam (for so
do the inhabitants of that city call themselves) mistook the _Flora of
Liverpool_ for a book either about a ship or a heroine? He knows
better now. And what shall we say of the Liverpool brushmaker who, at
a meeting of the library committee, recited a poem in praise of woman,
containing the following really magnificent line?--

       'The heart that beats fondest is found in the stays.'

There is nothing in Roscoe or Mrs. Hemans (local bards) one half so
fine. Long may librarians live and flourish! May their salaries
increase, if not by leaps and bounds, yet in steady proportions. Yet
will they do well to remember that books are not everything.


That dreary morass, that Serbonian bog, the Bacon-Shakespeare
controversy, has been lately lit up as by the flickering light of a
will-o'-the-wisp, by the almost simultaneous publication of an
imaginary charge delivered to an equally imaginary jury by a judge of
no less eminence than the late Lord Penzance (that tough Erastian) and
of the still bolder _jeu d'esprit_, _A Report of the Trial of an Issue
in Westminster Hall_, June 20, 1627, which is the work of the
unbridled fancy of His Honour Judge Willis, late Treasurer of the
Inner Temple, and a man most intimately acquainted with the literature
of the seventeenth century.

Neither production of these playful lawyers, clothed though they be in
the garb of judicial procedure, is in the least likely to impress the
lay mind with that sense of 'impartiality' or 'indifference' which is
supposed to be an attribute of justice, or, indeed, with anything
save the unfitness of the machinery of an action at law for the
determination of any matter which invokes the canons of criticism and
demands the arbitrament of a well-informed and lively taste.

Lord Penzance, who favours the Baconians, made no pretence of
impartiality, and says outright in his preface that his readers 'must
not expect to find in these pages an equal and impartial leaning of
the judge alternately to the case of both parties, as would, I hope,
be found in any judicial summing-up of the evidence in a real judicial
inquiry.' And, he adds, 'the form of a summing-up is only adopted for
convenience, but it is in truth very little short of an argument for
the plaintiffs, _i.e._, the Baconians.'

Why any man, judge or no judge, who wished to prepare an argument on
one side of a question should think fit to cast that argument for
convenience' sake in the form of a judicial summing-up of both sides
is, and must remain, a puzzle.

Judge Willis, who is a Shakespearean, bold and unabashed, is not
content with a mere summing-up, but, with a gravity and wealth of
detail worthy of De Foe, has presented us with what purports to be a
verbatim report of so much of the proceedings in a suit of Hall _v._
Russell as were concerned with the trial before a jury of the simple
issue--whether William Shakespeare, of Stratford-upon-Avon, 'the
testator in the cause of _Hall v. Russell_,' was the author of the
plays in the Folio of 1623. We are favoured with the names of counsel
employed, who snarl at one another with such startling verisimilitude,
whilst the remarks that fall from the bench do so with such
naturalness, that it is perhaps not surprising, or any very severe
reflection upon his literary _esprit_, that a member of the Bar,
having heard Judge Willis deliver his lecture in the Inner Temple
Hall, repaired next day to the library to study at his leisure the
hitherto unnoted case of _Hall v. Russell_. Ten witnesses are put in
the box to prove the affirmative--that Shakespeare was the author of
the plays. Mr. Blount and M. Jaggard, the publishers of the Folio,
give a most satisfactory account of the somewhat crucial point--how
they came by the manuscripts, with all the amendments and corrections,
and pass lightly over the fact that those manuscripts had disappeared.
'Rare Ben Jonson' in the witness-box is a masterpiece of dramatic
invention; he demolishes Bacon's advocate with magnificent vitality.
John Selden makes a stately witness, and Francis Meres a very useful
one. Generally speaking, the weakest part in these interesting
proceedings is the cross-examination. I have heard the learned judge
do better in old days. No witnesses are called for the Baconians,
though all the writings of the great philosopher were put in for what
they were worth. The Lord Chief Justice, who seems to have been a
friend of Shakespeare's, sums up dead in his favour, and the jury
(with whose names we are not supplied, which is a pity--Bunyan or De
Foe would have given them to us), after a short absence, a quarter of
an hour, return a Shakespearean verdict, which of course ought by
rights to make the whole question _res judicata_.

But it has done nothing of the kind. Could we really ask Blount and
Jaggard how they came by the manuscripts, and who made the
corrections, and did we believe their replies, why, then a stray
Baconian here and there might reluctantly abandon his strange fancy;
but as _Hall v. Russell_ is Judge Willis's joke, it will convert no
Baconians any more than Dean Sherlock's once celebrated _Trial of the
Witnesses_ compels belief in the Resurrection.

The question in reality is a compound one. Did Shakespeare write the
plays? If yes, the matter is at rest. If no--who did? If an author can
be found--Bacon or anyone else--well and good. If no author can be
found--Anon. wrote them--a conclusion which need terrify no one, since
the plays would still remain within our reach, and William
Shakespeare, apart from the plays, is very little to anybody who has
not written his life.

But this is not the form the controversy has assumed. The
anti-Shakespeareans are to a man Baconians, and fondly imagine that if
only Will Shakespeare were put out of the way their man must step into
the vacant throne. Lord Penzance in charging his jury told them that
those of their number 'who had studied the writings of Bacon' and were
'keenly alive to his marvellous mental powers' would probably have 'no
difficulty,' if once satisfied that the author they were seeking after
was _not_ Shakespeare, in finding as a fact that he _was_ Bacon. But
suppose James Spedding had been on that jury, and, rising in his
place, had spoken as follows:

   'My Lord,--If any man has ever studied the writings of Bacon, I
   have. For twenty-five years I have done little else. If any man is
   keenly alive to his marvellous mental powers, I am that man. I am
   also deeply read in the plays attributed to Shakespeare, and I
   think I am in a condition to say that, whoever was the real author,
   it was _not_ Bacon.'

That this is exactly what Spedding would have said we know from the
letter he wrote on the subject to Mr. Holmes, reprinted in _Essays
and Discussions_, and it completely upsets the whole scheme of
arrangement of Lord Penzance's summing-up, which proceeds on the easy
footing that the more difficulties you throw in Shakespeare's path the
smoother becomes Bacon's.

That there are difficulties in Shakespeare's path, some things very
hard to explain, must be admitted. Lord Penzance makes the most of
these. It is, indeed, a most extraordinary thing that anybody should
have had the mother-wit to write the plays traditionally assigned to
Shakespeare. Where did he get it from? How on earth did the plays get
themselves written? Where, when, and how did the author pick up his
multifarious learnings? Lord Penzance, good, honest man, is simply
staggered by the extent of the play-wright's information. The plays,
so he says, 'teem with erudition,' and can only have been written by
someone who had the classics at his finger-ends, modern languages on
the tip of his tongue--by someone who had travelled far and read
deeply; and, above all, by a man who had spent at least a year in a
conveyancer's chambers! And yet, when this has been said, would Lord
Penzance have added that the style and character of the playwright is
the style and character of a really learned man of his period! Can
anything less like such a style be imagined? Once genius is granted,
heaven-born genius, a mother-wit beyond the dreams of fancy, and then
plain humdrum men, ordinary judicial intelligences, will do well to be
on their guard against it. 'Beware--beware! he is fooling thee.'
Shakespeare's genius has simply befooled Lord Penzance. Seafaring men,
after reading _The Tempest_, are ready to maintain that its author
must have been for at least a year before the mast. As for
Shakespeare's law, which has taken in so many matter-of-fact
practitioners, one can now refer to Ben Jonson's evidence in _Hall v.
Russell_, where that great dramatist has no difficulty in showing that
if none but a lawyer could have written Shakespeare's plays, a lawyer
alone could have preached Thomas Adams's sermons. Judge Willis's
profound knowledge of sound old divinity has served him here in good
stead. The fact is it is simply impossible to exaggerate the
quick-wittedness and light-heartedness of a great literary genius. The
absorbing power, the lightning-like faculty of apprehension, the
instant recognition of the uses to which any fact or fancy can be put,
the infinite number and delicacy of the mental feelers, thrust out in
all directions, which belong to the creative brain and keep it in
tremulous and restless activity, are quite enough so to differentiate
the possessor of these endowments from his fellow mortals as to make
comparison impossible. Shakespeare the actor was by the common consent
of his enemies one of the deftest fellows that ever made use of other
men's materials--'Convey, the wise it call.' I will again quote

   'If Shakespeare was not trained as a scholar or a man of science,
   neither do the works attributed to him show traces of trained
   scholarship or scientific education. Given the _faculties_, you
   will find that all the acquired knowledge, art, and dexterity which
   the Shakespearean plays imply were easily attainable by a man who
   was labouring in his vocation and had nothing else to do.'

I greatly prefer this cool judgment of a scholar deeply read in
Elizabethan lore to Lord Penzance's heated and almost breathless
admiration for the 'teeming erudition' of the plays.

Lord Penzance likewise displays a very creditable non-acquaintance
with the disposition of authors one to another. He is quite shocked at
the callousness of Shakespeare's contemporaries to Shakespeare if he
were indeed the author of the Quartos which bore his name in his
lifetime. But as it cannot be suggested that in, say, 1600 it was
generally known that Shakespeare was not the author of these plays, it
is hard to see how his contemporaries can be acquitted of indifference
to his prodigious superiority over themselves. Authors, however, never
take this view. Shakespeare's contemporaries thought him a mighty
clever fellow and no more. Why, even Wordsworth was well persuaded he
could write like Shakespeare had he been so minded. Mr. Arnold
remained all his life honestly indifferent to and sceptical about the
fame of both Tennyson and Browning. Great living lawyers and doctors
do not invariably idolize each other, nor do the lawyers and doctors
in a small way of business always speak well of those in a big way.
The poets and learned critics of the seventeenth and eighteenth
centuries--Dryden, Pope, Johnson--looked upon Shakespeare with an
indulgent eye, as a great but irregular genius, after much the same
fashion as did the old sea-dogs of Nelson's day regard the hero of
Trafalgar. 'Do not criticise him too harshly,' said Lord St. Vincent;
'there can only be one Nelson.'

These are not the real difficulties, though they seem to have pressed
somewhat heavily on Lord Penzance.

The circumstances attendant upon the publication of the Folio of 1623
are undoubtedly puzzling. Shakespeare died in 1616, leaving behind
him more than forty plays circulating in London and more or less
associated with his name. His will, a most elaborate document, does
not contain a single reference to his literary life or labours. Seven
years after his death the Folio appears, which contains twenty-six
plays out of the odd forty just referred to, and ten extra plays which
had never before been in print, and about six of which there is a very
scanty Shakespearean tradition. Of the twenty-six old plays, seventeen
had been printed in small Quartos, possibly surreptitiously, in
Shakespeare's lifetime, but the Folio does not reprint from these
Quartos, but from enlarged, amended, and enormously improved copies.
Messrs. Heminge and Condell, the editor of this priceless treasure,
the First Folio, wrote a long-winded dedication to Lords Pembroke and
Montgomery, which contains but one pertinent passage, in which they
ask their readers to believe that it had been the office of the
editors to collect and publish the author's 'mere writings,' he being
dead, and to offer them, not 'maimed and deformed,' in surreptitious
and stolen copies, but 'cured and perfect of their limbs and all the
rest, absolute in their numbers as he conceived them, who as he was a
happie imitator of Nature was a most gentle expresser of it. His mind
and hand went together, and what he thought, he uttered with that
easiness, that we have scarce received from him a blot in his papers.'

From whose custody did those 'papers' come? Where had they been all
the seven years? Of what did they consist? If in truth unblotted, all
the seventeen Quartos as well as the new plays must have been printed
from fair manuscript copies. From whom were these unblotted copies
received, and what became of them? The silence of these players is
irritating and perplexing,--though, possibly, the explanation of the
mystery, were it forthcoming, would be, as often happens, of the
simplest. It may be that these unblotted copies were in the theatre
library all the time.

Whether these interrogatories, now unanswerable, raise doubts in the
mind of sufficient potency to destroy the tradition of centuries, and
to prevent us from sharing the conviction of Milton, of Dryden, of
Pope, and Johnson that Shakespeare was the author of Shakespeare's
plays must be left for individual consideration. But, however
destructive these doubts may prove, they do not go a yard of the way
to let in Bacon.

Once more I will quote Spedding, for he, of all the moderns, by virtue
of his taste and devouring studies, is the best qualified to speak:

   'Aristotle was an extraordinary man. Plato was an extraordinary
   man. That two men each severally so extraordinary should have been
   living at the same time in the same place was a very extraordinary
   thing. But would it diminish the wonder to suppose the two to be
   one? So I say of Bacon and Shakespeare. That a human being
   possessed of the faculties necessary to make a Shakespeare should
   exist is extraordinary. That a human being possessed of the
   necessary faculties to make Bacon should exist is extraordinary.
   That two such human beings should have been living in London at the
   same time was more extraordinary still. But that one man should
   have existed possessing the faculties and opportunities necessary
   to make _both_ would have been the most extraordinary thing of
   all' (see Spedding's _Essays and Discussions_, 1879, pp. 371, 372).

   'Great writers, especially being contemporary, have many features
   in common, but if they are really great writers they write
   naturally, and nature is always individual. I doubt whether there
   are five lines together to be found in Bacon which could be
   mistaken for Shakespeare, or five lines in Shakespeare which could
   be mistaken for Bacon, by one who was familiar with their several
   styles and practised in such observations' (_Ibid._, p. 373).


To anyone blessed or cursed with an ironical humour the troublesome
history of the Church of England since the Reformation cannot fail to
be an endless source of delight. It really is exciting. Just a little
more of Calvin and of Beza, half a dozen words here, or Cranmer's
pencil through a single phrase elsewhere; a 'quantum suff.' of the men
'that allowed no Eucharistic sacrifice,' and away must have gone
beyond recall the possibility of the Laudian revival and all that
still appertains thereunto. We must have lost the 'primitive' men, the
Kens, the Wilsons, the Knoxes, the Kebles, the Puseys. On the other
hand, but for the unfaltering language of the Articles, the hearty
tone of the Homilies, and the agreeable readiness of both sides to
curse the Italian impudence of the Bishop of Rome and all his
'detestable enormities,' our Anglican Church history could never have
been enriched with the names or sweetened by the memories of the
Romaines, the Flavels, the Venns, the Simeons, and of many thousand
unnamed saints who finished their course in the fervent faith of
Evangelicalism. But on what a thread it has always hung! An
ill-considered Act of Parliament, an amendment hastily accepted by a
pestered layman at midnight, a decision in a court of law, a Jerusalem
Bishoprick, a passage in an early Father, an ancient heresy restudied,
and off to Rome goes a Newman or a Manning, whilst a Baptist Noel
finds his less romantic refuge in Protestant Dissent. Schism is for
ever in the air. Disruption a lively possibility. It has always been a
ticklish business belonging to the Church of England, unless you can
muster up enough courage to be a frank Erastian, and on the rare
occasions when you attend your parish church handle the Book of Common
Prayer with all the reverence due to a schedule to an Act of

Among the many noticeable humours of the present situation is the tone
adopted by an average Churchman like Canon Overton to the Non-Jurors.
When the late Mr. Lathbury published his admirable _History of the
Non-Jurors_,[A] he had to prepare himself for a very different public
of Churchmen and Churchwomen than will turn over Canon Overton's
agreeable pages.[B] In 1845 the average Churchman, after he had
conquered the serious initial difficulty of comprehending the
Non-Juror's position, was only too apt to consider him a fool for his
pains. 'It has been the custom,' wrote Mr. Lathbury, 'to speak of the
Non-Jurors as a set of unreasonable men, and should I succeed in any
measure in correcting those erroneous impressions, I shall feel that
my labour has not been in vain.' But in 1902, as Canon Overton is
ready enough to perceive, 'their position is a little better
understood.' The well-nigh 'fools' are all but 'confessors.'

 [Footnote A: _A History of the Non-Jurors_. By Thomas Lathbury.
 London: Pickering, 1845.]

 [Footnote B: _The Non-Jurors_. By J.H. Overton, D.D. London: Smith,
 Elder and Co., 1902, 16s.]

The early history of the Non-Jurors is as fascinating and as fruitful
as their later history is dull, melancholy, and disappointing.

Nobody will deny that the Bishops, clergy, and laity of the Church of
England who refused to take the oaths to William and Mary and George
I., when tendered to them, were amply justified in the Court of
Conscience. They were ridiculed by the politicians of the day for
their supersensitiveness; but what were they to do? If they took the
oaths, they apostalized from the faith they had once professed.

Before the Revolution it was the faith of all High Churchmen--part of
the _deposition_ they had to guard--that the doctrine of
non-resistance and passive obedience was Gospel truth, primitive
doctrine, and a chief 'characteristic' of the Anglican Church.

The saintly John Kettlewell, in his tractate, _Christianity: a
Doctrine of the Cross, or Passive Obedience under any Pretended
Invasion of Legal Rights and Liberties_ (1696), makes this perfectly
plain; and when Ken came to compose his famous will, wherein he
declared that he died in the Communion of the Church of England, 'as
it adheres to the doctrine of the Cross,' the good Bishop did not mean
what many a pious soul in later days has been edified by thinking he
did mean, the doctrine of the Atonement, but that of passive
obedience, which was the Non-Juror's cross.

It is sad to think a doctrine dear to so many saintly men, maintained
with an erudition so vast and exemplified by sacrifices so great,
should have disappeared in the vortex of present-day conflict. It may
some day reappear in Convocation. Kettlewell, who was a precise writer
and accurate thinker, defined sovereignty as supremacy. 'Kings,' he
said, 'can be no longer sovereigns, but subjects, if they have any
superiors'; and he points out with much acumen that the best security
under a sovereign 'which sovereignty allows' is that the Kings and
Ministers are accountable and liable for breach of law as well as
others. Kettlewell, had he lived long enough, might have come to
transfer his idea of sovereignty to Kings, Lords, and Commons speaking
through an Act of Parliament, and if so, he would have urged _active
obedience_ to its enactments, when not contrary to conscience, and
_passive obedience_ if they were so contrary. Therefore, were he alive
to-day, and did he think it contrary to conscience (as he easily
might) to pay a school-rate for an 'undenominational' school, he would
not draw a cheque for the amount, but neither would he punch the
bailiff's head who came to seize his furniture. Kettlewell's treatise
is well worth reading. Its last paragraph is most spirited.

There could be no doubt about it. The High Church party were bound
hand and foot to the doctrine of the Cross--_i.e._, passive obedience
to the Lord's Anointed. Whoever else might actively resist or forsake
the King, they could not without apostasy. But the Revolution of 1688
was not content to pierce the High Churchmen through one hand. Not
only did the Revolution require the Church to forswear its King, but
also to see its spiritual fathers deprived and intruders set in their
places without even the semblance of any spiritual authority. If it
was hard to have James II. a fugitive in foreign lands and Dutch
William in Whitehall, it was perhaps even harder to see Sancroft
expelled from Lambeth, and the Erastian and latitudinarian Tillotson,
who was prepared to sacrifice even episcopacy for peace, usurping the
title of Archbishop of Canterbury. After all, no man, not even a
Churchman, can serve two masters. The loyalty of a High Churchman to
the throne is always subject to his loyalty to the Church, and at the
Revolution he was wounded in both houses.

When Queen Elizabeth ascended the throne, and established what was
then unblushingly called 'the new religion,' the whole Anglican
Hierarchy, with the paltry exception of the Bishop of Llandaff,
refused the oaths of supremacy, and were superseded. In a little
more than 100 years the Protestant Bench was bombarded with a
heart-searching oath--this time of allegiance. Opinion was divided;
the point was not so clear as in 1559. The Archbishop of York and his
brethren of London, Lincoln, Bristol, Winchester, Rochester, Llandaff
and St. Asaph, Carlisle and St. David's, swore to bear true allegiance
to Their Majesties King William and Queen Mary. The Archbishop of
Canterbury and the Bishops of Bath and Wells, Ely, Gloucester,
Norwich, Peterborough, Worcester, Chichester, and Chester refused to
swear anything of the kind, and were consequently, in pursuance of the
terms of an Act of Parliament, and of an Act of Parliament only,
deprived of their ecclesiastical preferments. They thus became the
first Non-Jurors, and were long, except two who died before actual
sentence of exclusion, affectionately known and piously venerated in
all High Church homes as 'the Deprived Fathers.'

Who can doubt that they were right, holding the faith they did? Yet
Englishmen do not take kindly to martyrdom, and some of the Bishops
were strangely puzzled. The excellent Ken, who, like Keble, was an
Englishman first and a Catholic afterwards (in other words, no true
Catholic at all), when told that James was ready to give Ireland to
France, as nearly as possible conformed, so angry was he with the
Lord's Anointed; and even the fiery Leslie, one of our most agreeable
writers, was always ready to forgive those pious, peaceful souls who
thought it no sin, though great sorrow, to comply with the demands of
Caesar, but still managed to retain their old Church and King
principles. Leslie reserved his wrath for the Tillotsons and the
Tenisons and the Burnets, who first, to use his own words, swallowed
'the morsels of usurpation' and then dressed them up 'with all the
gaudy and ridiculous flourishes that an Apostate eloquence can put
upon them.'

The early Non-Jurors included among their number a very large
proportion of holy, learned, and primitive-minded men. At least 400 of
the general body of the clergy refused the oaths and accepted for
themselves and those dependent on them lives of poverty and seclusion.
They were from the beginning an unpopular body. They were not
Puritans, they were not Deists, they were not Presbyterians, they
would not go to their parish churches; and yet they vehemently
objected to being called Papists. What troublesome people! Five of the
deprived fathers, including the Primate, had known what it was, when
they defied their Sovereign, to be the idols of the mob; but when
they adhered to his fallen cause they were deprived of their sees, and
sent packing from their palaces without a single growl of popular
discontent. Oblivion was their portion, even as it was of their Roman
Catholic predecessors at the time of the Reformation.

The Archbishop of Canterbury, when turned out of Lambeth by a judgment
of the Court of King's Bench to make way for Tillotson, retired to his
native village in Fressingfield, where he did not attend the parish
church, nor would allow any but non-juring clergy to perform Divine
service in his presence. Dr. Sancroft (who was a book-lover, and had
designed a binding of his own) died on November 24, 1693, and the
epitaph, of his own composition, on his tombstone may still be read
with profit by time-servers of all degrees and denominations, cleric
and lay, in Parliament and out of it. All the deprived Bishops, so Mr.
Lathbury assures us, were in very narrow circumstances, and of Turner,
of Ely, Mr. Lathbury very properly writes: 'This man who, by adhering
to the new Sovereign, and taking the oath, might have ended his day
amidst an abundance of earthly blessings, was actually sustained in
his declining years by the bounty of those who sympathized with him in
his distresses.' Bishop Turner died in 1700.

Despite this distressing and most genuine poverty, the reader of old
books will not infrequently come across traces of many happy and
well-spent hours during which these poor Non-Jurors managed 'to fleet
the time' in their own society, for they were, many of them, men of
the most varied tastes and endowed with Christian tempers; whilst
their writings exhibit, as no other writings of the period do, the
saintliness and devotion which are supposed to be among the 'notes'
of the Catholic Church. Two better men than Kettlewell and Dodwell
are nowhere to be found, and as for vigorous writing, where is Charles
Leslie to be matched?

So long as the deprived fathers continued to live, the schism--for
complete schism it was between 'the faithful remnant of the Church of
England' and the Established Church--was on firm ground. But what was
to happen when the last Bishop died? Dodwell, who, next to Hickes,
seems to have dominated the Non-Juring mind, did not wish the schism
to continue after the death of the deprived Bishops; for though he
admitted that the prayers for the Revolution Sovereigns would be
'unlawful prayers,' to which assent could not properly be given, he
still thought that communion with the Church of England was possible.
Hickes thought otherwise, and Hickes, it must not be forgotten, though
only known to the world and even to Non-Jurors generally, as the
deprived Dean of Worcester, was in sober truth and reality Bishop of
Thetford, having been consecrated a Suffragan Bishop under that title
by the deprived Bishops of Norwich, Peterborough, and Ely, at
Southgate, in Middlesex, on February 24, 1693, in the Bishop of
Peterborough's lodgings. At the same time the accomplished Thomas
Wagstaffe was consecrated Suffragan Bishop of Ipswich, though he
continued to earn his living as a physician all the rest of his days.

These were clandestine consecrations, for even so well-tried and
whole-hearted a Non-Juror as Thomas Hearne, of Oxford, knew nothing
about them, though a great friend of both the new Bishops, until long
years had sped. It would be idle at this distance of time, and having
regard to the events which have happened since February, 1693, to
consider the nice questions how far the Act of Henry VIII. relating to
the appointment of suffragans could have any applicability to such
consecrations, or what degree of Episcopal authority was thereby
conferred, or for how long.

As things turned out, Ken proved the longest liver of the deprived
fathers. The good Bishop died at Longleat, one of the few great houses
which sheltered Non-Jurors, on March 19, 1711. But before his death he
had made cession of his rights to his friend Hooper, who on the
violent death of Kidder, the intruding revolution Bishop, had been
appointed by Queen Anne, who had wished to reinstate Ken, to Bath and
Wells. It was the wish of Ken that the schism should come to an end on
his death.

It did nothing of the kind, though some very leading Non-Jurors,
including the learned Dodwell and Nelson, rejoined the main body of
the Church, saving all just exceptions to the 'unlawful prayers.'

Bishop Wagstaffe died in 1712, leaving Bishop Hickes alone in his
glory, who in 1713, assisted by two Scottish Bishops, consecrated
Jeremy Collier, Samuel Hawes, and Nathaniel Spinckes, Bishops of 'the
faithful remnant.' Hickes died in 1715, and the following year the
great and hugely learned Thomas Brett became a Bishop, as also did
Henry Gawdy.

Then, alas! arose a schism which rent the faithful remnant in twain.
It was about a great subject, the Communion Service. Collier and Brett
were in favour of altering the Book of Common Prayer so as to restore
it to the First Book of King Edward VI., which provided for (1) The
mixed chalice; (2) prayers for the faithful departed; (3) prayer for
the descent of the Holy Ghost on the consecrated elements; (4) the
Oblatory Prayer, offering the elements to the Father as symbols of His
Son's body and blood. This side of the controversy became known as
'The Usagers,' whilst those Non-Jurors, headed by Bishop Spinckes, who
held by King Charles's Prayer-Book, were called 'the Non-Usagers.' The
discussion lasted long, and was distinguished by immense learning and

The Usagers may be said to have carried the day, for after the
controversy had lasted fourteen years, in 1731 Timothy Mawman was
consecrated a Bishop by three Bishops, two of whom were 'Usagers' and
one a 'Non-Usager.' But in the meantime what had become of the
congregations committed to their charge? Never large, they had
dwindled almost entirely away.

The last regular Bishop was Robert Gordon, who was consecrated in 1741
by Brett, Smith, and Mawman. Gordon, who was an out-and-out Jacobite,
died in 1779.

I have not even mentioned the name of perhaps the greatest of the
Non-Jurors, William Law, nor that of Carte, an historian, the fruits
of whose labour may still be seen in other men's orchards.

The whole story, were it properly told, would prove how hard it is in
a country like England, where nobody really cares about such things,
to run a schism. But who knows what may happen to-morrow?


'Buy good books and read them; the best books are the commonest, and
the last editions are always the best, if the editors are not
blockheads.' So wrote Lord Chesterfield to his son, that
highly-favoured and much bewritten youth, on March 19, 1750, and his
words have been chosen with great cunning by Mr. Charles Strachey as a
motto for his new edition of these famous letters.[A]

 [Footnote A: Published by Methuen and Co. in 2 vols.]

The quotation is full of the practical wisdom, but is at the same
time--so much, at least, an old book-collector may be allowed to
say--a little suggestive of the too-well-defined limitations of their
writer's genius and character. Lord Chesterfield is always clear and
frequently convincing, yet his wisdom is that of Mr. Worldly Wiseman,
and not only never points in the direction of the Celestial City, but
seldom displays sympathy with any generous emotion or liberal taste.
Yet as we have nobody like him in the whole body of our literature, we
can welcome even another edition--portable, complete, and cheap--of
his letters to his son with as much enthusiasm as is compatible with
the graces, and with the maxim, so dear to his lordship's heart, _Nil

What, I have often wondered, induced Lord Chesterfield to write this
enormously long and troublesome series of letters to a son who was not
even his heir? Their sincerity cannot be called in question. William
Wilberforce did not more fervently desire the conversion to God of his
infant Samuel than apparently did Lord Chesterfield the transformation
of his lumpish offspring into 'the all-accomplished man' he wished to
have him.

'All this,' so the father writes in tones of fervent pleading--'all
this you may compass if you please. You have the means, you have the
opportunities; employ them, for God's sake, while you may, and make
yourself the all-accomplished man I wish to have you. It entirely
depends upon the next two years; they are the decisive ones' (Letter

It is the very language of an evangelical piety applied to the
manufacture of a worldling. But what promoted the anxiety? Was it
natural affection--a father's love? If it was, never before or since
has that world-wide and homely emotion been so concealed. There is a
detestable, a forbidding, an all-pervading harshness of tone
throughout this correspondence that seems to banish affection, to
murder love. Read Letter CLXXVIII., and judge for yourselves. I will
quote a passage:

   'The more I love you now from the good opinion I have of you, the
   greater will be my indignation if I should have reason to change
   it. Hitherto you have had every possible proof of my affection,
   because you have deserved it, but when you cease to deserve it you
   may expect every possible mark of my resentment. To leave nothing
   doubtful upon this important point, I will tell you fairly
   beforehand by what rule I shall judge of your conduct: by Mr.
   Harte's account.... If he complains you must be guilty, and I shall
   not have the least regard for anything you may allege in your own

Ugh! what a father! Lord Chesterfield despised the Gospels, and made
little of St. Paul; yet the New Testament could have taught him
something concerning the nature of a father's love. His language is
repulsive, repugnant, and yet how few fathers have taken the trouble
to write 400 educational letters of great length to their sons! All
one can say is that Chesterfield's letters are without natural

          'If this be error and upon me proved,
           I never writ, and no man ever loved.'

If affection did not dictate these letters, what did? Could it be
ambition? So astute a man as Chesterfield, who was kept well informed
as to the impression made by his son, could hardly suppose it likely
that the boy would make a name for himself, and thereby confer
distinction upon the family of which he was an irregular offshoot. A
respectable diplomatic career, with an interval in the House of
Commons, was the most that so clear-sighted a man could anticipate for
the young Stanhope. Was it literary fame for himself? This, of course,
assumes that subsequent publication was contemplated by the writer.
The dodges and devices of authors are well-nigh infinite and quite
beyond conjecture, and it is, of course, possible that Lord
Chesterfield kept copies of these letters, which bear upon their
faces evidence of care and elaboration. It is not to be supposed for a
moment that he ever forgot he had written them. It is hard to believe
he never inquired after them and their whereabouts. Great men have
been known to write letters which, though they bore other addresses,
were really intended for their biographers. It would not have been
surprising if Lord Chesterfield wrote these letters intending some day
to publish them, but not only is there no warrant for such an opinion,
but the opposite is clearly established. It is, no doubt, odd that the
son should have carefully preserved more than 400 letters written to
him during a period beginning with his tenderest years and continuing
whilst he was travelling on the Continent. It seems almost a miracle.
What made the son treasure them so carefully? Did he look forward to
being his father's biographer? Hardly so at the age of ten, or even
twenty. Biographies were not then what they have since become. No
doubt in the middle of the eighteenth century letters were more
treasured than they are to-day, and young Stanhope's friends may also
have thought it wise to encourage him to preserve documentary evidence
of the great interest taken in him by his father. None the less, I
think the preservation of this correspondence is in the circumstances
a most extraordinary though well-established fact.

The son died in 1768 of a dropsy at Avignon, and the news was
communicated to the Earl by his daughter-in-law, Mrs. Eugenia
Stanhope, of whose existence he was previously unaware. Two grandsons
accompanied her. It was a shock; but 'les manieres nobles et aisees,
la tournure d'un homme de condition, le ton de la bonne compagnie,
les graces le je ne scais quoi qui plait,' came to Lord Chesterfield's
assistance, and he received his son's widow, who was not a pleasing
person, and her two boys with kindness and good feeling, and provided
for them quite handsomely by his will. The Earl died in 1773, in his
seventy-ninth year, and thereupon Mrs. Stanhope, who was in possession
of all the original letters addressed to her late husband, carried
her wares to market, and made a bargain with Mr. Dodsley for their
publication, she to receive L1,575. Mr. Dodsley advertised the
forthcoming work, and on that the Earl's executors, relying upon the
well-known case of Pope _v._ Curl, decided by Lord Hardwicke in 1741,
filed their bill against Mrs. Stanhope, seeking an injunction to
restrain publication. The widow put in her sworn Answer, in which she
averred that she had, on more occasions than one, mentioned
publication to the Earl, and that he, though recovering from her
certain written characters of eminent contemporaries, had seemed quite
content to let her do what she liked with the letters, only remarking
that there was too much Latin in them. The executors seem to have
moved for what is called an interim injunction--that is, an injunction
until trial of the cause, and, from the report in _Ambler_, it appears
that Lord Apsley (a feeble creature) granted such an injunction, but
recommended the executors to permit the publication if, on seeing a
copy of the correspondence, they saw no objection to it. In the result
the executors gave their consent, and the publication became an
authorized one, so much so that Dodsley was able to obtain an
interdict in the Scotch Court preventing a certain Scotch bookseller,
caller McFarquhar, from reprinting the letters in Edinburgh. Whether
the executors believed Mrs. Stanhope's story, or saw no reason to
object to the publication of the letters, I do not know, but it is
clear that the opposition was a half-hearted one.

It would be hasty to assume that Lord Chesterfield wrote these letters
with any intention of publication, and I am therefore left without
being able to suggest any strong reason for their existence. A
restless, itching pen, perhaps, accounts for them. Some men find a
pleasure in writing, even at great length; others, of whom Carlyle was
one, though they hate the labour, are yet compelled by some fierce
necessity to blacken paper.

At all events, we have Lord Chesterfield's letters, and, having them,
they will always have readers, for they are readable.

That the letters are full of wit and wisdom and sound advice is
certain. Mr. Strachey, in his preface, seems to be under the
impression that in the popular estimate Chesterfield is reckoned an
elegant trifler, a man of no serious account. What the popular or
vulgar estimate of Chesterfield may be it would be hard to determine,
nor is it of the least importance, for no one who knows about Lord
Chesterfield can possibly entertain any such opinion. How it came
about that so able and ambitious a man made so poor a thing out of
life, and failed so completely, is puzzling at first, though a little
study would, I think, make the reasons of Chesterfield's failure plain

To prove by extracts from the Letters how wise a man Chesterfield was
would be easy, but tiresome; to exhibit him in a repulsive character
would be equally easy, but spiteful. I prefer to leave him alone, and
to content myself with but one quotation, which has a touch of both
wisdom and repulsiveness:

   'Consult your reason betimes. I do not say it will always prove an
   unerring guide, for human reason is not infallible, but it will
   prove the least erring guide that you can follow. Books and
   conversation may assist it, but adopt neither blindly and
   implicitly; try both by that best rule God has given to direct
   us--reason. Of all the truths do not decline that of thinking. The
   host of mankind can hardly be said to think; their prejudices are
   almost all adoptive; and in general I believe it is better that it
   should be so, as such common prejudices contribute more to order
   and quiet than their own separate reasonings would do, uncultivated
   as they are. We have many of these useful prejudices in this
   country which I should be very sorry to see removed. The good
   Protestant conviction that the Pope is both Antichrist and the
   Whore of Babylon is a more effectual preservative against Popery
   than all the solid and unanswerable arguments of Chillingworth.'


The ten handsome volumes which the indefatigable and unresting zeal of
Dr. Birkbeck Hill, and the high spirit of the Clarendon Press, have
edited, arranged, printed, and published for the benefit of the world
and the propagation of the Gospel according to Dr. Johnson are
pleasant things to look upon. I hope the enterprise has proved
remunerative to those concerned, but I doubt it. The parsimony of the
public in the matter of books is pitiful. The ordinary purse-carrying
Englishman holds in his head a ready-reckoner or scale of charges by
which he tests his purchases--so much for a dinner, so much for a
bottle of champagne, so much for a trip to Paris, so much for a pair
of gloves, and so much for a book. These ten volumes would cost him L4
9s. 3d. 'Whew! What a price for a book, and where are they to be put,
and who is to dust them?' Idle questions! As for room, a bicycle takes
more room than 1,000 books; and as for dust, it is a delusion. You
should never dust books. There let it lie until the rare hour arrives
when you want to read a particular volume; then warily approach it
with a snow-white napkin, take it down from its shelf, and,
withdrawing to some back apartment, proceed to cleanse the tome. Dr.
Johnson adopted other methods. Every now and again he drew on huge
gloves, such as those once worn by hedgers and ditchers, and then,
clutching his folios and octavos, he banged and buffeted them together
until he was enveloped in a cloud of dust. This violent exercise over,
the good doctor restored the volumes, all battered and bruised, to
their places, where, of course, the dust resettled itself as speedily
as possible.

Dr. Johnson could make books better than anybody, but his notions of
dusting them were primitive and erroneous. But the room and the dust
are mere subterfuges. The truth is, there is a disinclination to pay
L4 9s. 3d. for the ten volumes containing the complete Johnsonian
legend. To quarrel with the public is idiotic and most un-Johnsonian.
'Depend upon it, sir,' said the Sage, 'every state of society is as
luxurious as it can be.' We all, a handful of misers excepted, spend
more money than we can afford upon luxuries, but what those luxuries
are to be is largely determined for us by the fashions of our time. If
we do not buy these ten volumes, it is not because we would not like
to have them, but because we want the money they cost for something we
want more. As for dictating to men how they are to spend their money,
it were both a folly and an impertinence.

These ten volumes ended Dr. Hill's labours as an editor of _Johnson's
Life and Personalia_, but did not leave him free. He had set his mind
on an edition of the _Lives of the Poets_. This, to the regret of all
who knew him either personally or as a Johnsonian, he did not live to
see through the press. But it is soon to appear, and will be a
storehouse of anecdote and a miracle of cross-references. A poet who
has been dead a century or two is amazing good company--at least, he
never fails to be so when Johnson tells us as much of his story as he
can remember without undue research, with that irony of his, that vast
composure, that humorous perception of the greatness and the
littleness of human life, that make the brief records of a Spratt, a
Walsh, and a Fenton so divinely entertaining. It is an immense
testimony to the healthiness of the Johnsonian atmosphere that Dr.
Hill, who breathed it almost exclusively for a quarter of a century
and upwards, showed no symptoms either of moral deterioration or
physical exhaustion. His appetite to the end was as keen as ever, nor
was his temper obviously the worse. The task never became a toil, not
even a tease. 'You have but two subjects,' said Johnson to Boswell:
'yourself and myself. I am sick of both.' Johnson hated to be talked
about, or to have it noticed what he ate or what he had on. For a
hundred years now last past he has been more talked about and noticed
than anybody else. But Dr. Hill never grew sick of Dr. Johnson.

The _Johnsonian Miscellanies_[A] open with the _Prayers and
Meditations_, first published by the Rev. Dr. Strahan in 1785. Strahan
was the Vicar of Islington, and into his hands at an early hour one
morning Dr. Johnson, then approaching his last days, put the papers,
'with instructions for committing them to the press and with a promise
to prepare a sketch of his own life to accompany them.' This promise
the doctor was not able to keep, and shortly after his death his
reverend friend published the papers just as they were put into his
hands. One wonders he had the heart to do it, but the clerical mind is
sometimes strangely insensitive to the privacy of thought. But, as in
the case of most indelicate acts, you cannot but be glad the thing was
done. The original manuscript is at Pembroke College, Oxford. In these
_Prayers and Meditations_ we see an awful figure. The _solitary_
Johnson, perturbed, tortured, oppressed, in distress of body and of
mind, full of alarms for the future both in this world and the next,
teased by importunate and perplexing thoughts, harassed by morbid
infirmities, vexed by idle yet constantly recurring scruples, with an
inherited melancholy and a threatened sanity, is a gloomy and even a
terrible picture, and forms a striking contrast to the social hero,
the triumphant dialectician of Boswell, Mrs. Thrale, and Madame
D'Arblay. Yet it is relieved by its inherent humanity, its fellowship
and feeling. Dr. Johnson's piety is delightfully full of human
nature--far too full to please the poet Cowper, who wrote of the
_Prayers and Meditations_ as follows:

   'If it be fair to judge of a book by an extract, I do not wonder
   that you were so little edified by Johnson's Journal. It is even
   more ridiculous than was poor Rutty's of flatulent memory. The
   portion of it given us in this day's paper contains not one
   sentiment worth one farthing, except the last, in which he resolves
   to bind himself with no more unbidden obligations. Poor man! one
   would think that to pray for his dead wife and to pinch himself
   with Church fasts had been almost the whole of his religion.'

 [Footnote A: Two volumes. Oxford Clarendon Press, 1897.]

It were hateful to pit one man's religion against another's, but it
is only fair to Dr. Johnson's religion to remember that, odd compound
as it was, it saw him through the long struggle of life, and enabled
him to meet the death he so honestly feared like a man and a
Christian. The _Prayers and Meditations_ may not be an edifying book
in Cowper's sense of the word; there is nothing triumphant about it;
it is full of infirmities and even absurdities; but, for all that, it
contains more piety than 10,000 religious biographies. Nor must the
evidence it contains of weakness be exaggerated. Beset with
infirmities, a lazy dog, as he often declared himself to be, he yet
managed to do a thing or two. Here, for example, is an entry:

                                           '29, EASTER EVE (1777).

   'I rose and again prayed with reference to my departed wife. I
   neither read nor went to church, yet can scarcely tell how I have
   been hindered. I treated with booksellers on a bargain, but the
   time was not long.'

Too long, perhaps, for Johnson's piety, but short enough to enable the
booksellers to make an uncommon good bargain for the _Lives of the
Poets_. 'As to the terms,' writes Mr. Dilly, 'it was left entirely to
the doctor to name his own; he mentioned 200 guineas; it was
immediately agreed to.' The business-like Malone makes the following
observation on the transaction: 'Had he asked 1,000, or even 1,500,
guineas the booksellers, who knew the value of his name, would
doubtless have readily given it.' Dr. Johnson, though the son of a
bookseller, was the least tradesman-like of authors. The bargain was
bad, but the book was good.

A year later we find this record:

                                           'MONDAY, _April_ 20 (1778).

   'After a good night, as I am forced to reckon, I rose seasonably
   and prayed, using the collect for yesterday. In reviewing my time
   from Easter, 1777, I find a very melancholy and shameful blank. So
   little has been done that days and months are without any trace. My
   health has, indeed, been very much interrupted. My nights have been
   commonly not only restless but painful and fatiguing.... I have
   written a little of the _Lives of the Poets_, I think, with all my
   usual vigour. I have made sermons, perhaps, as readily as formerly.
   My memory is less faithful in retaining names, and, I am afraid, in
   retaining occurrences. Of this vacillation and vagrancy of mind I
   impute a great part to a fortuitous and unsettled life, and
   therefore purpose to spend my life with more method.

   'This year the 28th of March passed away without memorial. Poor
   Tetty, whatever were our faults and failings, we loved each other.
   I did not forget thee yesterday. Couldst thou have lived! I am now,
   with the help of God, to begin a new life.'

Dr. Hill prints an interesting letter of Mr. Jowett's, in which occur
the following observations:

   'It is a curious question whether Boswell has unconsciously
   misrepresented Johnson in any respect. I think, judging from the
   materials, which are supplied chiefly by himself, that in one
   respect he has. He has represented him more as a sage and
   philosopher in his conduct as well as his conversation than he
   really was, and less as a rollicking "King of Society." The gravity
   of Johnson's own writings tends to confirm this, as I suspect,
   erroneous impression. His religion was fitful and intermittent; and
   when once the ice was broken he enjoyed Jack Wilkes, though he
   refused to shake hands with Hume. I was much struck with a remark
   of Sir John Hawkins (excuse me if I have mentioned this to you
   before): "He was the most humorous man I ever knew."'

Mr. Jowett's letter raises some nice points--the Wilkes and Hume
point, for example. Dr. Johnson hated both blasphemy and bawd, but he
hated blasphemy most. Mr. Jowett shared the doctor's antipathies, but
very likely hated bawd more than he did blasphemy. But, as I have
already said, the point is a nice one. To crack jokes with Wilkes at
the expense of Boswell and the Scotch seems to me a very different
thing from shaking hands with Hume. But, indeed, it is absurd to
overlook either Johnson's melancholy piety or his abounding humour and
love of fun and nonsense. His _Prayers and Meditations_ are full of
the one, Boswell and Mrs. Thrale and Madame D'Arblay are full of the
other. Boswell's _Johnson_ has superseded the 'authorized biography'
by Sir John Hawkins, and Dr. Hill did well to include in these
_Miscellanies_ Hawkins' inimitable description of the memorable
banquet given at the Devil Tavern, near Temple Bar, in the spring of
1751, to celebrate the publication of Mrs. Charlotte Lennox's first
novel. What delightful revelry! what innocent mirth! prolonged though
it was till long after dawn. Poor Mrs. Lennox died in distress in
1804, at the age of eighty-three. Could Johnson but have lived he
would have lent her his helping hand. He was no fair-weather friend,
but shares with Charles Lamb the honour of being able to unite narrow
means and splendid munificence.

I must end with an anecdote:

   'Henderson asked the doctor's opinion of _Dido_ and its author.
   "Sir," said Dr. Johnson, "I never did the man an injury. Yet he
   would read his tragedy to me."'


Boswell's position in English literature cannot be disputed, nor can
he ever be displaced from it. He has written our greatest biography.
That is all. Theorize about it as much as you like, account for it how
you may, the fact remains. 'Alone I did it.' There has been plenty of
theorizing. Lord Macaulay took the subject in hand and tossed it up
and down for half a dozen pages with a gusto that drove home to many
minds the conviction, the strange conviction, that our greatest
biography was written by one of the very smallest men that ever lived,
'a man of the meanest and feeblest intellect'--by a dunce, a parasite,
and a coxcomb; by one 'who, if he had not been a great fool, would
never have been a great writer.' So far Macaulay, _anno Domini_ 1831,
in the vigorous pages of the _Edinburgh Review_. A year later appears
in _Fraser's Magazine_ another theory by another hand, not then
famous, Mr. Thomas Carlyle. I own to an inordinate affection for Mr.
Carlyle as 'literary critic' As philosopher and sage, he has served
our turn. We have had the fortune, good or bad, to outlive him; and
our sad experience is that death makes a mighty difference to all but
the very greatest. The sight of the author of _Sartor Resartus_ in a
Chelsea omnibus, the sound of Dr. Newman's voice preaching to a small
congregation in Birmingham, kept alive in our minds the vision of
their greatness--it seemed then as if that greatness could know no
limit; but no sooner had they gone away, than somehow or another
one became conscious of some deficiency in their intellectual
positions--the tide of human thought rushed visibly by them, and it
became plain that to no other generation would either of these men be
what they had been to their own. But Mr. Carlyle as literary critic
has a tenacious grasp, and Boswell was a subject made for his hand.
'Your Scottish laird, says an English naturalist of those days, may be
defined as the hungriest and vainest of all bipeds yet known.' Carlyle
knew the type well enough. His general description of Boswell is

   'Boswell was a person whose mean or bad qualities lay open to the
   general eye, visible, palpable to the dullest. His good qualities,
   again, belonged not to the time he lived in; were far from common
   then; indeed, in such a degree were almost unexampled; not
   recognisable, therefore, by everyone; nay, apt even, so strange
   had they grown, to be confounded with the very vices they lay
   contiguous to and had sprung out of. That he was a wine-bibber and
   good liver, gluttonously fond of whatever would yield him a little
   solacement, were it only of a stomachic character, is undeniable
   enough. That he was vain, heedless, a babbler, had much of the
   sycophant, alternating with the braggadocio, curiously spiced, too,
   with an all-pervading dash of the coxcomb; that he gloried much
   when the tailor by a court suit had made a new man of him; that he
   appeared at the Shakespeare Jubilee with a riband imprinted
   "Corsica Boswell" round his hat, and, in short, if you will, lived
   no day of his life without saying and doing more than one
   pretentious ineptitude, all this unhappily is evident as the sun at
   noon. The very look of Boswell seems to have signified so much. In
   that cocked nose, cocked partly in triumph over his weaker
   fellow-creatures, partly to snuff up the smell of coming pleasure
   and scent it from afar, in those big cheeks, hanging like
   half-filled wine-skins, still able to contain more, in that
   coarsely-protruded shelf mouth, that fat dew-lapped chin; in all
   this who sees not sensuality, pretension, boisterous imbecility
   enough? The underpart of Boswell's face is of a low, almost brutish

This is character-painting with a vengeance. Portrait of a Scotch
laird by the son of a Scotch peasant. Carlyle's Boswell is to me the
very man. If so, Carlyle's paradox seems as great as Macaulay's, for
though Carlyle does not call Boswell a great fool in plain set terms,
he goes very near it. But he keeps open a door through which he
effects his escape. Carlyle sees in Bozzy 'the old reverent feeling of
discipleship, in a word, hero-worship.'

   'How the babbling Bozzy, inspired only by love and the recognition
   and vision which love can lend, epitomizes nightly the words of
   Wisdom, the deeds and aspects of Wisdom, and so, little by little,
   unconsciously works together for us a whole "Johnsoniad"--a more
   free, perfect, sunlit and spirit-speaking likeness than for many
   centuries has been drawn by man of man.'

This I think is a little overdrawn. That Boswell loved Johnson, God
forbid I should deny. But that he was inspired only by love to write
his life, I gravely question. Boswell was, as Carlyle has said, a
greedy man--and especially was he greedy of fame--and he saw in his
revered friend a splendid subject for artistic biographic treatment.
Here is where both Macaulay and Carlyle are, as I suggest, wrong.
Boswell was a fool, but only in the sense in which hundreds of great
artists have been fools; on his own lines, and across his own bit of
country, he was no fool. He did not accidentally stumble across
success, but he deliberately aimed at what he hit. Read his preface
and you will discover his method. He was as much an artist as either
of his two famous critics. Where Carlyle goes astray is in attributing
to discipleship what was mainly due to a dramatic sense. However,
theories are no great matter.

Our means of knowledge of James Boswell are derived mainly from
himself; he is his own incriminator. In addition to the life there is
the Corsican tour, the Hebrides tour, the letters to Erskine and to
Temple, and a few insignificant occasional publications in the shape
of letters to the people of Scotland, etc. With these before him it is
impossible for any biographer to approach Bozzy in a devotional
attitude; he was all Carlyle calls him. Our sympathies are with his
father, who despised him, and with his son, who was ashamed of him. It
is indeed strange to think of him staggering, like the drunkard he
was, between these two respectable and even stately figures--the
Senator of the Court of Justice and the courtly scholar and antiquary.
And yet it is to the drunkard humanity is debtor. Respectability is
not everything.

Boswell had many literary projects and ambitions, and never intended
to be known merely as the biographer of Johnson. He proposed to write
a life of Lord Kames and to compose memoirs of Hume. It seems he did
write a life of Sir Robert Sibbald. He had other plans in his head,
but dissipation and a steadily increasing drunkenness destroyed them
all. As inveterate book-hunter, I confess to a great fancy to lay
hands on his _Dorando: A Spanish Tale_, a shilling book published in
Edinburgh during the progress of the once famous Douglas case, and
ordered to be suppressed as contempt of court after it had been
through three editions. It is said, probably hastily, that no copy is
known to exist--a dreary fate which, according to Lord Macaulay, might
have attended upon the _Life of Johnson_ had the copyright of that
work become the property of Boswell's son, who hated to hear it
mentioned. It is not, however, very easy to get rid of any book once
it is published, and I do not despair of reading _Dorando_ before I


 [Footnote A: _Pleasure Gardens of the Eighteenth Century_, by Warwick
 Wroth, F.S.A., assisted by Arthur Edgar Wroth. London: Macmillan and

This is an honest book, disfigured by no fine writing or woeful
attempts to make us dance round may-poles with our ancestors. Terribly
is our good language abused by the swell-mob of stylists, for whom it
is certainly not enough that Chatham's language is their mother's
tongue. May the Devil fly away with these artists; though no sooner
had he done so than we should be 'wae' for auld Nicky-ben. Mr. Wroth,
of the British Museum, and his brother, Mr. Arthur Wroth, are above
such vulgar pranks, and never strain after the picturesque, but in the
plain garb of honest men carry us about to the sixty-four gardens
where the eighteenth-century Londoner, his wife and family--the John
Gilpins of the day--might take their pleasure either sadly, as indeed
best befits our pilgrim state, or uproariously to deaden the ear to
the still small voice of conscience--the pangs of slighted love, the
law's delay, the sluggish step of Fortune, the stealthy strides of
approaching poverty, or any other of the familiar incidents of our
mortal life. The sixty-two illustrations which adorn the book are as
honest as the letterpress. There is a most delightful Morland
depicting a very stout family indeed regaling itself _sub tegmine
fagi_. It is called a 'Tea Party.' A voluminous mother holds in her
roomy lap a very fat baby, whose back and neck are full upon you as
you stare into the picture. And what a jolly back and innocent neck it
is! Enough to make every right-minded woman cry out with pleasure.
Then there is the highly respectable father stirring his cup and
watching with placid content a gentleman in lace and ruffles attending
to the wife, whilst the two elder children play with a wheezy dog.

In these pages we can see for ourselves the British public--God rest
its soul!--enjoying itself. This honest book is full of _la
bourgeoisie_. The rips and the painted ladies occasionally, it is
true, make their appearance, but they are reduced to their proper
proportions. The Adam and Eve Tea Gardens, St. Pancras, have a
somewhat rakish sound, calculated to arrest the jaded attention of the
debauchee, but what has Mr. Wroth to tell us about them?

   'About the beginning of the present century it could still be
   described as an agreeable retreat, "with enchanting prospects"; and
   the gardens were laid out with arbours, flowers, and shrubs. Cows
   were kept for making syllabubs, and on summer afternoons a regular
   company met to play bowls and trap-ball in an adjacent field. One
   proprietor fitted out a mimic squadron of frigates in the garden,
   and the long-room was used a good deal for beanfeasts and
   tea-drinking parties' (p. 127).

What a pleasant place! Syllabubs! How sweet they sound! Nobody
worried then about diphtheria; they only died of it. Mimic frigates,
too! What patriotism! These gardens are as much lost as those of the
Hesperides. A cemetery swallowed them up--the cemetery which adjoins
the old St. Pancras Churchyard. The Tavern, shorn of its amenities, a
mere drink-shop, survived as far down the century as 1874, soon after
which date it also disappeared. Hornsey Wood House has a name not
unknown in the simple annals of tea-drinking. It is now part of
Finsbury Park, but in the middle of the last century its long-room 'on
popular holydays, such as Whit Sunday, might be seen crowded as early
as nine or ten in the morning with a motley assemblage eating rolls
and butter and drinking tea at an extravagant price.' 'Hone remembered
the old Hornsey Wood House as it stood embowered, and seeming a part
of the wood. It was at that time kept by two sisters--Mrs. Lloyd and
Mrs. Collier--and these aged dames were usually to be found before
their door on a seat between two venerable oaks, wherein swarms of
bees hived themselves.'

What a picture is this of these vanished dames! Somewhere, I trust,
they are at peace.

         'And there, they say, two bright and aged snakes,
          Who once were Cadmus and Harmonia,
          Bask in the glens or on the warm sea-shore.'

A more raffish place was the Dog and Duck in St. George's Fields,
which boasted mineral springs, good for gout, stone, king's evil, sore
eyes, and inveterate cancers. Considering its virtue, the water was a
cheap liquor, for a dozen bottles could be had at the spa for a
shilling. The Dog and Duck, though at last it exhibited depraved
tastes, was at one time well conducted. Miss Talbot writes about it to
Mrs. Carter, and Dr. Johnson advised his Thralia to try the waters. It
was no mean place, but boasted a breakfast-room, a bowling-green, and
a swimming-bath 200 feet long and 100 feet (nearly) broad. Mr. Wroth
narrates the history of its fall with philosophical composure. In the
hands of one Hedger the decencies were disregarded, and thieves made
merry where once Miss Talbot sipped bohea. One of its frequenters,
Charlotte Shaftoe, is said to have betrayed seven of her intimates to
the gallows. Few visitors' lists could stand such a strain as Miss
Shaftoe put upon hers. In 1799 the Dog and Duck was suppressed, and
Bethlehem Hospital now reigns in its stead. 'The Peerless Pool' has a
Stevensonian sound. It was a dangerous pond behind Old Street, long
known as 'The Parlous or Perilous Pond' 'because divers youth by
swimming therein have been drowned.' In 1743 a London jeweller called
Kemp took it in hand, turned it into a pleasure bath, and renamed it,
happily enough, 'The Peerless Pool.' It was a fine open-air bath, 170
feet long, more than 100 feet broad, and from 3 to 5 feet deep. 'It
was nearly surrounded by trees, and the descent was by marble steps to
a fine gravel bottom, through which the springs that supplied the pool
came bubbling up.' Mr. Kemp likewise constructed a fish-pond. The
enterprise met with success, and anglers, bathers, and at due seasons
skaters, flocked to 'The Peerless Pool.' Hone describes how every
Thursday and Saturday the boys from the Bluecoat School were wont to
plunge into its depths. You ask its fate. It has been built over.
Peerless Street, the second main turning on the left of the City Road
just beyond Old Street in coming from the City, is all that is left to
remind anyone of the once Parlous Pool, unless, indeed, it still
occasionally creeps into a cellar and drowns cockroaches instead of
divers youths. The Three Hats, Highbury Barn, Hampstead Wells, are not
places to be lightly passed over. In Mr. Wroth's book you may read
about them and trace their fortunes--their fallen fortunes. After all,
they have only shared the fate of empires.

Of the most famous London gardens--Marylebone, Ranelagh, and, greatest
of them all, Vauxhall--Mr. Wroth writes at, of course, a becoming
length. Marylebone Gardens, when at their largest, comprised about 8
acres. Beaumont Street, part of Devonshire Street and of Devonshire
Place and Upper Wimpole Street, now occupy their site. Music was the
main feature of Marylebone. A band played in the evening. Vocalists at
different times drew crowds. Masquerades and fireworks appeared later
in the history of the gardens, which usually were open three nights of
the week. Dr. Johnson's turbulent behaviour, on the occasion of one of
his frequent visits, will easily be remembered. Marylebone, at no
period, says Mr. Wroth, attained the vogue of Ranelagh or the
universal popularity of Vauxhall. In 1776 the gardens were closed, and
two years later the builders began to lay out streets. Ranelagh is,
perhaps, the greatest achievement of the eighteenth century. Its
Rotunda, built in 1741, is compared by Mr. Wroth to the reading-room
of the British Museum. No need to give its dimensions; only look at
the print, and you will understand what Johnson meant when he declared
that the _coup d'oeil_ of Ranelagh was the finest thing he had ever
seen. The ordinary charge for admission was half a crown, which
secured you tea or coffee and bread-and-butter. The gardens were
usually open Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays, and the amusements were
music, tea-drinking, walking, and talking. Mr. Wroth quotes a
Frenchman, who, after visiting Ranelagh in 1800, calls it 'le plus
insipide lieu d'amusement que l'on ait pu imaginer,' and even hints at
Dante's Purgatory. An earlier victim from Gaul thus records his
experience of Ranelagh: 'On s'ennui avec de la mauvaise musique, du
the et du beurre.' So true is it that the cheerfulness you find
anywhere is the cheerfulness you have brought with you. However,
despite the Frenchman, good music and singing were at times to be
heard at Ranelagh. The nineteenth century would have nothing to do
with Ranelagh, and in 1805 it was pulled down. The site now belongs to
Chelsea Hospital. Cuper's Gardens lacked the respectability of
Marylebone and the style of Ranelagh, but they had their vogue during
the same century. They were finely situated on the south side of the
Thames opposite Somerset House. Cuper easily got altered into Cupid;
and when on the death of Ephraim Evans in 1740 the business came to be
carried on by his widow, a comely dame who knew a thing or two, it
proved to be indeed a going concern. But the new Licensing Bill of
1752 destroyed Cupid's Garden, and Mrs. Evans was left lamenting and
wholly uncompensated. Of Vauxhall Mr. Wroth treats at much length, and
this part of his book is especially rich in illustrations. Every lover
of Old London and old times and old prints should add Mr. Wroth's book
to his library.


There has just been a small flutter amongst those who used to be
called stationers or text-writers in the good old days, before
printing was, and when even Peers of the Realm (now so highly
educated) could not sign their names, or, at all events, preferred not
to do so--booksellers they are now styled--and the question which
agitates them is discount. Having mentioned this, one naturally passes

No great trade has an obscurer history than the book trade. It seems
to lie choked in mountains of dust which it would be suicidal to
disturb. Men have lived from time to time of literary skill--Dr.
Johnson was one of them--who had knowledge, extensive and peculiar, of
the traditions and practices of 'the trade,' as it is proudly styled
by its votaries; but nobody has ever thought it worth his while to
make record of his knowledge, which accordingly perished with him, and
is now irrecoverably lost.

In old days booksellers were also publishers, frequently printers, and
sometimes paper-makers. Jacob Tonson not only owned Milton's _Paradise
Lost_--for all time, as he fondly thought, for little did he dream of
the fierce construction the House of Lords was to put upon the
Copyright Act of Queen Anne--not only was Dryden's publisher, but also
kept shop in Chancery Lane, and sold books across the counter. He
allowed no discount, but, so we are told, 'spoke his mind upon all
occasions, and flattered no one,' not even glorious John.

For a long time past the trades of bookselling and book-publishing
have been carried on apart. This has doubtless rid booksellers of all
the unpopularity which formerly belonged to them in their other
capacity. This unpopularity is now heaped as a whole upon the
publishers, who certainly need not dread the doom awaiting those of
whom the world speaks well.

A tendency of the two trades to grow together again is perhaps
noticeable. For my part, I wish they would. Some publishers are
already booksellers, but the books they sell are usually only new
books. Now it is obvious that the true bookseller sells books both old
and new. Some booksellers are occasional publishers. May each
usurp--or, rather, reassume--the business of the other, whilst
retaining his own!

The world, it must be admitted, owes a great deal of whatever
information it possesses about the professions, trades, and
occupations practised and carried on in its midst to those who have
failed in them. Prosperous men talk 'shop,' but seldom write it. The
book that tells us most about booksellers and bookselling in bygone
days is the work of a crack-brained fellow who published and sold in
the reigns of Queen Anne and George I., and died in 1733 in great
poverty and obscurity. I refer to John Dunton, whose _Life and
Errors_ in the edition in two volumes edited by J.B. Nichols, and
published in 1818, is a common book enough in the second-hand shops,
and one which may be safely recommended to everyone, except, indeed,
to the unfortunate man or woman who is not an adept in the art, craft,
or mystery of skipping.

The book will strangely remind the reader of Amory's _Life of John
Buncle_--those queer volumes to which many a reader has been sent by
Hazlitt's intoxicating description of them in his _Round Table_, and
a few perhaps by a shy allusion contained in one of the essays of
Elia. The real John Dunton has not the boundless spirits of the
fictitious John Buncle; but in their religious fervour, their
passion for flirtation, their tireless egotism, and their love of
character-sketching, they greatly resemble one another.

It is this last characteristic that imparts real value to Dunton's
book, and makes it, despite its verbiage and tortuosity, throb with
human interest. For example, he gives us a short sketch of no less
than 135 then living London booksellers in this style: 'Mr. Newton is
full of kindness and good-nature. He is affable and courteous in
trade, and is none of those men of forty whose religion is yet to
chuse, for his mind (like his looks) is serious and grave; and his
neighbours tell me his understanding does not improve too fast for his
practice, for he is not religious by start or sally, but is well fixed
in the faith and practice of a Church of England man--and has a
handsome wife into the bargain.'

Most of the 135 booksellers were good men, according to Dunton, but
not all. 'Mr. Lee in Lombard Street. Such a pirate, such a cormorant
was never before. Copies, books, men, shops, all was one. He held no
propriety right or wrong, good or bad, till at last he began to be
known; and the booksellers, not enduring so ill a man among them,
spewed him out, and off he marched to Ireland, where he acted as
_felonious Lee_ as he did in London. And as Lee lived a thief, so he
died a hypocrite; for being asked on his death-bed if he would forgive
Mr. C. (that had formerly wronged him), "Yes," said Lee, "if I die, I
forgive him; but if I happen to live, I am resolved to be revenged on

The Act of Union destroyed the trade of these pirates, but their
felonious editions of eighteenth-century authors still abound. Mr.
Gladstone, I need scarcely say, was careful in his Home Rule Bill
(which was denounced by thousands who never read a line of it) to
withdraw copyright from the scope of action of his proposed Dublin

There are nearly eleven hundred brief character-sketches in Dunton's
book, of all sorts and kinds, but with a preference for bookish
people, divines, both of the Establishment and out of it, printers and
authors. Sometimes, indeed, the description is short enough, and tells
one very little. To many readers, references so curt to people of whom
they never heard, and whose names are recorded nowhere else, save on
their mouldering grave-stones, may seem tedious and trivial, but for
others they will have a strange fascination. Here are a few examples:

   'Affable _Wiggins_. His conversation is general but never

   'The kind and golden _Venables_. He is so good a man, and so truly
   charitable, he that will write of him, must still write more.

   'Mr. _Bury_--my old neighbour in Redcross Street. He is a plain
   honest man, sells the best coffee in all the neighbourhood, and
   lives in this world like a spiritual stranger and pilgrim in a
   foreign country.

   'Anabaptist (alias _Elephant_) _Smith_. He was a man of great
   sincerity and happy contentment in all circumstances of life.'

If an affection for passages of this kind be condemned as trivial, and
akin to the sentimentalism of the man in Calverley's poem who wept
over a box labelled 'This side up,' I will shelter myself behind
Carlyle, who was evidently deeply moved, as his review of Boswell's
Johnson proves, by the life-history of Mr. F. Lewis, 'of whose birth,
death, and whole terrestrial _res gestae_ this only, and, strange
enough, this actually, survives--"Sir, he lived in London, and hung
loose upon society. _Stat_ PARVI _hominis umbra_."' On that peg
Carlyle's imagination hung a whole biography.

Dunton, who was the son of the Rector of Aston Clinton, was
apprenticed, about 1675, to a London bookseller. He had from the
beginning a great turn both for religion and love. He, to use his own
phrase, 'sat under the powerful ministry of Mr. Doolittle.' 'One
Lord's day, and I remember it with sorrow, I was to hear the Rev. Mr.
Doolittle, and it was then and there the beautiful Rachel Seaton gave
me that fatal wound.'

The first book Dunton ever printed was by the Rev. Mr. Doolittle, and
was of an eminently religious character.

'One Lord's Day (and I am very sensible of the sin) I was strolling
about just as my fancy led me, and, stepping into Dr. Annesley's
meeting-place--where, instead of engaging my attention to what the
Doctor said, I suffered both my mind and eyes to run at random--I soon
singled out a young lady that almost charmed me dead; but, having made
my inquiries, I found to my sorrow she was pre-engaged.' However,
Dunton was content with the elder sister, one of the three daughters
of Dr. Annesley. The one he first saw became the wife of the Reverend
Samuel Wesley, and the mother of John and Charles. The third daughter
is said to have been married to Daniel De Foe.

As soon as he was out of his apprenticeship, Dunton set up business as
a publisher and bookseller. He says grimly enough:

   'A man should be well furnished with an honest policy if he intends
   to set out to the world nowadays. And this is no less necessary in
   a bookseller than in any other tradesman, for in that way there are
   plots and counter-plots, and a whole army of hackney authors that
   keep their grinders moving by the travail of their pens. These
   gormandizers will eat you the very life out of a _copy_ so soon as
   ever it appears, for as the times go, _Original_ and _Abridgement_
   are almost reckoned as necessary as man and wife.'

The mischief to which Dunton refers was permitted by the stupidity of
the judges, who refused to consider an abridgment of a book any
interference with its copyright. Some learned judges have, indeed,
held that an abridger is a benefactor, but as his benefactions are not
his own, but another's, a shorter name might be found for him. The law
on the subject is still uncertain.

Dunton proceeds: 'Printing was now the uppermost in my thoughts, and
hackney authors began to ply me with _specimens_ as earnestly and
with as much passion and concern as the watermen do passengers with
_Oars_ and _Scullers_. I had some acquaintance with this generation in
my apprenticeship, and had never any warm affection for them, in
regard I always thought their great concern lay more in _how much a
sheet_, than in any generous respect they bore to the _Commonwealth of
Learning_; and indeed the learning itself of these gentlemen lies very
often in as little room as their honesty, though they will pretend to
have studied for six or seven years in the Bodleian Library, to have
turned over the Fathers, and to have read and digested the whole
compass both of human and ecclesiastic history, when, alas! they have
never been able to understand a single page of St. Cyprian, and cannot
tell you whether the Fathers lived before or after Christ.'

Yet of one of this hateful tribe Dunton is able to speak well. He
declares Mr. Bradshaw to have been the best accomplished hackney
author he ever met with. He pronounces his style incomparably fine. He
had quarrelled with him, but none the less he writes: 'If Mr. Bradshaw
is yet alive, I here declare to the world and to him that I freely
forgive him what he owes, both in money and books, if he will only be
so kind as to make me a visit. But I am afraid the worthy gentleman is
dead, for he was wretchedly overrun with melancholy, and the very
blackness of it reigned in his countenance. He had certainly performed
wonders with his pen, had not his poverty pursued him and almost laid
the necessity upon him to be unjust.'

All hackney authors were not poor. Some of the compilers and
abridgers made what even now would be considered by popular novelists
large sums. Scotsmen were very good at it. Gordon and Campbell became
wealthy men. If authors had a turn for politics, Sir Robert Walpole
was an excellent paymaster. Arnall, who was bred an attorney, is
stated to have been paid L11,000 in four years by the Government for
his pamphlets.

                     'Come, then, I'll comply.
         Spirit of Arnall, aid me while I lie!'

It cannot have been pleasant to read this, but then Pope belonged to
the opposition, and was a friend of Lord Bolingbroke, and would
consequently say anything.

There is not a more interesting and artless autobiography to be read
than William Hutton's, the famous bookseller and historian of
Birmingham. Hutton has been somewhat absurdly called the English
Franklin. He is not in the least like Franklin. He has none of
Franklin's supreme literary skill, and he was a loving, generous, and
tender-hearted man, which Franklin certainly was not. Hutton's first
visit to London was paid in 1749. He walked up from Nottingham, spent
three days in London, and then walked back to Nottingham. The jaunt,
if such an expression is applicable, cost him eleven shillings less
fourpence. Yet he paid his way. The only money he spent to gain
admission to public places was a penny to see Bedlam.

Interesting, however, as is Hutton's book, it tells us next to nothing
about book-selling, except that in his hands it was a prosperous


Copyright, which is the exclusive liberty reserved to an author and
his assigns of printing or otherwise multiplying copies of his book
during certain fixed periods of time, is a right of modern origin.

There is nothing about copyright in Justinian's compilations.

It is a mistake to suppose that books did not circulate freely in the
era of manuscripts. St. Augustine was one of the most popular authors
that ever lived. His _City of God_ ran over Europe after a fashion
impossible to-day. Thousands of busy hands were employed, year out and
year in, making copies for sale of this famous treatise. Yet Augustine
had never heard of copyright, and never received a royalty on sales in
his life.

The word 'copyright' is of purely English origin, and came into
existence as follows:

The Stationers' Company was founded by royal charter in 1556, and from
the beginning has kept register-books, wherein, first, by decrees of
the Star Chamber, afterwards by orders of the Houses of Parliament,
and finally by Act of Parliament, the titles of all publications and
reprints have had to be entered prior to publication.

None but booksellers, as publishers were then content to be called,
were members of the Stationers' Company, and by the usage of the
Company no entries could be made in their register-books except in the
names of members, and thereupon the book referred to in the entry
became the 'copy' of the member or members who had caused it to be

By virtue of this registration the book became, in the opinion of the
Stationers' Company, the property _in perpetuity_ of the member or
members who had effected the registration. This was the 'right' of the
stationer to his 'copy.'

Copyright at first is therefore not an author's, but a bookseller's
copyright. The author had no part or lot in it unless he chanced to be
both an author and a bookseller, an unusual combination in early days.
The author took his manuscript to a member of the Stationers' Company,
and made the best bargain he could for himself. The stationer, if
terms were arrived at, carried off the manuscript to his Company and
registered the title in the books, and thereupon became, in his
opinion, and in that of his Company, the owner, at common law, in
perpetuity of his 'copy.'

The stationers, having complete control over their register-books,
made what entries they chose, and all kinds of books, even Homer and
the Classics, became the 'property' of its members. The booksellers,
nearly all Londoners, respected each other's 'copies,' and jealously
guarded access to their registers. From time to time there were sales
by auction of a bookseller's 'copies,' but the public--that is, the
country booksellers, for there were no other likely buyers--were
excluded from the sale-room. A great monopoly was thus created and
maintained by the trade. There was never any examination of title to a
bookseller's copy. Every book of repute was supposed to have a
bookseller for its owner. Bunyan's _Pilgrim's Progress_ was Mr.
Ponder's copy, Milton's _Paradise Lost_ Mr. Tonson's copy, _The Whole
Duty of Man_ Mr. Eyre's copy, and so on. The thing was a corrupt and
illegal trade combination.

The expiration of the Licensing Act, and the consequent cessation of
the penalties it inflicted upon unlicensed printing, exposed the
proprietors of 'copies' to an invasion of their rights, real or
supposed, and in 1703, and again in 1706 and 1709, they applied to
Parliament for a Bill to protect them against the 'ruin' with which
they alleged themselves to be threatened.[A]

 [Footnote A: What the booksellers wanted was not to be left to their
 common law remedy--_i.e._, an action of trespass on the case--but to
 be supplied with penalties for infringement, and especially with the
 right to seize and burn unauthorized editions.]

In 1710 they got what they asked for in the shape of the famous
Statute of Queen Anne, the first copyright law in the world. A truly
English measure, ill considered and ill drawn, which did the very last
thing it was meant to do--viz., destroy the property it was intended
to protect.

By this Act, in which the 'author' first makes his appearance actually
in front of the 'proprietor,' it was provided that, _in case of new
books_, the author and his assigns should have the sole right of
printing them for fourteen years, and if at the end of that time the
author was still alive, a second term of fourteen years was conceded.
In the case of _existing books_, there was to be but one term--viz.,
twenty-one years, from August 10, 1710.

Registration at the Stationers' Company was still required, but
nothing was said as to who might make the entries, or into whose names
they were to be made.

Then followed the desired penalties for infringement. The booksellers
thought the terms of years meant no more than that the penalties were
to be limited by way of experiment to those periods.

Many years flew by before the Stationers' Company discovered the
mischief wrought by the statute they had themselves promoted. To cut a
long matter short, it was not until 1774 that the House of Lords
decided that, whether there ever had been a perpetuity in literary
property at common law or not, it was destroyed by the Act of Queen
Anne, and that from and after the passing of that law neither author,
assignee, nor proprietor of 'copy' had any exclusive right of
multiplication, save for and during the periods of time the statute

It was a splendid fight--a Thirty Years' War. Great lawyers were fee'd
in it; luminous and lengthy judgments were delivered. Mansfield was a
booksellers' man; Thurlow ridiculed the pretensions of the Trade. It
can be read about in _Boswell's Johnson_ and in Campbell's _Lives of
the Lord Chancellors_. The authors stood supinely by, not contributing
a farthing towards the expenses. It was a booksellers' battle, and the
booksellers were beaten, as they deserved to be.

All this is past history, in which the modern money-loving, motoring
author takes scant pleasure. Things are on a different footing now.
The Act of 1842 has extended the statutory periods of protection. The
perpetuity craze is over. A right in perpetuity to reprint Frank
Fustian's novel or Tom Tatter's poem would not add a penny to the
present value of the copyright of either of those productions. In
business short views must prevail. An author cannot expect to raise
money on his hope of immortality. Milton's publisher, good Mr.
Symonds, probably thought, if he thought about it at all, that he was
buying _Paradise Lost_ for ever when he registered it as his 'copy' in
the books of his Company; but into the calculations he made to
discover how much he could afford to give the author posterity did not
and could not enter. How was Symonds to know that Milton's fame was to
outlive Cleveland's or Flatman's?

How many of the books published in 1905 would have any copyright cash
value in A.D. 2000? I do not pause for a reply.

The modern author need have no quarrel with the statutory periods
fixed by the Act of 1842,[A] though common-sense has long since
suggested that a single term, the author's life and thirty or forty
years after, should be substituted for the alternative periods named
in the Act.

 [Footnote A: Author's life _plus_ seven years, or forty-two years
 from date of publication, whichever term is the longer. The great
 objection to the second term is that an author's books go out of
 copyright at different dates, and the earlier editions go out

What the modern author alone desiderates is a big, immediate, and
protected market.

The United States of America have been a great disappointment to many
an honest British author. In the wicked old days when the States took
British books without paying for them they used to take them in large
numbers, but now that they have turned honest and passed a law
allowing the British author copyright on certain terms, they have in
great measure ceased to take; for, by the strangest of coincidences,
no sooner were British novels, histories, essays, and the like,
protected in America, than there sprang up in the States themselves,
novelists, historians, and essayists, not only numerous enough to
supply their own home markets, but talented enough to cross the
Atlantic in large numbers and challenge us in our own. Such a reward
for honesty was not contemplated.

International copyright and the Convention of Berne are things to be
proud of and rejoice over. As the first chapter in a Code of Public
European Law, they may mark the beginning of a time of settled peace,
order, and disarmament, but they have not yet enriched a single
author, though hereafter possibly an occasional novelist or
play-wright may prosper greatly under their provisions.

The copyright question is now at last really a settled question, save
in a single aspect of it. What, if anything, should be done in the
case of those authors, few in number, whose literary lives prove
longer than the period of statutory protection? Should any distinction
in law be struck between a Tennyson and a Tupper? between--But why
multiply examples? There is no need to be unnecessarily offensive.

The law and practice of to-day give the meat that remains on the bones
of the dead author after the expiration of the statutory period of
protection to the Trade. Any publisher who likes to bring out an
edition can do so, though by doing so he does not gain any exclusive
rights. A brother publisher may compete with him. As a result
the public is usually well served with cheap editions of those
non-copyright authors whose works are worth reprinting the moment the
copyright expires.

Some lovers of justice, however, think that it is unnecessary all at
once to endow the Trade with these windfalls, and that if an author's
family, or his or their assignees, were prepared to publish cheap
editions immediately after the expiration of the usual period of
protection, they ought to be allowed to do so for a further period of,
say, forty years. If they failed within a reasonable time either to do
so themselves or to arrange for others to do so, this extended period
should lapse.

Were this to be the law nobody could say that it was unfair; but it is
never likely to be the law. It would take time for discussion, and now
there is no time left in which to discuss anything in Parliament. A
much-needed Copyright Bill has been in draft for years, has been
mentioned in Queen's and King's speeches, but it has never been read
even a first time. If it ever is read a first time, its only chance of
becoming law will be if it is taken in a lump, as it stands, without
consideration or amendment. To such a pass has legislation been
reduced in this country!

This draft Bill does not contain any provision for specially
protecting the families of authors whose works long outlive their
mortal lives. It makes no invidious distinctions. It leaves all the
authors to hang together, the quick and the dead. Perhaps this is the
better way.


I have been told by more than one correspondent, and not always in
words of urbanity, that I owe an apology to the manes of Miss Hannah
More, whose works I once purchased in nineteen volumes for 8s. 6d.,
and about whom in consequence I wrote a page some ten years ago.[A]

 [Footnote A: See _Collected Essays_, ii. 255.]

To be accused of rudeness to a lady who exchanged witticisms with Dr.
Johnson, soothed the widowed heart of Mrs. Garrick, directed the early
studies of Macaulay, and in the spring of 1815 presented a small copy
of her _Sacred Dramas_ to Mr. Gladstone, is no light matter. To libel
the dead is, I know, not actionable--indeed, it is impossible; but
evil-speaking, lying, and slandering are canonical offences from which
the obligation to refrain knows no limits of time or place.

I have often felt uneasy on this score, and never had the courage,
until this very evening, to read over again what in the irritation of
the moment I had been tempted to say about Miss Hannah More, after the
outlay upon her writings already mentioned. Eight shillings and
sixpence is, indeed, no great sum, but nineteen octavo volumes are a
good many books. Yet Richardson is in nineteen volumes in Mangin's
edition, and Swift is in nineteen volumes in Scott's edition, and
glorious John Dryden lacks but a volume to make a third example. True
enough; yet it will, I think, be granted me that you must be very fond
of an author, male or female, if nineteen octavo volumes, all his or
hers, are not a little irritating and provocative of temper. Think of
the room they take! As for selling them, it is not so easy to sell
nineteen volumes of a stone-dead author, particularly if you live
three miles from a railway-station and do not keep a trap. Elia, the
gentle Elia, as it is the idiotic fashion to call a writer who could
handle his 'maulies' in a fray as well as Hazlitt himself, has told us
how he could never see well-bound books he did not care about, but he
longed to strip them so that he might warm his ragged veterans in
their spoils. My copy of _Hannah More_ was in full calf, but never
once did it occur to me--though I, too, have many a poor author with
hardly a shirt to his back shivering in the dark corners of the
library--to strip her of her warm clothing. And yet I had to do
something, and quickly too, for sorely needed was Miss More's shelf.
So I buried the nineteen volumes in the garden. 'Out of sight, out of
mind,' said I cheerfully, stamping them down.

This has hardly proved to be the case, for though Hannah More is
incapable of a literary resurrection, and no one of her nineteen
volumes has ever haunted my pillow, exclaiming,

       'Think how thou stab'dst me in my prime of youth,'

nevertheless, I have not been able to get quite rid of an uneasy
feeling that I was rude to her ten years ago in print--not, indeed, so
rude as was her revered friend Dr. Johnson 126 years ago to her face;
but then, I have not the courage to creep under the gabardine of our
great Moralist.

When, accordingly, I saw on the counters of the trade the daintiest of
volumes, hailing, too, from the United States, entitled _Hannah
More_,[A] and perceived that it was a short biography and appreciation
of the lady on my mind, I recognised that my penitential hour had at
last come. I took the little book home with me, and sat down to read,
determined to do justice and more than justice to the once celebrated
mistress of Cowslip Green and Barley Wood.

 [Footnote A: _Hannah More_, by Marian Harland. New York and London:
 G.P. Putnam.]

Miss Harland's preface is most engaging. She reminds a married sister
how in the far-off days of their childhood in a Southern State their
Sunday reading, usually confined or sought to be confined, to 'bound
sermons and semi-detached tracts,' was enlivened by the _Works of
Hannah More_. She proceeds as follows:

   'At my last visit to you I took from your bookshelves one of a set
   of volumes in uniform binding of full calf, coloured mellowly by
   the touch and the breath of fifty odd years. They belonged to the
   dear old home library.... The leaves of the book I held fell apart
   at _The Shepherd of Salisbury Plain_.'

I leave my readers to judge how uncomfortable these innocent words
made me:

          'The usher took six hasty strides
           As smit with sudden pain.'

I knew that set of volumes, their distressing uniformity of binding,
their full calf. Their very fellows lie mouldering in an East Anglian
garden, mellow enough by this time and strangely coloured.

Circumstances alter cases. Miss Harland thinks that if the life of
Charlotte Bronte's mother had been mercifully spared, the authoress of
_Jane Eyre_ and _Villette_ might have grown up more like Hannah More
than she actually did. Perhaps so. As I say, circumstances alter
cases, and if the works of Hannah More had been in my old home
library, I might have read _The Shepherd of Salisbury Plain_ and
_The Search after Happiness_ of a Sunday, and found solace therein.
But they were not there, and I had to get along as best I could with
the _Pilgrim's Progress_, stories by A.L.O.E., the crime-stained
page of Mrs. Sherwood's _Tales from the Church Catechism_, and,
'more curious sport than that,' the _Bible in Spain_ of the
never-sufficiently-bepraised George Borrow.

What, however, is a little odd about Miss Harland's enthusiasm for
Hannah More's writings is that it expires with the preface. _There_,
indeed, it glows with a beautiful light:

   'And _The Search after Happiness!_ You cannot have forgotten all of
   the many lines we learned by heart on Sunday afternoons in the
   joyful spring-time when we were obliged to clear the pages every
   few minutes of yellow jessamine bells and purple Wistaria petals
   flung down by the warm wind.'

This passage lets us into the secret. I suspect in sober truth both
Miss Harland and her sister have long since forgotten all the lines in
_The Search after Happiness_, but what they have never forgotten, what
they never can forget, are the jessamine bells and the Wistaria
petals, yellow and purple, blown about in the warm winds that visited
their now desolate and forsaken Southern home. Less beautiful things
than jessamine and Wistaria, if only they clustered round the house
where you were born, are remembered when the lines of far better
authors than Miss Hannah More have gone clean out of your head:

          'As life wanes, all its cares and strife and toil
           Seem strangely valueless, while the old trees
           Which grew by our youth's home, the waving mass
           Of climbing plants heavy with bloom and dew,
           The morning swallows with their songs like words--
           All these seem dear, and only worth our thoughts.'

Thus the youthful Browning in his marvellous _Pauline_. The same note
is struck after a humbler and perhaps more moving fashion in the
following simple strain of William Allingham:

          'Four ducks on a pond,
           A grass-bank beyond;
           A blue sky of spring,
           White clouds on the wing;
           How little a thing
           To remember for years--
           To remember with tears!'

If this be so--and who, looking into his own heart, but must own that
so it is?--it explains how it comes about that as soon as Miss Harland
finished her preface, got away from her childhood and began her
biography, she has so little to tell us about Miss More's books, and
from that little the personal note of enjoyment is entirely wanting.
Indeed, though a pious soul, she occasionally cannot restrain her
surprise how such ponderous commonplaces ever found a publisher, to
say nothing of a reader.

'Such books as Miss More's,' she says, 'would to-day in America fall
from the press like a stone into the depths of the sea of oblivion,
creating no more sensation upon the surface than the bursting of a
bubble in mid-Atlantic.'

And again:

'That Hannah More was a power for righteousness in her long
generation we must take upon the testimony of her best and wisest

However good may be your intentions, it seems hard to avoid being rude
to this excellent lady.

I confess I never liked her love story. Anything more cold-blooded I
never read. I am not going to repeat it. Why should I? It is told at
length in Miss More's authorized biography in four volumes by William
Roberts, Esq. I saw a copy yesterday exposed for sale in New Oxford
Street, price 1s. Miss Harland also tells the tale, not without
chuckling. I refer the curious to her pages.

Then there are those who can never get rid of the impression that
Hannah More 'fagged' her four sisters mercilessly; but who can tell?
Some people like being fagged.

Precisely _when_ Miss More bade farewell to what in later life she was
fond of calling her gay days, when she wrote dull plays and went to
stupid Sunday parties, one finds it hard to discover, but at no time
did it ever come home to her that she needed repentance herself. She
seems always thinking of the sins and shortcomings of her neighbours,
rich and poor. Sometimes, indeed, when deluged with flattery, she
would intimate that she was a miserable sinner, but that is not what I
mean. She concerned herself greatly with the manners of the great,
and deplored their cards and fashionable falsehoods. John Newton,
captain as he had been of a slaver, saw the futility of such

'The fashionable world,' so he wrote to Miss More, 'by their numbers
form a phalanx not easily impressible, and their habits of life are as
armour of proof which renders them not easily vulnerable. Neither the
rude club of a boisterous Reformer nor the pointed, delicate weapons
of the authoress before me can overthrow or rout them.'

But Miss More never forgot to lecture the rich or to patronize the

_Coelebs in Search of a Wife_ is an impossible book, and I do not
believe Miss Harland has read it; but as for the famous _Shepherd_, we
are never allowed to forget how Mr. Wilberforce declared a few years
before his death, to the admiration of the religious world, that he
would rather present himself in heaven with _The Shepherd of Salisbury
Plain_ in his hand than with--what think you?--_Peveril of the Peak_!
The bare notion of such a proceeding on anybody's part is enough to
strike one dumb with what would be horror, did not amazement swallow
up every other feeling. What rank Arminianism! I am sure the last
notion that ever would have entered the head of Sir Walter was to take
_Peveril_ to heaven.

But whatever may be thought of the respective merits of Miss More's
nineteen volumes and Sir Walter's ninety-eight, there is no doubt that
Barley Wood was as much infested with visitors as ever was Abbotsford.
Eighty a week!

'From twelve o'clock until three each day a constant stream of
carriages and pedestrians filled the evergreen bordered avenue
leading from the Wrington village road.'

Among them came Lady Gladstone and W.E.G., aged six, the latter
carrying away with him the _Sacred Dramas_, to be preserved during a
long life.

Miss More was a vivacious and agreeable talker, who certainly failed
to do herself justice with her pen. Her health was never good, yet, as
she survived thirty-five of her prescribing physicians, her vitality
must have been great. Her face in Opie's portrait is very pleasant. If
I was rude to her ten years ago, I apologize and withdraw; but as for
her books, I shall leave them where they are--buried in a cliff facing
due north, with nothing between them and the Pole but leagues upon
leagues of a wind-swept ocean.


The name of Arthur Young is a familiar one to all readers of that
history which begins with the forebodings of the French Revolution.
Thousands of us learnt to be interested in him as the 'good Arthur,'
'the excellent Arthur,' of Thomas Carlyle, a writer who had the art of
making not only his own narrative, but the sources of it, attractive.
Even 'Carrion-Heath,' in the famous introductory chapter to the
_Cromwell_, is invested with a kind of charm, whilst in the stormy
firmament of the _French Revolution_ the star of Arthur Young twinkles
with a mild effulgency. The autobiography of such a man could hardly
fail to be interesting.[A] The 'good Arthur' was born in 1741, the
younger son of a small 'squarson' who inherited from his father the
manor of Bradfield Combust, in Suffolk, but held the living of Thames
Ditton. Here he made the acquaintance of the Onslow family, and
Speaker Onslow was one of Arthur's godfathers. The Rev. Dr. Young died
in 1759, much in debt. The Bradfield property had been settled for
life on his wife, who had brought her husband some fortune, and to
the manor-house she retired to economize.

 [Footnote A: _The Autobiography of Arthur Young_. Edited by M. Betham
 Edwards. Smith, Elder and Co.]

Arthur's education had been muddled; and an attempt to make a merchant
of him having fallen through, he found himself, on his father's death,
aged eighteen, 'without education, profession, or employment,' and his
whole fortune, during his mother's life, consisting of a copyhold farm
of 20 acres, producing as many pounds. In these circumstances, to
think of literature was well-nigh inevitable, and, in 1762, the
autobiography tells us:

   'I set on foot a periodical publication, entitled the _Universal
   Museum_, which came out monthly, printed with glorious imprudence
   on my own account. I waited on Dr. Johnson, who was sitting by the
   fire so half-dressed and slovenly a figure as to make me stare at
   him. I stated my plan, and begged that he would favour me with a
   paper once a month, offering at the same time any remuneration that
   he might name.'

Here we see dimly prefigured a modern editor prematurely soliciting
the support of Great Names. But the Cham of literature, himself the
son of a bookseller, would have none of it.

   '"No, sir," he replied; "such a work would be sure to fail if the
   booksellers have not the property, and you will lose a great deal
   of money by it."

   '"Certainly, sir," I said, "if I am not fortunate enough to induce
   authors of real talent to contribute."

   '"No, sir, you are mistaken; such authors will not support such a
   work, nor will you persuade them to write in it. You will purchase
   disappointment by the loss of your money, and I advise you by all
   means to give up the plan."

   'Somebody was introduced, and I took my leave.'

The _Universal Museum_, none the less, appeared, but after five
numbers Young 'procured a meeting of ten or a dozen booksellers, and
had the luck and address to persuade them to take the whole scheme
upon themselves.' He then calmly adds, 'I believe no success ever
attended it.' It was, indeed, 100 years before its time. Literature
abandoned, Young took one of his mother's farms. 'I had no more idea
of farming than of physic or divinity,' nor did he, man of European
reputation as a farmer though he soon became, ever make farming pay.
He had an itching pen, and after four years' farming (1763-1766) he
published the result of his experience. Never, surely, before has an
author spoken of his first-born as in the autobiography Young speaks
of this publication:

   'And the circumstance which perhaps of all others in my life I
   most deeply regretted and considered as a sin of the blackest dye
   was the publishing of my experience during these four years,
   which, speaking as a farmer, was nothing but ignorance, folly,
   presumption, and rascality.'

None the less, it was writing this rascally book that seems to have
given him the idea of those agricultural tours which were to make his
name famous throughout the world. His Southern tour was in 1767, his
Northern in 1768, and his Eastern in 1770. The subject he specially
illuminated in these epoch-making books was the rotation of crops,
though he occasionally diverged upon deep-ploughing and kindred
themes. The tours excited, for the first time, the agricultural spirit
of Great Britain, and their author almost at once became a celebrated

In 1765 Young married the wrong woman, and started upon a career of
profound matrimonial discomfort, and even misery; a blunt, truthful
writer, he makes no bones about it. It was an unhappy marriage from
its beginning in 1765 to its end in 1815. Young himself, though by no
means vivacious in this autobiography, where he frankly complains of
himself as having no more wit than a fig, was a very popular person
with all classes and both sexes. He was an enormous diner-out, and his
authority as an agriculturist, united to his undeniable charm as a
companion, threw open to him all the great places in the country. But
his finances were a perpetual trouble. On carrot seeds and cabbages he
was an authority, but from 1766-1775 his income never exceeded L300 a
year. He had an excellent mother, whom he dearly loved, and who with
the characteristic bluntness of the family bade him think less about
carrots and more about his Creator. 'You may call all this rubbish if
you please, but a time will come when you will be convinced whose
notions are rubbish, yours or mine.' And the old lady was quite right,
as mothers so frequently turn out to be. In 1778 Young went over to
Ireland as agent to Lord Kingsborough. He got L500 down, and was to
have an annual salary of L500 and a house. Young soon got to work, and
became anxious to persuade his employer to let his lands direct to the
occupying cottar, and so get rid of the middlemen. This did not suit a
certain Major Thornhill, a relative and leaseholder, and thereupon a
pretty plot was hatched. Lady K. had a Catholic governess, a Miss
Crosby, upon whom it was thought my lord occasionally cast the eye of
partiality, whilst Arthur himself got on very well with her ladyship,
who was heard to pronounce him to be, as he was, 'one of the most
lively, agreeable fellows.' Out of these materials the Major and his
helpmeet concocted a double plot--namely, to make the lord jealous of
the steward, and the lady jealous of the governess, and to cause both
lord and lady respectively to believe that the steward was deeply
engaged both in abetting the amour of the lord and the governess, and
in prosecuting his own amour with the lady. The result was that both
governess and steward got notice to quit; but--and this is very
Irish--both went off with life annuities, the governess with one of
L50 per annum, and the steward with one of L72, and, what is still
more odd, we find Young at the end of his life in receipt of his
annuity. They were an expensive couple, these two.

In 1780 Young published his _Irish Tour_, which was immediately
successful and popular in both kingdoms. In it he attacked the bounty
paid on the land-carriage of corn to Dublin. The bounty was, in the
session of Parliament next after the publication of Young's book,
reduced by one-half, and soon given up entirely. Young maintains that
this saved Ireland L80,000 a year. Nobody seems to have said 'Thank

In May, 1783, was born the child 'Bobbin,' whose death, fourteen years
later, was to change the current of Young's life. The following year
Arthur Young paid his first visit to France, confining himself,
however, to Calais and its neighbourhood, and in the same year his
mother died, and, by an arrangement with his eldest brother, 'this
patch of landed property,' as Young calls Bradfield, descended upon
him. His first famous journey in France was made between May and
November, 1787, and cost the marvellously small sum of L118 15s. 2d.
His second and third French journeys were made in July, 1788, and in
June, 1789. The third was the longest, and extended into 1790. Three
years later Young was appointed, by Pitt, Secretary of the then Board
of Agriculture. A melancholy account is given by Young of a visit he
paid Burke at Gregory's in 1796. Young drove there in the chariot of
his fussy chief, Sir John Sinclair, to discover what Burke's
intentions might be as to an intended publication of his relating to
the price of labour. The account, which occupies four pages, is too
long for quotation. It concludes thus:

   'I am glad once more to have seen and conversed with the man who I
   hold to possess the greatest and most brilliant gifts of any penman
   of the age in which he lived. Whose conversation has often
   fascinated me, whose eloquence has charmed; whose writings have
   delighted and instructed the world; whose name will without
   question descend to the latest posterity. But to behold so great a
   genius, so deepened with melancholy, stooping with infirmity of
   body, feeling the anguish of a lacerated mind, and sinking to the
   grave under accumulated misery--to see all this in a character I
   venerate, and apparently without resource or comfort, wounded
   every feeling of my soul, and I left him the next day almost as
   low-spirited as himself.'

But Young himself was soon to pass into the same Valley of the Shadow,
not so much of Death as of Joyless Life. His beloved and idolized
Bobbin died on July 14, 1797. She seems to have been a wise little
maiden, to whom her father wrote most affectionate letters, full of
rather unsuitable details, political and financial and otherwise, and
not scrupling to speak of the child's mother in a disagreeable manner.
Bobbin replies with delightful composure to these worrying letters:

   'I have just got six of the most beautiful little rabbits you ever
   saw; they skip about so prettily you can't think, and I shall have
   some more in a few weeks. Having had so much physic, I am right
   down tired of it. I take it still twice a day--my appetite is
   better. What can you mind politics so for? I don't think about
   them.--Well, good-bye, and believe me, dear papa, your dutiful

After poor little Bobbin's death, it happened to Arthur Young even as
his mother foretold. Carrots and crops and farming tours hastily
retreat, and we find the eminent agriculturist busying himself, with
the same seriousness and good faith he had devoted to the rotation of
the crops, with the sermons and treatises of Clarke and Jortin and
Secker and Tillotson, etc., and all to discover what had become of his
dear little Bobbin. His outlook upon the world was changed--the great
parties at Petworth, at Euston, at Woburn struck him differently; the
huge irreligion of the world filled him as for the first time with
amazement and horror:

   'How few years are passed since I should have pushed on eagerly to
   Woburn! This time twelve months I dined with the Duke on
   Sunday--the party not very numerous, but chiefly of rank--the
   entertainment more splendid than usual there. He expects me to-day,
   but I have more pleasure in resting, going twice to church, and
   eating a morsel of cold lamb at a very humble inn, than partaking
   of gaiety and dissipation at a great table which might as well be
   spread for a company of heathens as English lords and men of

It is all mighty fine calling this religious hypochondria and
depression of spirits. It is one of the facts of life. Young stuck to
his post, and did his work, and quarrelled with his wife to the end,
or nearly so. He cannot have been so lively and agreeable a companion
as of old, for we find him in November, 1806, at Euston, endeavouring
to impress on the Duke of Grafton that by his tenets he had placed
himself entirely under the covenant of works, and that he must be
tried for them, and that 'I would not be in such a situation for ten
thousand worlds. He was mild and more patient than I expected.'
Perhaps, after all, Carlyle was not so far wrong when he praised our
aristocracy for their 'politeness.' In 1808 Young became blind. In
1815 his wife died. In 1820 he died himself, leaving behind him seven
packets of manuscript and twelve folio volumes of correspondence.

Young's great work, _Travels during the Years 1787, 1788, and 1789,
undertaken more particularly with a View of Ascertaining the
Cultivation, Wealth, Resources, and National Prosperity of the Kingdom
of France_, published in 1792, is one of those books which will always
be a great favourite with somebody. It will outlive eloquence and
outstay philosophy. It contains some famous passages.


Proverbs are said to be but half-truths, but 'give a dog a bad name
and hang him' is a saying almost as veracious as it is felicitous; and
to no one can it possibly be applied with greater force than to Thomas
Paine, the rebellious staymaker, the bankrupt tobacconist, the amazing
author of _Common-sense_, _The Rights of Man_, and _The Age of Reason_.

Until quite recently Tom Paine lay without the pale of toleration. No
circle of liberality was constructed wide enough to include him. Even
the scouted Unitarian scouted Thomas. He was 'the infamous Paine,'
'the vulgar atheist.' Whenever mentioned in pious discourse it was but
to be waved on one side as thus: 'No one of my hearers is likely to be
led astray by the scurrilous blasphemies of Paine.'

I can well remember when an asserted intimacy with the writings of
Paine marked a man from his fellows and invested him in children's
minds with a horrid fascination. The writings themselves were only to
be seen in bookshops of evil reputation, and, when hastily turned over
with furtive glances, proved to be printed in small type and on
villainous paper. For a boy to have bought them and taken them inside
a decent home would have been to run the risk of fierce wrath in this
life and the threat of it in the next. If ever there was a hung dog,
his name was Tom Paine.

But History is, as we know, for ever revising her records. None of her
judgments are final. A life of Thomas Paine, in two portly and
well-printed volumes, with gilt tops, wide margins, spare leaves at
the end, and all the other signs and tokens of literary
respectability, has lately appeared. No President, no Prime
Minister--nay, no Bishop or Moderator--need hope to have his memoirs
printed in better style than are these of Thomas Paine, by Mr. Moncure
D. Conway. Were any additional proof required of the complete
resuscitation of Paine's reputation, it might be found in the fact
that his life _is_ in two volumes, though it would have been far
better told in one.

Mr. Conway believes implicitly in Paine--not merely in his virtue and
intelligence, but that he was a truly great man, who played a great
part in human affairs. He will no more admit that Paine was a
busybody, inflated with conceit and with a strong dash of insolence,
than he will that Thomas was a drunkard. That Paine's speech was
undoubtedly plain and his nose undeniably red is as far as Mr. Conway
will go. If we are to follow the biographer the whole way, we must not
only unhang the dog, but give him sepulture amongst the sceptred
Sovereigns who rule us from their urns.

Thomas Paine was born at Thetford, in Norfolk, in January, 1737, and
sailed for America in 1774, then being thirty-seven years of age. Up
to this date he was a rank failure. His trade was staymaking, but he
had tried his hand at many things. He was twice an Excise officer, but
was twice dismissed the service, the first time for falsely
pretending to have made certain inspections which, in fact, he had not
made, and the second time for carrying on business in an excisable
article--tobacco, to wit--without the leave of the Board. Paine had
married the tobacconist's business, but neither the marriage nor the
business prospered; the second was sold by auction, and the first
terminated by mutual consent.

Mr. Conway labours over these early days of his hero very much, but he
can make nothing of them. Paine was an Excise officer at Lewes, where,
so Mr. Conway reminds us, 'seven centuries before Paine opened his
office in Lewes, came Harold's son, possibly to take charge of the
Excise as established by Edward the Confessor, just deceased.' This
device of biographers is a little stale. The Confessor was guiltless
of the Excise.

Paine's going to America was due to Benjamin Franklin, who made
Paine's acquaintance in London, and, having the wit to see his
ability, recommended him 'as a clerk or assistant-tutor in a school or
assistant-surveyor.' Thus armed, Paine made his appearance in
Philadelphia, where he at once obtained employment as editor of an
intended periodical called the _Pennsylvanian Magazine or American
Museum_, the first number of which appeared in January, 1775. Never
was anything luckier. Paine was, without knowing it, a born
journalist. His capacity for writing on the spur of the moment was
endless, and his delight in doing so boundless. He had no difficulty
for 'copy', though in those days contributors were few. He needed no
contributors. He was 'Atlanticus'; he was 'Vox Populi'; he was
'Aesop.' The unsigned articles were also mostly his. Having at last,
after many adventures and false starts, found his vocation, Paine
stuck to it. He spent the rest of his days with a pen in his hand,
scribbling his advice and obtruding his counsel on men and nations.
Both were usually of excellent quality.

Paine was also happy in the moment of his arrival in America. The War
of Independence was imminent, and in April, 1775, occurred 'the
massacre of Lexington.' The Colonists were angry, but puzzled. They
hardly knew what they wanted. They lacked a definite opinion to
entertain and a cry to asseverate. Paine had no doubts. He hated
British institutions with all the hatred of a civil servant who has
had 'the sack.'

In January, 1776, he published his pamphlet _Common-sense_, which must
be ranked with the most famous pamphlets ever written. It is difficult
to wade through now, but even _The Conduct of the Allies_ is not easy
reading, and yet between Paine and Swift there is a great gulf fixed.
The keynote of _Common-sense_ was separation once and for ever, and
the establishment of a great Republic of the West. It hit between wind
and water, had a great sale, and made its author a personage and, in
his own opinion, a divinity.

Paine now became the penman of the rebels. His series of manifestoes,
entitled _The Crisis_, were widely read and carried healing on their
wings, and in 1777 he was elected Secretary to the Committee of
Foreign Affairs. Charles Lamb once declared that Rousseau was a good
enough Jesus Christ for the French, and he was capable of declaring
Tom Paine a good enough Milton for the Yankees. However that may be,
Paine was an indefatigable and useful public servant. He was a bad
gauger for King George, but he was an admirable scribe for a
revolution conducted on constitutional principles.

To follow his history through the war would be tedious. What
Washington and Jefferson really thought of him we shall never know.
He was never mercenary, but his pride was wounded that so little
recognition of his astounding services was forthcoming. The
ingratitude of Kings was a commonplace; the ingratitude of peoples an
unpleasing novelty. But Washington bestirred himself at last, and
Paine was voted an estate of 277 acres, more or less, and a sum of
money. This was in 1784.

Three years afterwards Thomas visited England, where he kept good
company and was very usefully employed engineering, for which
excellent pursuit he would appear to have had great natural aptitude.
Blackfriars Bridge had just tumbled down, and it was Paine's laudable
ambition to build its successor in iron. But the Bastille fell down as
well as Blackfriars Bridge, and was too much for Paine. As Mr. Conway
beautifully puts it: 'But again the Cause arose before him; he must
part from all--patent interests, literary leisure, fine society--and
take the hand of Liberty undowered, but as yet unstained. He must beat
his bridge-iron into a key that shall unlock the British Bastille,
whose walls he sees steadily closing around the people.' 'Miching
mallecho--this means mischief;' and so it proved.

Burke is responsible for the _Rights of Man_. This splendid
sentimentalist published his _Reflections on the Revolution in France_
in November, 1790. Paine immediately sat down in the Angel, Islington,
and began his reply. He was not unqualified to answer Burke; he had
fought a good fight between the years 1775 and 1784. Mr. Conway has
some ground for his epigram, 'where Burke had dabbled, Paine had
dived.' There is nothing in the _Rights of Man_ which would now
frighten, though some of its expressions might still shock, a
lady-in-waiting; but to profess Republicanism in 1791 was no joke, and
the book was proclaimed and Paine prosecuted. Acting upon the advice
of William Blake (the truly sublime), Paine escaped to France, where
he was elected by three departments to a seat in the Convention, and
in that Convention he sat from September, 1792, to December, 1793,
when he was found quarters in the Luxembourg Prison.

This invitation to foreigners to take part in the conduct of the
French Revolution was surely one of the oddest things that ever
happened, but Paine thought it natural enough so far, at least, as he
was concerned. He could not speak a word of French, and all his
harangues had to be translated and read to the Convention by a
secretary, whilst Thomas stood smirking in the Tribune. His behaviour
throughout was most creditable to him. He acted with the Girondists,
and strongly opposed and voted against the murder of the King. His
notion of a revolution was one by pamphlet, and he shrank from deeds
of blood. His whole position was false and ridiculous. He really
counted for nothing. The members of the Convention grew tired of his
doctrinaire harangues, which, in fact, bored them not a little; but
they respected his enthusiasm and the part he had played in America,
whither they would gladly he had returned. Who put him in prison is a
mystery. Mr. Conway thinks it was the American Minister in Paris,
Gouverneur Morris. He escaped the guillotine, and was set free after
ten months' confinement.

All this time Washington had not moved a finger in behalf of the
author of _Common-sense_ and _The Crisis_. Amongst Paine's papers this
epigram was found:

                     STATUE OF WASHINGTON.

          Take from the mine the coldest, hardest stone;
          It needs no fashion--it is Washington.
          But if you chisel, let the stroke be rude,
          And on his heart engrave--"Ingratitude."'

This is hard hitting.

So far we have only had the Republican Paine, the outlaw Paine; the
atheist Paine has not appeared. He did so in the _Age of Reason_,
first published in 1794-1795. The object of this book was religious.
Paine was a vehement believer in God and in the Divine government of
the world, but he was not, to put it mildly, a Bible Christian. Nobody
now is ever likely to read the _Age of Reason_ for instruction or
amusement. Who now reads even Mr. Greg's _Creed of Christendom_, which
is in effect, though not in substance, the same kind of book? Paine
was a coarse writer, without refinement of nature, and he used brutal
expressions and hurled his vulgar words about in a manner certain to
displease. Still, despite it all, the _Age of Reason_ is a religious
book, though a singularly unattractive one.

Paine remained in France advocating all kinds of things, including a
descent on England, the abduction of the Royal Family, and a Free
Constitution. Napoleon sought him out, and assured him that he
(Napoleon) slept with the _Rights of Man_ under his pillow. Paine
believed him.

In 1802 Paine returned to America, after fifteen years' absence.

'Thou stricken friend of man,' exclaims Mr. Conway in a fine passage,
'who hast appealed from the God of Wrath to the God of Humanity, see
in the distance that Maryland coast which early voyagers called
Avalon, and sing again your song when first stepping on that shore
twenty-seven years ago.'

The rest of Paine's life was spent in America without distinction or
much happiness. He continued writing to the last, and died bravely on
the morning of June 8, 1809.

The Americans did not appreciate Paine's theology, and in 1819 allowed
Cobbett to carry the bones of the author of _Common-sense_ to England,
where--'as rare things will,' so, at least, Mr. Browning sings--they
vanished. Nobody knows what has become of them.

As a writer Paine has no merits of a lasting character, but he had a
marvellous journalistic knack for inventing names and headings. He is
believed to have concocted the two phrases 'The United States of
America' and 'The Religion of Humanity.' Considering how little he had
read, his discourses on the theory of government are wonderful, and
his views generally were almost invariably liberal, sensible, and
humane. What ruined him was an intolerable self-conceit, which led him
to believe that his own productions superseded those of other men. He
knew off by heart, and was fond of repeating, his own _Common-sense_
and the _Rights of Man_. He was destitute of the spirit of research,
and was wholly without one shred of humility. He was an oddity, a
character, but he never took the first step towards becoming a great


 [Footnote A: _Charles Bradlaugh: A Record of His Life and Work_. By
 his daughter, Hypatia Bradlaugh Bonner. Two vols. London: T. Fisher
 Unwin, 1894.]

Mr. Bradlaugh was a noticeable man, and his life, even though it
appears in the unwelcome but familiar shape of two octavo volumes, is
a noticeable book. It is useless to argue with biographers; they, at
all events, are neither utilitarians nor opportunists, but idealists
pure and simple. What is the good of reminding them, being so
majestical, of Guizot's pertinent remark, 'that if a book is
unreadable it will not be read,' or of the older saying, 'A great book
is a great evil'? for all such observations they simply put on one
side as being, perhaps, true for others, but not for them. Had _Mr.
Bradlaugh's Life_ been just half the size it would have had, at least,
twice as many readers.

The pity is all the greater because Mrs. Bonner has really performed a
difficult task after a noble fashion and in a truly pious spirit. Her
father's life was a melancholy one, and it became her duty as his
biographer to break a silence on painful subjects about which he had
preferred to say nothing. His reticence was a manly reticence; though
a highly sensitive mortal, he preferred to put up with calumny rather
than lay bare family sorrows and shame. His daughter, though compelled
to break this silence, has done so in a manner full of dignity and
feeling. The ruffians who in times past slandered the moral character
of Bradlaugh will not probably read his life, nor, if they did, would
they repent of their baseness. The willingness to believe everything
evil of an adversary is incurable, springing as it does from a habit
of mind. It was well said by Mr. Mill: 'I have learned from experience
that many false opinions may be exchanged for true ones, without in
the least altering the habits of mind of which false opinions are the
result.' Now that Mr. Bradlaugh is dead, no purpose is served by
repeating false accusations as to his treatment of his wife, or of his
pious brother, or as to his disregard of family ties; but the next
atheist who crops up must not expect any more generous treatment than
Bradlaugh received from that particularly odious class of persons of
whom it has been wittily said that so great is their zeal for
religion, they have never time to say their prayers.

Mr. Bradlaugh will, I suppose, be hereafter described in the
dictionaries of biography as 'Freethinker and Politician.' Of the
politician there is here no need to speak. He was a Radical of the
old-fashioned type. When he first stood for Northampton in 1868, his
election address was made up of tempting dishes, which afterwards
composed Mr. Chamberlain's famous but unauthorized programme of 1885,
with minority representation thrown in. Unpopular thinkers who have
been pelted with stones by Christians, slightly the worse for liquor,
are apt to think well of minorities. Mr. Bradlaugh's Radicalism had
an individualistic flavour. He thought well of thrift, thereby
incurring censure. Mr. Bradlaugh's politics are familiar enough. What
about his freethinking? English freethinkers may be divided into two
classes--those who have been educated and those who have had to
educate themselves. The former class might apply to their own case the
language once employed by Dr. Newman to describe himself and his
brethren of the Oratory:

   'We have been nourished for the greater part of our lives in the
   bosom of the great schools and universities of Protestant England;
   we have been the foster foster-sons of the Edwards and Henries, the
   Wykehams and Wolseys, of whom Englishmen are wont to make so much;
   we have grown up amid hundreds of contemporaries, scattered at
   present all over the country in those special ranks of society
   which are the very walk of a member of the legislature.'

These first-class free-thinkers have an excellent time of it, and, to
use a fashionable phrase, 'do themselves very well indeed.' They move
freely in society; their books lie on every table; they hob-a-nob with
Bishops; and when they come to die, their orthodox relations gather
round them, and lay them in the earth 'in the sure and certain
hope'--so, at least, priestly lips are found willing to assert--'of
the resurrection to eternal life through our Lord Jesus Christ.' And
yet there was not a dogma of the Christian faith in which they were in
a position to profess their belief.

The free-thinkers of the second class, poor fellows! have hitherto led
very different lives. Their foster-parents have been poverty and
hardship; their school education has usually terminated at eleven; all
their lives they have been desperately poor; alone, unaided, they
have been left to fight the battle of a Free Press.

Richard Carlile, as honourable a man as most, and between whose
religious opinions and (let us say) Lord Palmerston's there was
probably no difference worth mentioning, spent nine out of the
fifty-two years of his life in prison. Attorney-Generals, and, indeed,
every degree of prosecuting counsel have abused this kind of
free-thinker, not merely with professional impunity, but amidst
popular applause. Judges, speaking with emotion, have exhibited the
utmost horror of atheistical opinions, and have railed in good set
terms at the wretch who has been dragged before them, and have then,
at the rising of the court, proceeded to their club and played cards
till dinner-time with a first-class free-thinker for partner.

This is natural and easily accounted for, but we need not be surprised
if, in the biographies of second-class freethinkers, bitterness is
occasionally exhibited towards the well-to-do brethren who decline
what Dr. Bentley, in his Boyle Lectures, called 'the public odium and
resentment of the magistrate.'

Mr. Bradlaugh was a freethinker of the second class. His father was a
solicitor's clerk on a salary which never exceeded L2 2s. a week; his
mother had been a nursery-maid; and he himself was born in 1833 in
Bacchus Walk, Hoxton. At seven he went to a national school, but at
eleven his school education ended, and he became an office-boy. At
fourteen he was a wharf-clerk and cashier to a coal-merchant. His
parents were not much addicted to church-going, but Charles was from
the first a serious boy, and became at a somewhat early age a
Sunday-school teacher at St. Peter's, Hackney Road. The incumbent, in
order to prepare him for Confirmation, set him to work to extract the
Thirty-nine Articles out of the four Gospels. Unhappy task, worthy to
be described by the pen of the biographer of John Sterling. The
youthful wharfinger could not find the Articles in the Gospels, and
informed the Rev. J.G. Packer of the fact. His letter conveying this
intelligence is not forthcoming, and probably enough contained
offensive matter, for Mr. Packer seems at once to have denounced young
Bradlaugh as one engaged in atheistical inquiries, to have suspended
him from the Sunday-school, to have made it very disagreeable for him
at home and with his employer, and to have wound up by giving him
three days to change his views or to lose his place.

Mr. Packer has been well abused, but it has never been the fashion to
treat youthful atheists with much respect. When Coleridge confided to
the Rev. James Boyer that he (S.T. Coleridge) was inclined to atheism,
the reverend gentleman had him stripped and flogged. Mr. Packer,
however, does seem to have been too hasty, for Bradlaugh did not
formally abandon his beliefs until some months after his suspension.
He retired for a short season, and studied Hebrew under Mr. James
Savage, of Circus Street, Marylebone. He emerged an unbeliever, aged
sixteen. Expelled from his wharf, he sold coal on commission, but his
principal, if not his only customer, the wife of a baker, discovering
that he was an infidel, gave him no more orders, being afraid, so she
said, that her bread would smell of brimstone.

In 1850 Bradlaugh published his first pamphlet, _A Few Words on the
Christian Creed_, and dedicated it to the unhappy Mr. Packer. But
starvation stared him in the face, and in the same year he enlisted in
the 7th Dragoon Guards, and spent the next three years in Ireland,
where he earned a good character, and on more occasions than one
showed that adroitness for which he was afterwards remarkable.

In October, 1853, his mother and sister with great difficulty raised
the L30 necessary to buy his discharge, and Bradlaugh returned to
London, not only full grown, but well fed. Had he not taken the
Queen's shilling he never would have lived to fight the battle he did.

He became a solicitor's clerk on a miserably small pay, and took to
lecturing as 'Iconoclast.' In 1855 he was married at St. Philip's
Church, Stepney. His lectures and discussions began to assume great
proportions, and covered more than twenty years of his life. Terribly
hard work they were. Profits there were none, or next to none. Few men
have endured greater hardships.

In 1860 the _National Reformer_ was started, and his warfare in the
courts began. In 1868 he first stood for Northampton, which he
unsuccessfully contested three times. In April, 1880, he was returned
to Parliament, and then began the famous struggle with which the
constitutional historian will have to deal. After this date the facts
are well known. Bradlaugh died on January 30, 1891.

His life was a hard one from beginning to end. He had no advantages.
Nobody really helped him or influenced him or mollified him. He had
never either money or repose; he had no time to travel, except as a
propagandist, no time to acquire knowledge for its own sake; he was
often abused but seldom criticised. In a single sentence, he was never
taught the extent of his own ignorance.

His attitude towards the Christian religion and the Bible was a
perfectly fair one, and ought not to have brought down upon him any
abuse whatever. There are more ways than one of dealing with religion.
It may be approached as a mystery or as a series of events supported
by testimony. If the evidence is trustworthy, if the witnesses are
irreproachable, if they submit successfully to examination and
cross-examination, then, however remarkable or out of the way may be
the facts to which they depose, they are entitled to be believed. This
is a mode of treatment with which we are all familiar, whether as
applied to the Bible or to the authority of the Church. Nobody is
expected to believe in the authority of the Church until satisfied
by the exercise of his reason that the Church in question possesses
'the notes' of a true Church. This was the aspect of the question
which engaged Bradlaugh's attention. He was critical, legal. He
took objections, insisted on discrepancies, cross-examined as to
credibility, and came to the conclusion that the case for the
supernatural was not made out. And this he did not after the
first-class fashion in the study or in octavo volumes, but in the
street. His audiences were not Mr. Mudie's subscribers, but men and
women earning weekly wages. The coarseness of his language, the
offensiveness of his imagery, have been greatly exaggerated. It is now
a good many years since I heard him lecture in a northern town on the
Bible to an audience almost wholly composed of artisans. He was bitter
and aggressive, but the treatment he was then experiencing accounted
for this. As an avowed atheist he received no quarter, and he might
fairly say with Wilfred Osbaldistone, 'It's hard I should get raps
over the costard, and only pay you back in make-believes.'

It was not what Bradlaugh said, but the people he said it to, that
drew down upon him the censure of the magistrate, and (unkindest cut
of all) the condemnation of the House of Commons.

Of all the evils from which the lovers of religion do well to pray
that their faith may be delivered, the worst is that it should ever
come to be discussed across the floor of the House of Commons. The
self-elected champions of the Christian faith who then ride into the
lists are of a kind well calculated to make Piety hide her head for
very shame. Rowdy noblemen, intemperate country gentlemen, sterile
lawyers, cynical but wealthy sceptics who maintain religion as another
fence round their property, hereditary Nonconformists whose God is
respectability and whose goal a baronetcy, contrive, with a score or
two of bigots thrown in, to make a carnival of folly, a veritable
devil's dance of blasphemy. The debates on Bradlaugh's oath-taking
extended over four years, and will make melancholy reading for
posterity. Two figures, and two figures only, stand out in solitary
grandeur, those of a Quaker and an Anglican--Bright and Gladstone.

The conclusion which an attentive reading of Mr. Bradlaugh's biography
forces upon me is that in all probability he was the last freethinker
who will be exposed, for many a long day (it would be more than
usually rash to write 'ever'), to pains and penalties for uttering his
unbelief. It is true the Blasphemy Laws are not yet repealed; it may
be true for all I know that Christianity is still part and parcel
of the common law; it is possibly an indictable offence to lend
_Literature and Dogma_ and _God and the Bible_ to a friend; but,
however these things may be, Mr. Bradlaugh's stock-in-trade is now
free of the market-place, where just at present, at all events, its
price is low. It has become pretty plain that neither the Fortress of
Holy Scripture nor the Rock of Church Authority is likely to be taken
by storm. The Mystery of Creation, the unsolvable problem of matter,
continue to press upon us more heavily than ever. Neither by Paleys
nor by Bradlaughs will religion be either bolstered up or pulled down.
Sceptics and Sacramentarians must be content to put up with one
another's vagaries for some time to come. Indeed, the new socialists,
though at present but poor theologians (one hasty reading of _Lux
Mundi_ does not make a theologian), are casting favourable eyes
upon Sacramentarianism, deeming it to have a distinct flavour of
Collectivism. Calvinism, on the other hand, is considered repulsively
individualistic, being based upon the notion that it is the duty of
each man to secure his own salvation.

But whether Bradlaugh was the last of his race or not, he was a
brave man whose life well deserves an honourable place amongst the
biographies of those Radicals who have suffered in the cause of
Free-thought, and into the fruits of whose labours others have


The late Sir William Fraser was not, I have been told, a popular
person in that society about which he thought so much, and his book,
_Disraeli and His Day_, did not succeed in attracting much of the
notice of the general reader, and failed, so I, at least, have been
made to understand, to win a verdict of approval from the really well

I consider the book a very good one, in the sense of being valuable.
Whatever your mood may be, that of the moralist, cynic, satirist,
humourist, whether you love, pity, or despise your fellow-man, here is
grist for your mill. It feeds the mind.

Although in form the book is but a stringing together of stories,
incidents, and aphorisms, still the whole produces a distinct effect.
To state what that effect is would be, I suppose, the higher
criticism. It is not altogether disagreeable; it is decidedly amusing;
it is clever and somewhat contemptible. Sir William Fraser was a
baronet who thought well of his order. He desiderated a tribunal to
determine the right to the title, and he opined that the courtesy
prefix of 'Honourable,' which once, it appears, belonged to baronets,
should be restored to them. Apart from these opinions, ridiculous and
peculiar, Sir William Fraser stands revealed in this volume as cast in
a familiar mould. The words 'gentleman,' 'White's,' 'Society,' often
flow from his pen, and we may be sure were engraven on his heart. He
had seen a world wrecked. When he was young, so he tells his readers,
the world consisted of at least three, and certainly not more than
five, hundred persons who were accustomed night after night during the
season to make their appearance at a certain number of houses, which
are affectionately enumerated. A new face at any one of these
gatherings immediately attracted attention, as, indeed, it is easy to
believe it would. 'Anything for a change,' as somebody observes in

This is the atmosphere of the book, and Sir William breathes in it
very pleasantly. Endowed by Nature with a retentive memory and a
literary taste, active if singular, he may be discovered in his own
pages moving up and down, in and out of society, supplying and
correcting quotations, and gratifying the vanity of distinguished
authors by remembering their own writings better than they did
themselves. The book makes one clearly comprehend what a monstrous
clever fellow the rank and file of the Tory party must have felt Sir
William Fraser to be. This, however, is only background. In the front
of the picture we have the mysterious outlines, the strange
personality, struggling between the bizarre and the romantic, of 'the
Jew,' as big George Bentinck was ever accustomed to denominate his
leader. Sir William Fraser's Disraeli is a very different figure from
Sir Stafford Northcote's. The myth about the pocket Sophocles is
rudely exploded. Sir William is certain that Disraeli could not have
construed a chapter of the Greek Testament. He found such mythology
as he required where many an honest fellow has found it before him--in
Lempriere's Dictionary. His French accent, as Sir William records it,
was most satisfactory, and a conclusive proof of his _bona-fides_.
Disraeli, it is clear, cared as little for literature as he did for
art. He admired Gray, as every man with a sense for epithet must; he
studied Junius, whose style, so Sir William Fraser believes, he
surpassed in his 'Runnymede' letters. Sir William Fraser kindly
explains the etymology of this strange word 'Runnymede,' as he also
does that of 'Parliament,' which he says is '_Parliamo mente_' (Let us
speak our minds). Sir William clearly possessed the learning denied to
his chief.

Beyond apparently imposing upon Sir Stafford Northcote, Disraeli
himself never made any vain pretensions to be devoted to pursuits for
which he did not care a rap. He once dreamt of an epic poem, and his
early ambition urged him a step or two in that direction, but his
critical faculty, which, despite all his monstrosities of taste, was
vital, restrained him from making a fool of himself, and he forswore
the muse, puffed the prostitute away, and carried his very saleable
wares to another market, where his efforts were crowned with
prodigious success. Sir William Fraser introduces his great man to us
as observing, in reply to a question, that revenge was the passion
which gives pleasure the latest. A man, he continued, will enjoy that
when even avarice has ceased to please. As a matter of fact, Disraeli
himself was neither avaricious nor revengeful, and, as far as one can
judge, was never tempted to be either. This is the fatal defect of
almost all Disraeli's aphorisms: they are dead words, whilst the
words of a true aphorism have veins filled with the life of their
utterer. Nothing of this sort ever escaped the lips of our modern
Sphinx. If he had any faiths, any deep convictions, any rooted
principles, he held his tongue about them. He was, Sir William tells
us, an indolent man. It is doubtful whether he ever did, apart from
the preparation and delivery of his speeches, what would be called by
a professional man a hard day's work in his life. He had courage, wit,
insight, instinct, prevision, and a thorough persuasion that he
perfectly understood the materials he had to work upon and the tools
within his reach. Perhaps no man ever gauged more accurately or more
profoundly despised that 'world' Sir William Fraser so pathetically
laments. For folly, egotism, vanity, conceit, and stupidity, he had an
amazing eye. He could not, owing to his short sight, read men's faces
across the floor of the House, but he did not require the aid of any
optic nerve to see the petty secrets of their souls. His best sayings
have men's weaknesses for their text. Sir William's book gives many
excellent examples. One laughs throughout.

Sir William would have us believe that in later life Disraeli clung
affectionately to dulness--to gentle dulness. He did not want to be
surrounded by wits. He had been one himself in his youth, and he
questioned their sincerity. It would almost appear from passages in
the book that Disraeli found even Sir William Fraser too pungent for
him. Once, we are told, the impenetrable Prime Minister quailed before
Sir William's reproachful oratory. The story is not of a cock and a
bull, but of a question put in the House of Commons by Sir William,
who was snubbed by the Home Secretary, who was cheered by Disraeli.
This was intolerable, and accordingly next day, being, as good luck
would have it, a Friday, when, as all men and members know, 'it is in
the power of any member to bring forward any topic he may choose,' Sir
William naturally chose the topic nearest to his heart, and 'said a
few words on my wrongs.'

   'During my performance I watched Disraeli narrowly. I could not see
   his face, but I noticed that whenever I became in any way
   disagreeable--in short, whenever my words really bit--they were
   invariably followed by one movement. Sitting as he always did with
   his right knee over his left, whenever the words touched him he
   moved the pendant leg twice or three times, then curved his foot
   upwards. I could observe no other sign of emotion, but this was
   distinct. Some years afterwards, on a somewhat more important
   occasion at the Conference at Berlin, a great German philosopher,
   Herr ----, went to Berlin on purpose to study Disraeli's character.
   He said afterwards that he was most struck by the more than Indian
   stoicism which Disraeli showed. To this there was one exception.
   "Like all men of his race, he has one sign of emotion which never
   fails to show itself--the movement of the leg that is crossed over
   the other, and of the foot!" The person who told me this had never
   heard me hint, nor had anyone, that I had observed this peculiar
   symptom on the earlier occasion to which I have referred.'

Statesmen of Jewish descent, with a reputation for stoicism to
preserve, would do well to learn from this story not to swing their
crossed leg when tired. The great want about Mr. Disraeli is something
to hang the countless anecdotes about him upon. Most remarkable men
have some predominant feature of character round which you can build
your general conception of them, or, at all events, there has been
some great incident in their lives for ever connected with their
names, and your imagination mixes the man and the event together. Who
can think of Peel without remembering the Corn Laws and the
reverberating sentence: 'I shall leave a name execrated by every
monopolist who, for less honourable motives, clamours for Protection
because it conduces to his own individual benefit; but it may be that
I shall leave a name sometimes remembered with expressions of
good-will in the abode of those whose lot it is to labour and to earn
their daily bread with the sweat of their brow, when they shall
recruit their exhausted strength with abundant and untaxed food, the
sweeter because it is no longer leavened with a sense of injustice.'
But round what are our memories of Disraeli to cluster? Sir William
Fraser speaks rapturously of his wondrous mind and of his intellect,
but where is posterity to look for evidences of either? Certainly not
in Sir William's book, which shows us a wearied wit and nothing more.
Carlyle once asked, 'How long will John Bull permit this absurd
monkey'--meaning Mr. Disraeli--'to dance upon his stomach?' The
question was coarsely put, but there is nothing in Sir William's book
to make one wonder it should have been asked. Mr. Disraeli lived to
offer Carlyle the Grand Cross of the Order of the Bath, and that, in
Sir William's opinion, is enough to dispose of Carlyle's vituperation;
but, after all, the Grand Cross is no answer to anything except an
application for it.

A great many other people are made to cross Sir William Fraser's
stage. His comments upon them are lively, independent, and original.
He liked Cobden and hated Bright. The reason for this he makes quite
plain. He thinks he detected in Cobden a deprecatory manner--a
recognition of the sublime truth that he, Richard Cobden, had not been
half so well educated as the mob of Tories he was addressing. Bright,
on the other band, was fat and rude, and thought that most country
gentlemen and town-bred wits were either fools or fribbles. This was
intolerable. Here was a man who not only could not have belonged to
the 'world,' but honestly did not wish to, and was persuaded--the
gross fellow--that he and his world were better in every respect than
the exclusive circles which listened to Sir William Fraser's _bon
mots_ and tags from the poets. Certainly there was nothing deprecatory
about John Bright. He could be quite as insolent in his way as any
aristocrat in his. He had a habit, we are told, of slowly getting up
and walking out of the House in the middle of Mr. Disraeli's speeches,
and just when that ingenious orator was leading up to a carefully
prepared point, and then immediately returning behind the Speaker's
chair. If this is true, it was perhaps rude, but nobody can deny that
it is a Tory dodge of indicating disdain. What was really irritating
about Mr. Bright was that his disdain was genuine. He did think very
little of the Tory party, and he did not care one straw for the
opinion of society. He positively would not have cared to have been
made a baronet. Sir William Fraser seems to have been really fond of
Disraeli, and the very last time he met his great man in the Carlton
Club he told him a story too broad to be printed. The great man
pronounced it admirable, and passed on his weary way.


It must always be rash to speak positively about human nature, whose
various types of character are singularly tough, and endure, if not
for ever, for a very long time; yet some types do seem to show signs
of wearing out. The connoisseur, for example, here in England is
hardly what he was. He has specialized, and behind him there is now
the bottomless purse of the multi-millionaire, who buys as he is
bidden, and has no sense of prices. If the multi-millionaire wants a
thing, why should he not have it? The gaping mob, penniless but
appreciative, looks on and cheers his pluck.

Mr. Frederick Locker, about whom I wish to write a few lines, was an
old-world connoisseur, the shy recesses of whose soul Addison might
have penetrated in the page of a _Spectator_--and a delicate operation
it would have been.

My father-in-law was only once in the witness-box. I had the felicity
to see him there. It was a dispute about the price of a picture, and
in the course of his very short evidence he hazarded the opinion that
the grouping of the figures (they were portraits) was in bad taste.
The Judge, the late Mr. Justice Cave, an excellent lawyer of the old
school, snarled out, 'Do you think you could explain to _me_ what is
taste?' Mr. Locker surveyed the Judge through the eye-glass which
seemed almost part of his being, with a glance modest, deferential,
deprecatory, as if suggesting 'Who am _I_ to explain anything to
_you_?' but at the same time critical, ironical, and humorous. It was
but for one brief moment; the eyeglass dropped, and there came the
mournful answer, as from a man baffled at all points: 'No, my lord; I
should find it impossible!' The Judge grunted a ready, almost a
cheerful, assent.

Properly to describe Mr. Locker, you ought to be able to explain both
to judge and jury what you mean by taste. He sometimes seemed to me to
be _all_ taste. Whatever subject he approached--was it the mystery of
religion, or the moralities of life, a poem or a print, a bit of old
china or a human being--whatever it might be, it was along the avenue
of taste that he gently made his way up to it. His favourite word of
commendation was _pleasing_, and if he ever brought himself to say
(and he was not a man who scattered his judgments, rather was he
extremely reticent of them) of a man, and still more of a woman, that
he or she was _unpleasing_, you almost shuddered at the fierceness of
the condemnation, knowing, as all Locker's intimate friends could not
help doing, what the word meant to him. 'Attractive' was another of
his critical instruments. He meets Lord Palmerston, and does not find
him 'attractive' (_My Confidences_, p. 155).

This is a temperament which when cultivated, as it was in Mr. Locker's
case, by a life-long familiarity with beautiful things in all the arts
and crafts, is apt to make its owner very susceptible to what some
stirring folk may not unjustly consider the trifles of life. Sometimes
Locker might seem to overlook the dominant features, the main object
of the existence, either of a man or of some piece of man's work, in
his sensitively keen perception of the beauty, or the lapse from
beauty, of some trait of character or bit of workmanship. This may
have been so. Mr. Locker was more at home, more entirely his own
delightful self, when he was calling your attention to some humorous
touch in one of Bewick's tail-pieces, or to some plump figure in a
group by his favourite Stothard than when handling a Michael Angelo
drawing or an amazing Blake. Yet, had it been his humour, he could
have played the showman to Michael Angelo and Blake at least as well
as to Bewick, Stothard, or Chodowiecki. But a modesty, marvellously
mingled with irony, was of the very essence of his nature. No man
expatiated less. He never expounded anything in his born days; he very
soon wearied of those he called 'strong' talkers. His critical method
was in a conversational manner to direct your attention to something
in a poem or a picture, to make a brief suggestion or two, perhaps to
apply an epithet, and it was all over, but your eyes were opened.
Rapture he never professed, his tones were never loud enough to
express enthusiasm, but his enjoyment of what he considered good,
wherever he found it--and he was regardless of the set judgments of
the critics--was most intense and intimate. His feeling for anything
he liked was fibrous: he clung to it. For all his rare books and
prints, if he liked a thing he was very tolerant of its _format_. He
would cut a drawing out of a newspaper, frame it, hang it up, and be
just as tender towards it as if it were an impression with the unique

Mr. Locker had probably inherited his virtuoso's whim from his
ancestors. His great-grandfather was certified by Johnson in his life
of Addison to be a gentleman 'eminent for curiosity and literature,'
and though his grandfather, the Commodore, who lives for ever in our
history as the man who taught Nelson the lesson that saved an
Empire--'Lay a Frenchman close, and you will beat him'--was no
collector, his father, Edward Hawke Locker, though also a naval man,
was not only the friend of Sir Walter Scott, but a most judicious
buyer of pictures, prints, and old furniture.

Frederick Locker was born in 1821, in Greenwich Hospital, where Edward
Hawke Locker was Civil Commissioner. His mother was the daughter of
one of the greatest book-buyers of his time, a man whose library it
took nine days to disperse--the Rev. Jonathan Boucher, the friend and
opponent of George Washington, an ecclesiastic who might have been
first Bishop of Edinburgh, but who died a better thing, the Vicar of

Frederick Locker grew up among pretty things in the famous hospital.
Water-colours by Lawrence, Prout, Girtin, Turner, Chinnery, Paul
Sandby, Cipriani, and other masters; casts after Canova; mezzotints
after Sir Joshua; Hogarth's famous picture of David Garrick and his
wife, now well hung in Windsor Castle, were about him, and early
attracted his observant eye. Yet the same things were about his elder
brother Arthur, an exceedingly clever fellow, who remained quite
curiously impervious to the impressiveness of pretty things all his

Locker began collecting on his own account after his marriage, in
1850, to a daughter of Lord Byron's enemy, the Lord Elgin, who brought
the marbles from Athens to Bloomsbury. His first object, at least so
he thought, was to make his rooms pretty. From the beginning of his
life as a connoisseur he spared himself no pains, often trudging
miles, when not wanted at the Admiralty Office, in search of his prey.
If any mercantile-minded friend ever inquired what anything had cost,
he would be answered with a rueful smile, 'Much shoe leather.' He
began with old furniture, china, and bric-a-brac, which ere long
somewhat inconveniently filled his small rooms. Prices rose, and means
in those days were as small as the rooms. No more purchases of Louis
Seize and blue majolica and Palissy ware could be made. Drawings by
the old masters and small pictures were the next objects of the chase.
Here again the long purses were soon on his track, and the pursuit had
to be abandoned, but not till many treasures had been garnered. Last
of all he became a book-hunter, beginning with little volumes of
poetry and the drama from 1590 to 1610; and as time went on the
boundaries expanded, but never so as to include black letter.

I dare not say Mr. Locker had all the characteristics of a great
collector, or that he was entirely free from the whimsicalities of the
tribe of connoisseurs, but he was certainly endowed with the chief
qualifications for the pursuit of rarities, and remained clear of the
unpleasant vices that so often mar men's most innocent avocations. Mr.
Locker always knew what he wanted and what he did not want, and never
could be persuaded to take the one for the other; he did not grow
excited in the presence of the quarry; he had patience to wait, and
to go on waiting, and he seldom lacked courage to buy.

He rode his own hobby-horse, never employing experts as buyers. For
quantity he had no stomach. He shrank from numbers. He was not a
Bodleian man; he had not the sinews to grapple with libraries. He was
the connoisseur throughout. Of the huge acquisitiveness of a Heber or
a Huth he had not a trace. He hated a crowd, of whatsoever it was
composed. He was apt to apologize for his possessions, and to
depreciate his tastes. As for boasting of a treasure, he could as
easily have eaten beef at breakfast.

So delicate a spirit, armed as it was for purposes of defence with a
rare gift of irony and a very shrewd insight into the weaknesses and
noisy falsettos of life, was sure to be misunderstood. The dull and
coarse witted found Locker hard to make out. He struck them as
artificial and elaborate, perhaps as frivolous, and yet they felt
uneasy in his company lest there should be a lurking ridicule behind
his quiet, humble demeanour. There was, indeed, always an element of
mockery in Locker's humility.

An exceedingly spiteful account of him, in which it is asserted that
'most of his rarest books are miserable copies' (how book-collectors
can hate one another!), ends with the reluctant admission: 'He was
eminently a gentleman, however, and his manners were even courtly, yet
virile.' Such extorted praise is valuable.

I can see him now before me, with a nicely graduated foot-rule in his
delicate hand, measuring with grave precision the height to a hair of
his copy of _Robinson Crusoe_ (1719), for the purpose of ascertaining
whether it was taller or shorter than one being vaunted for sale in a
bookseller's catalogue just to hand. His face, one of much refinement,
was a study, exhibiting alike a fixed determination to discover the
exact truth about the copy and a humorous realization of the inherent
triviality of the whole business. Locker was a philosopher as well as
a connoisseur.

The Rowfant Library has disappeared. Great possessions are great
cares. 'But ships are but boards, sailors but men; there be land-rats,
water-thieves, and land-thieves--I mean pirates; and then there is the
peril of waters, winds and rocks.' To this list the nervous owner of
rare books must add fire, that dread enemy of all the arts. It is
often difficult to provide stabling for dead men's hobby-horses. It
were perhaps absurd in a world like this to grow sentimental over a
parcel of old books. Death, the great unbinder, must always make a

Mr. Locker's poetry now forms a volume of the _Golden Treasury
Series_. The _London Lyrics_ are what they are. They have been well
praised by good critics, and have themselves been made the subject of
good verse.

          'Apollo made one April day
           A new thing in the rhyming way;
           Its turn was neat, its wit was clear,
           It wavered 'twixt a smile and tear.
           Then Momus gave a touch satiric,
           And it became a _London Lyric_.'
                                AUSTIN DOBSON.

In another copy of verses Mr. Dobson adds:

          'Or where discern a verse so neat,
           So well-bred and so witty--
           So finished in its least conceit,
           So mixed of mirth and pity?'

          'Pope taught him rhythm, Prior ease,
           Praed buoyancy and banter;
           What modern bard would learn from these?
           Ah, _tempora mutantur_!'

Nothing can usefully be added to criticism so just, so searching, and
so happily expressed.

Some of the _London Lyrics_ have, I think, achieved what we poor
mortals call immortality--a strange word to apply to the piping of so
slender a reed, to so slight a strain--yet

          'In small proportions we just beauties see.'

It is the simplest strain that lodges longest in the heart. Mr.
Locker's strains are never precisely _simple_. The gay enchantment of
the world and the sense of its bitter disappointments murmur through
all of them, and are fatal to their being simple, but the
unpretentiousness of a _London Lyric_ is akin to simplicity.

His relation to his own poetry was somewhat peculiar. A critic in
every fibre, he judged his own verses with a severity he would have
shrunk from applying to those of any other rhyming man. He was deeply
dissatisfied, almost on bad terms, with himself, yet for all that he
was convinced that he had written some very good verses indeed. His
poetry meant a great deal to him, and he stood in need of sympathy and
of allies against his own despondency. He did not get much sympathy,
being a man hard to praise, for unless he agreed with your praise it
gave him more pain than pleasure.

I am not sure that Mr. Dobson agrees with me, but I am very fond of
Locker's paraphrase of one of Clement Marot's _Epigrammes_; and as the
lines are redolent of his delicate connoisseurship, I will quote both
the original (dated 1544) and the paraphrase:

                'DU RYS DE MADAME D'ALLEBRET

          'Elle a tres bien ceste gorge d'albastre,
           Ce doulx parler, ce cler tainct, ces beaux yeulx:
           Mais en effect, ce petit rys follastre,
           C'est a mon gre ce qui lui sied le mieulx;
           Elle en pourroit les chemins et les lieux
           Ou elle passe a plaisir inciter;
           Et si ennuy me venoit contrister
           Tant que par mort fust ma vie abbatue,
           Il me fauldroit pour me resusciter
           Que ce rys la duguel elle me tue.'

          'How fair those locks which now the light wind stirs!
             What eyes she has, and what a perfect arm!
           And yet methinks that little laugh of hers--
             That little laugh--is still her crowning charm.
           Where'er she passes, countryside or town,
             The streets make festa and the fields rejoice.
           Should sorrow come, as 'twill, to cast me down,
             Or Death, as come he must, to hush my voice,
           Her laugh would wake me just as now it thrills me--
           That little, giddy laugh wherewith she kills me.'

'Tis the very laugh of Millamant in _The Way of the World_! 'I would
rather,' cried Hazlitt, 'have seen Mrs. Abington's Millamant than any
Rosalind that ever appeared on the stage.' Such wishes are idle.
Hazlitt never saw Mrs. Abington's Millamant. I have seen Miss Ethel
Irving's Millamant, _dulce ridentem_, and it was that little giddy
laugh of hers that reminded me of Marot's Epigram and of Frederick
Locker's paraphrase. So do womanly charms endure from generation to
generation, and it is one of the duties of poets to record them.

In 1867 Mr. Locker published his _Lyra Elegantiarun. A Collection of
Some of the Best Specimens of Vers de Societe and Vers d'Occasion in
the English Languages by Deceased Authors_. In his preface Locker gave
what may now be fairly called the 'classical' definition of the verses
he was collecting. '_Vers de societe_ and _vers d'occasion_ should'
(so he wrote) 'be short, elegant, refined and fanciful, not seldom
distinguished by heightened sentiment, and often playful. The tone
should not be pitched high; it should be idiomatic and rather in the
conversational key; the rhythm should be crisp and sparkling, and the
rhyme frequent and never forced, while the entire poem should be
marked by tasteful moderation, high finish and completeness; for
however trivial the subject-matter may be--indeed, rather in
proportion to its triviality, subordination to the rules of
composition and perfection of execution should be strictly enforced.
The definition may be further illustrated by a few examples of pieces,
which, from the absence of some of the foregoing qualities, or from
the excess of others, cannot be properly regarded as _vers de
societe_, though they may bear a certain generic resemblance to that
species of poetry. The ballad of "John Gilpin," for example, is too
broadly and simply ludicrous; Swift's "Lines on the Death of
Marlborough," and Byron's "Windsor Poetics," are too savage and
truculent; Cowper's "My Mary" is far too pathetic; Herrick's lyrics to
"Blossoms" and "Daffodils" are too elevated; "Sally in our Alley" is
too homely and too entirely simple and natural; while the "Rape of the
Lock," which would otherwise be one of the finest specimens of _vers
de societe_ in any language, must be excluded on account of its
length, which renders it much too important.'

I have made this long quotation because it is an excellent example of
Mr. Locker's way of talking about poets and poetry, and of his
intimate, searching, and unaffected criticism.

_Lyra Elegantiarum_ is a real, not a bookseller's collection. Mr.
Locker was a great student of verse. There was hardly a stanza of any
English poet, unless it was Spenser, for whom he had no great
affection, which he had not pondered over and clearly considered as
does a lawyer his cases. He delighted in a complete success, and
grieved over any lapse from the fold of metrical virtue, over any
ill-sounding rhyme or unhappy expression. The circulation of _Lyra
Elegantiarum_ was somewhat interfered with by a 'copyright' question.
Mr. Locker had a great admiration for Landor's short poems, and
included no less than forty-one of them, which he chose with the
utmost care. Publishers are slow to perceive that the best chance of
getting rid of their poetical wares (and Landor was not popular) is to
have attention called to the artificer who produced them. The
Landorian publisher objected, and the _Lyra_ had to be 'suppressed'--a
fine word full of hidden meanings. The second-hand booksellers, a wily
race, were quick to perceive the significance of this, and have for
more than thirty years obtained inflated prices for their early
copies, being able to vend them as possessing the _Suppressed Verses_.
There is a great deal of Locker in this collection. To turn its pages
is to renew intercourse with its editor.

In 1879 another little volume instinct with his personality came into
existence and made friends for itself. He called it _Patchwork_, and
to have given it any other name would have severely taxed his
inventiveness. It is a collection of stories, of _ana_, of quotations
in verse and prose, of original matter, of character-sketches, of
small adventures, of table-talk, and of other things besides, if other
things, indeed, there be. If you know _Patchwork_ by heart you are
well equipped. It is intensely original throughout, and never more
original than when its matter is borrowed. Readers of _Patchwork_ had
heard of Mr. Creevey long before Sir Herbert Maxwell once again let
that politician loose upon an unlettered society.

The book had no great sale, but copies evidently fell into the hands
of the more judicious of the pressmen, who kept it by their sides, and
every now and again

           'Waled a portion with judicious care'

for quotation in their columns. The _Patchwork_ stories thus got into
circulation one by one. Kind friends of Mr. Locker's, who had been
told, or had discovered for themselves, that he was somewhat of a wag,
would frequently regale him with bits of his own _Patchwork_,
introducing them to his notice as something they had just heard, which
they thought he would like--murdering his own stories to give him
pleasure. His countenance on such occasions was a _rendezvous_ of
contending emotions, a battlefield of rival forces. Politeness ever
prevailed, but it took all his irony and sad philosophy to hide his
pain. _Patchwork_ is such a good collection of the kind of story he
liked best that it was really difficult to avoid telling him a story
that was _not_ in it. I made the blunder once myself with a Voltairean
anecdote. Here it is as told in _Patchwork_: 'Voltaire was one day
listening to a dramatic author reading his comedy, and who said, "Ici
le chevalier rit!" He exclaimed: "Le chevalier est _bien_ heureux!"' I
hope I told it fairly well. He smiled sadly, and said nothing, not
even _Et tu, Brute_!

In 1886 Mr. Locker printed for presentation a catalogue of his printed
books, manuscripts, autograph letters, drawings, and pictures. Nothing
of his own figures in this catalogue, and yet in a very real sense the
whole is his. Most of the books are dispersed, but the catalogue
remains, not merely as a record of rareties and bibliographical
details dear to the collector's heart, but as a token of taste. Just
as there is, so Wordsworth reminds us, 'a spirit in the woods,' so is
there still, brooding over and haunting the pages of the 'Rowfant
Catalogue,' the spirit of true connoisseurship. In the slender lists
of Locker's 'Works' this book must always have a place.

Frederick Locker died at Rowfant on May 30, 1895, leaving behind him,
carefully prepared for the press, a volume he had christened _My
Confidences: An Autographical Sketch addressed to My Descendants_.

In due course the book appeared, and was misunderstood at first by
many. It cut a strange, outlandish figure among the crowd of casual
reminiscences it externally resembled. Glancing over the pages of _My
Confidences_, the careless library subscriber encountered the usual
number of names of well-known personages, whose appearance is supposed
by publishers to add sufficient zest to reminiscences to secure
for them a sale large enough, at any rate, to recoup the cost of
publication. Yet, despite these names, Mr. Locker's book is completely
unlike the modern memoir. Beneath a carefully-constructed, and
perhaps slightly artificially maintained, frivolity of tone, the book
is written in deadly earnest. Not for nothing did its author choose as
one of the mottoes for its title-page, 'Ce ne sont mes gestes que
j'ecrie; c'est moy.' It may be said of this book, as of Senancour's

          'A fever in these pages burns;
             Beneath the calm they feign,
           A wounded human spirit turns
             Here on its bed of pain.'

The still small voice of its author whispers through _My Confidences_.
Like Montaigne's _Essays_, the book is one of entire good faith, and
strangely uncovers a personality.

As a tiny child Locker was thought by his parents to be very like Sir
Joshua Reynolds' picture of Puck, an engraving of which was in the
home at Greenwich Hospital, and certainly Locker carried to his
grave more than a suspicion of what is called Puckishness. In _My
Confidences_ there are traces of this quality.

Clearly enough the author of _London Lyrics_, the editor of _Lyra
Elegantiarum_, of _Patchwork_, and the whimsical but sincere compiler
of _My Confidences_ was more than a mere connoisseur, however much
connoisseurship entered into a character in which taste played so
dominant a part.

Stronger even than taste was his almost laborious love of kindness.
He really took too much pains about it, exposing himself to rebuffs
and misunderstandings; but he was not without his rewards. All
down-hearted folk, sorrowful, disappointed people, the unlucky, the
ill-considered, the _mesestimes_--those who found themselves condemned
to discharge uncongenial duties in unsympathetic society, turned
instinctively to Mr. Locker for a consolation, so softly administered
that it was hard to say it was intended. He had friends everywhere, in
all ranks of life, who found in him an infinity of solace, and for his
friends there was nothing he would not do. It seemed as if he could
not spare himself. I remember his calling at my chambers one hot day
in July, when he happened to have with him some presents he was in
course of delivering. Among them I noticed a bust of Voltaire and an
unusually lively tortoise, generally half-way out of a paper bag.
Wherever he went he found occasion for kindness, and his whimsical
adventures would fill a volume. I sometimes thought it would really be
worth while to leave off the struggle for existence, and gently to
subside into one of Lord Rowton's homes in order to have the pleasure
of receiving in my new quarters a first visit from Mr. Locker. How
pleasantly would he have mounted the stair, laden with who knows what
small gifts?--a box of mignonette for the window-sill, an old book or
two, as likely as not a live kitten, for indeed there was never an end
to the variety or ingenuity of his offerings! How felicitous would
have been his greeting! How cordial his compliments! How abiding the
sense of his unpatronizing friendliness! But it was not to be. One can
seldom choose one's pleasures.

In his _Patchwork_ Mr. Locker quotes Gibbon's encomium on Charles
James Fox. Anyone less like Fox than Frederick Locker it might be hard
to discover, but fine qualities are alike wherever they are found
lodged; and if Fox was as much entitled as Locker to the full benefit
of Gibbon's praise, he was indeed a good fellow.

'In his tour to Switzerland Mr. Fox gave me two days of free and
private society. He seemed to feel and even to envy the happiness of
my situation, while I admired the powers of a superior man as they are
blended in his character with the softness and simplicity of a child.
_Perhaps no human being was ever more perfectly exempted from the
taint of malevolence, vanity, and falsehood._'


The republication of Mr. Arnold's _Friendship's Garland_ after an
interval of twenty-seven years may well set us all a-thinking. Here it
is, in startling facsimile--the white covers, destined too soon to
become black, the gilt device, the familiar motto. As we gazed upon
it, we found ourselves exclaiming, so vividly did it recall the past:

          'It is we, it is we, who have changed.'

_Friendship's Garland_ was a very good joke seven-and-twenty years
ago, and though some of its once luminous paint has been rubbed off,
and a few of its jests have ceased to effervesce, it is a good joke
still. Mr. Bottle's mind, qua mind; the rowdy Philistine Adolescens
Leo, Esq.; Dr. Russell, of the _Times_, mounting his war-horse; the
tale of how Lord Lumpington and the Rev. Esau Hittall got their
degrees at Oxford; and many another ironic thrust which made the
reader laugh 'while the hair was yet brown on his head,' may well make
him laugh still, 'though his scalp is almost hairless, and his
figure's grown convex.' Since 1871 we have learnt the answer to the
sombre lesson, 'What is it to grow old?' But, thank God! we can laugh
even yet.

The humour and high spirits of _Friendship's Garland_ were, however,
but the gilding of a pill, the artificial sweetening of a nauseous
draught. In reality, and joking apart, the book is an indictment at
the bar of _Geist_ of the English people as represented by its middle
class and by its full-voiced organ, the daily press. Mr. Arnold
invented Arminius to be the mouthpiece of this indictment, the
traducer of our 'imperial race,' because such blasphemies could not
artistically have been attributed to one of the number. He made
Arminius a Prussian because in those far-off days Prussia stood for
Von Humboldt and education and culture, and all the things Sir Thomas
Bazley and Mr. Miall were supposed to be without. Around the central
figure of Arminius the essentially playful fancy of Mr. Arnold grouped
other figures, including his own. What an old equity draughtsman would
call 'the charging parts' of the book consist in the allegations that
the Government of England had been taken out of the hands of an
aristocracy grown barren of ideas and stupid beyond words, and
entrusted to a middle class without noble traditions, wretchedly
educated, full of _Ungeist_, with a passion for clap-trap, only
wanting to be left alone to push trade and make money; so ignorant as
to believe that feudalism can be abated without any heroic Stein, by
providing that in one insignificant case out of a hundred thousand,
land shall not follow the feudal law of descent; without a single
vital idea or sentiment or feeling for beauty or appropriateness; well
persuaded that if more trade is done in England than anywhere else, if
personal independence is without a check, and newspaper publicity
unbounded, that is, by the nature of things, to be great; misled every
morning by the magnificent _Times_ or the 'rowdy' _Telegraph_;
desperately prone to preaching to other nations, proud of being able
to say what it likes, whilst wholly indifferent to the fact that it
has nothing whatever to say.

Such, in brief, is the substance of this most agreeable volume. Its
message was lightly treated by the grave and reverend seigniors of the
State. The magnificent _Times_, the rowdy _Telegraph_, continued to
preach their gospels as before; but for all that Mr. Arnold found an
audience fit, though few, and, of course, he found it among the people
he abused. The barbarians, as he called the aristocracy, were not
likely to pay heed to a professor of poetry. Our working classes
were not readers of the _Pall Mall Gazette_ or purchasers of
four-and-sixpenny tracts bound in white cloth. No; it was the middle
class, to whom Mr. Arnold himself belonged, who took him to honest
hearts, stuck his photograph upon their writing-tables, and sounded
his praises so loudly that his fame even reached the United States of
America, where he was promptly invited to lecture, an invitation he
accepted. But for the middle classes Mr. Arnold would have had but a
poor time of it. They did not mind being insulted; they overlooked
exaggeration; they pardoned ignorance--in a word, they proved
teachable. Yet, though meek in spirit, they have not yet inherited the
earth; indeed, there are those who assert that their chances are gone,
their sceptre for ever buried. It is all over with the middle-class.
Tuck up its muddled head! Tie up its chin!

A rabble of bad writers may now be noticed pushing their vulgar way
along, who, though born and bred in the middle classes, and disfigured
by many of the very faults Mr. Arnold deplored, yet make it a test of
their membership, an 'open sesame' to their dull orgies, that all
decent, sober-minded folk, who love virtue, and, on the whole, prefer
delicate humour to sickly lubricity, should be labelled 'middle

Politically, it cannot but be noticed that, for good or for ill, the
old middle-class audience no longer exists in its integrity. The
crowds that flocked to hear Cobden and Bright, that abhorred slavery,
that cheered Kossuth, that hated the income-tax, are now watered down
by a huge population who do not know, and do not want to know, what
the income-tax is, but who do want to know what the Government is
going to do for them in the matter of shorter hours, better wages, and
constant employment. Will the rabble, we wonder, prove as teachable as
the middle class? Will they consent to be told their faults as meekly?
Will they buy the photograph of their physician, or heave half a brick
at him? It remains to be seen. In the meantime it would be a mistake
to assume that the middle class counts for nothing, even at an
election. As to ideas, have we got any new ones since 1871? 'To be
consequent and powerful,' says Arminius, 'men must be bottomed on some
vital idea or sentiment which lends strength and certainty to their
action.' There are those who tell us that we have at last found this
vital idea in those conceptions of the British Empire which Mr.
Chamberlain so vigorously trumpets. To trumpet a conception is hardly
a happy phrase, but, as Mr. Chamberlain plays no other instrument, it
is forced upon me. Would that we could revive Arminius, to tell us
what he thinks of our new Ariel girdling the earth with twenty Prime
Ministers, each the choicest product of a self-governing and
deeply-involved colony. Is it a vital or a vulgar idea? Is it merely a
big theory or really a great one? Is it the ornate beginning of a
Time, or but the tawdry ending of a period? At all events, it is an
idea unknown to Arminius von Thunder-Ten-Tronckh, and we ought to be,
and many are, thankful for it.


I am, I confess it, hard to please. If a round dozen of Bad Women, all
made in England too, does not satisfy me, what will? What ails the
fellow at them? Yet was I at first dissatisfied, and am, therefore,
glad to notice that whilst I was demurring and splitting hairs the
great, generous public was buying the _Lives of Twelve Bad Women_, by
Arthur Vincent, and putting it into a second edition. This is as it
should be. When the excellent Dean Burgon dubbed his dozen biographies
_Twelve Good Men_, it probably never occurred to him that the title
suggested three companion volumes; but so it did, and two of them,
_Twelve Bad Men_ and _Twelve Bad Women_, have made their appearance. I
still await, with great patience, _Twelve Good Women_. Twelve was the
number of the Apostles. Had it not been, one might be tempted to ask,
Why twelve? But as there must be some limit to bookmaking, there is no
need to quarrel with an arithmetical limit.

My criticism upon the Dean's dozen was that they were not by any
means, all of them, conspicuously good men; for, to name one only, who
would call old Dr. Routh, the President of Magdalen, a particularly
good man? In a sense, all Presidents, Provosts, Principals, and
Masters of Colleges are good men--in fact, they must be so by the
statutes--but to few of them are given the special notes of goodness.
Dr. Routh was a remarkable man, a learned man, perhaps a pious
man--undeniably, when he came to die, an old man--but he was no better
than his colleagues. This weakness of classification has run all
through the series, and it is my real quarrel with it. I do not
understand the principle of selection. I did not understand the Dean's
test of goodness, nor do I understand Mr. Seccombe's or Mr. Vincent's
test of badness. What do we mean by a good man or a bad one, a good
woman or a bad one? Most people, like the young man in the song, are
'not very good, nor yet very bad.' We move about the pastures of life
in huge herds, and all do the same things, at the same times, and for
the same reasons. 'Forty feeding like one.' Are we mean? Well, we have
done some mean things in our time. Are we generous? Occasionally we
are. Were we good sons or dutiful daughters? We have both honoured and
dishonoured our parents, who, in their turn, had done the same by
theirs. Do we melt at the sight of misery? Indeed we do. Do we forget
all about it when we have turned the corner? Frequently that is so. Do
we expect to be put to open shame at the Great Day of Judgment? We
should be terribly frightened of this did we not cling to the hope
that amidst the shocking revelations then for the first time made
public our little affairs may fail to attract much notice. Judged by
the standards of humanity, few people are either good or bad. 'I have
not been a great sinner,' said the dying Nelson; nor had he--he had
only been made a great fool of by a woman. Mankind is all tarred with
the same brush, though some who chance to be operated upon when the
brush is fresh from the barrel get more than their share of the tar.
The biography of a celebrated man usually reminds me of the outside of
a coastguardsman's cottage--all tar and whitewash. These are the two
condiments of human life--tar and whitewash--the faults and the
excuses for the faults, the passions and pettinesses that make us
occasionally drop on all fours, and the generous aspirations that at
times enable us, if not to stand upright, at least to adopt the
attitude of the kangaroo. It is rather tiresome, this perpetual game
of French and English going on inside one. True goodness and real
badness escape it altogether. A good man does not spend his life
wrestling with the Powers of Darkness. He is victor in the fray, and
the most he is called upon to do is every now and again to hit his
prostrate foe a blow over the costard just to keep him in his place.
Thus rid of a perpetual anxiety, the good man has time to grow in
goodness, to expand pleasantly, to take his ease on Zion. You can see
in his face that he is at peace with himself--that he is no longer at
war with his elements. His society, if you are fond of goodness, is
both agreeable and medicinal; but if you are a bad man it is hateful,
and you cry out with Mr. Love-lust in Bunyan's Vanity Fair: 'Away with
him. I cannot endure him; he is for ever condemning my way.'

Not many of Dean Burgon's biographies reached this standard. The
explanation, perhaps, is that the Dean chiefly moved in clerical
circles where excellence is more frequently to be met with than

In the same way a really bad man is one who has frankly said, 'Evil,
be thou my good.' Like the good man, though for a very different
reason, the bad one has ceased to make war with the devil. Finding a
conspiracy against goodness going on, the bad man joins it, and thus,
like the good man, is at peace with himself. The bad man is bent upon
his own way, to get what he wants, no matter at what cost. Human
lives! What do they matter? A woman's honour! What does that matter?
Truth and fidelity! What are they? To know what you want, and not to
mind what you pay for it, is the straight path to fame, fortune, and
hell-fire. Careers, of course, vary; to dominate a continent or to
open a corner shop as a pork-butcher's, plenty of devilry may go to
either ambition. Also, genius is a rare gift. It by no means follows
that because you are a bad man you will become a great one; but to be
bad, and at the same time unsuccessful, is a hard fate. It casts a
little doubt upon a man's badness if he does not, at least, make a
little money. It is a poor business accompanying badness on to a
common scaffold, or to see it die in a wretched garret. That was one
of my complaints with Mr. Seccombe's Twelve Bad Men. Most of them came
to violent ends. They were all failures.

But I have kept these twelve ladies waiting a most unconscionable
time. Who are they? There are amongst them four courtesans: Alice
Perrers, one of King Edward III.'s misses; Barbara Villiers, one of
King Charles II.'s; Mrs. Mary Anne Clarke, who had to be content with
a royal Duke; and Mrs. Con Phillips. Six members of the criminal
class: Alice Arden, Moll Cutpurse, Jenny Diver, Elizabeth Brownrigg,
Elizabeth Canning, and Mary Bateman; and only two ladies of title,
Frances Howard, Countess of Somerset, and Elizabeth Chudleigh, Duchess
of Kingston. Of these twelve bad women one-third were executed, Alice
Arden being burnt at Canterbury, Jenny Diver and Elizabeth Brownrigg
being hung at Tyburn, and Mary Bateman suffering the same fate at
Leeds. Elizabeth Canning was sentenced to seven years' transportation,
and, indeed, if their biographers are to be believed, all the other
ladies made miserable ends. There is nothing triumphant about their
badness. Even from the point of view of this world they had better
have been good. In fact, squalor is the badge of the whole tribe. Some
of them, probably--Elizabeth Brownrigg, for example--were mad. This
last-named poor creature bore sixteen children to a house-painter and
plasterer, and then became a parish mid-wife, and only finally a
baby-farmer. Her cruelty to her apprentices had madness in every
detail. To include her in this volume was wholly unnecessary. She
lives but in George Canning's famous parody on Southey's sonnet to the
regicide Marten.

With those sentimentalists who maintain that all bad people are mad I
will have no dealings. It is sheer nonsense; lives of great men all
remind us it is sheer nonsense. Some of our greatest men have been
infernal scoundrels--pre-eminently bad men--with nothing mad about
them, unless it be mad to get on in the world and knock people about
in it.

_Twelve Bad Women_ contains much interesting matter, but, on the
whole, it is depressing. It seems very dull to be bad. Perhaps the
editor desired to create this impression; if so, he has succeeded.
Hannah More had fifty times more fun in her life than all these
courtesans and criminals put together. The note of jollity is
entirely absent. It was no primrose path these unhappy women
traversed, though that it led to the everlasting bonfire it were
unchristian to doubt. The dissatisfaction I confessed to at the
beginning returns upon me as a cloud at the end; but, for all that, I
rejoice the book is in a second edition, and I hope soon to hear it is
in a third, for it has a moral tendency.


Anyone who is teased by the notion that it would be pleasant to be
remembered, in the sense of being read, after death, cannot do better
to secure that end than compose an Itinerary and leave it behind him
in manuscript, with his name legibly inscribed thereon. If an honest
bit of work, noting distances, detailing expenses, naming landmarks,
moors, mountains, harbours, docks, buildings--indeed, anything which,
as lawyers say, savours of realty--and but scantily interspersed with
reflections, and with no quotations, why, then, such a piece of work,
however long publication may be delayed--and a century or two will not
matter in the least--cannot fail, whenever it is printed, to attract
attention, to excite general interest and secure a permanent hold in
every decent library in the kingdom.

Time cannot stale an Itinerary. _Iter, Via, Actus_ are words of pith
and moment. Stage-coaches, express trains, motor-cars, have written,
or are now writing, their eventful histories over the face of these
islands; but, whatever changes they have made or are destined to make,
they have left untouched the mystery of the road, although for the
moment the latest comer may seem injuriously to have affected its

The Itinerist alone among authors is always sure of an audience. No
matter where, no matter when, he has but to tell us how he footed it
and what he saw by the wayside, and we must listen. How can we help
it? Two hundred years ago, it may be, this Itinerist came through our
village, passed by the wall of our homestead, climbed our familiar
hill, and went on his way; it is perhaps but two lines and a half he
can afford to give us, but what lines they are! How different with
sermons, poems, and novels! On each of these is the stamp of the
author's age; sentiments, fashions, thoughts, faiths, phraseology, all
worn out--cold, dirty grate, where once there was a blazing fire.
Cheerlessness personified! Leland's anti-Papal treatise in forty-five
chapters remains in learned custody--a manuscript; a publisher it will
never find. We still have Papists and anti-Papists; in this case the
fire still blazes, but the grates are of an entirely different
construction. Leland's treatise is out of date. But his _Itinerary_ in
nine volumes, a favourite book throughout the eighteenth century,
which has graced many a bookseller's catalogue for the last hundred
years, and seldom without eliciting a purchaser--Leland's _Itinerary_
is to-day being reprinted under the most able editorship. The charm of
the road is irresistible. The _Vicar of Wakefield_ is a delightful
book, with a great tradition behind it and a future still before it;
but it has not escaped the ravages of time, and I would, now, at all
events, gladly exchange it for Oliver Goldsmith's _Itinerary through
Germany with a Flute_!

Vain authors, publisher's men, may write as they like about
_Shakespeare's_ country, or _Scott's_ country, or _Carlyle's_ country,
or _Crockett's_ country, but--

       'Oh, good gigantic smile of the brown old earth!'

the land laughs at the delusions of the men who hurriedly cross its

          'Rydal and Fairfield are there,--
           In the shadow Wordsworth lies dead.
           So it is, so it will be for aye,
           Nature is fresh as of old,
           Is lovely, a mortal is dead.'

These reflections, which by themselves would be enough to sink even an
Itinerary, seemed forced upon me by the publication of _A Journey to
Edenborough in Scotland by Joseph Taylor, Late of the Inner Temple,
Esquire_. This journey was made two hundred years ago in the Long
Vacation of 1705, but has just been printed from the original
manuscript, under the editorship of Mr. William Cowan, by the
well-known Edinburgh bookseller, Mr. Brown, of Princes Street, to whom
all lovers of things Scottish already owe much.

Nobody can hope to be less known than this our latest Itinerist, for
not only is he not in the _Dictionary of National Biography_, but it
is at present impossible to say which of two Joseph Taylors he was.
The House of the Winged Horse has ever had Taylors on its roll, the
sign of the Middle Temple, a very fleecy sheep, being perhaps
unattractive to the clan, and in 1705 it so happened that not only
were there two Taylors, but two Joseph Taylors, entitled to write
themselves 'of the Inner Temple, Esquire.' Which was the Itinerist?
Mr. Cowan, going by age, thinks that the Itinerist can hardly have
been the Joseph Taylor who was admitted to the Inn in 1663, as in that
case he must have been at least fifty-eight when he travelled to
Edinburgh. For my part, I see nothing in the _Itinerary_ to preclude
the possibility of its author having attained that age at the date of
its composition. I observe in the _Itinerary_ references which point
to the Itinerist being a Kentish man, and he mentions more than once
his 'Cousin D'aeth.' Research among the papers of the D'aeths of
Knowlton Court, near Dover, might result in the discovery which of
these two Taylors really was the Itinerist. As nothing else is at
present known about either, the investigation could probably be made
without passion or party or even religious bias. It might be
best begun by Mr. Cowan telling us in whose custody he found the
manuscript, and how it came there. These statements should always
be made when old manuscripts are first printed.

The journey began on August 2, 1705. The party consisted of Mr. Taylor
and his two friends, Mr. Harrison and Mr. Sloman. They travelled on
horseback, and often had difficulties with the poor beast that carried
their luggage. They reached Edinburgh in the evening of August 31, and
left it on their return journey on September 8, and got home on the
25th of the same month. The _Itinerary_ concludes as follows:

   'Thus we spent almost 2 months in a Journy of many 100 miles,
   sometimes thro' very charming Countryes, and at other times over
   desolate and Barren Mountaines, and yet met with no particular
   misfortune in all the Time.'

I may say at once of these three Itinerists--Mr. Taylor, Mr. Harrison,
and Mr. Sloman--that they appear to have been thoroughly
commonplace, well behaved, occasionally hilarious Englishmen, ready to
endure whatever befell them, if unavoidable; accustomed to take their
ease in their inn and to turn round and look at any pretty woman they
might chance to meet on their travels. Their first experience of what
the Itinerist calls 'the prodigies of Nature,' 'at once an occasion
both of Horrour and Admiration,' was in the Peak Country 'described in
poetry by the ingenious Mr. Cotton.' This part of the world they 'did'
with something of the earnestness of the modern tourist. But I hardly
think they enjoyed themselves. The 'prodigious' caverns and strange
petrifactions shocked them; 'nothing can be more terrible or shocking
to Nature.' Mam Tor, with its 1,710 feet, proved very impressive, 'a
vast high mountain reaching to the very clouds.' This gloom of the
Derbyshire hills and stony valleys was partially dispelled for our
travellers by a certain 'fair Gloriana' they met at Buxton, with whom
they had great fun, 'so much the greater, because we never expected
such heavenly enjoyments in so desolate a country.' If it be on
susceptibilities of this nature that Mr. Cowan rests his case for
thinking that the Itinerist can hardly have attained 'the blasted
antiquity' of fifty-eight, we must think Mr. Cowan a trifle hasty, or
a very young man, perhaps under forty, which is young for an editor.

After describing, somewhat too much like an auctioneer, the splendours
of Chatsworth, 'a Paradise in the deserts of Arabia,' the Itinerist
proceeds on his way north through Nottingham to Belvoir Castle, where
'my Lord Rosses Gentleman (to whom Mr. Harrison was recommended)
entertained us by his Lordship's command with good wine and the best
of malt liquors which the cellar abounds with'; the pictures in the
Long Gallery were shown them by 'my Lord himself.' At Doncaster, 'a
neat market-town which consists only in one long street,' they had
some superlative salmon just taken out of the river. By Knaresborough
Spaw, where they drank the waters and had icy cold baths, and dined at
the ordinary with a parson whose conversation startled the propriety
of the Templar, the travellers made their way to York, and for the
first and last time a few pages of _Guide Book_ are improperly
introduced. Then on to Scarborough.

   'The next morning early we left Scarborough and travelled through a
   dismall road, particularly near Robins Hood Bay; we were obliged to
   lead our horses, and had much ado to get down a vast craggy
   mountain which lyes within a quarter of a mile of it. The Bay is
   about a mile broad, and inhabited by poor fishermen. We stopt to
   taste some of their liquor and discourse with them. They told us
   the French privateers came into the Very Bay and took 2 of their
   Vessels but the day before, which were ransom'd for L25 a piece. We
   saw a great many vessels lying upon the Shore, the masters not
   daring to venture out to sea for fear of undergoing the same fate.'

We boast too readily of our inviolate shores.

A curious description is given of the Duke of Buckingham's alum works
near Whitby. The travellers then procured a guide, and traversed 'the
vast moors which lye between Whitby and Gisborough.' The civic
magnificence of Newcastle greatly struck our travellers, who, happier
than their modern successors, were able to see the town miles off. The
Itinerist quotes with gusto the civic proverb that the men of
Newcastle pay nothing for the Way, the Word, or the Water, 'for the
Ministers of Religion are maintained, the streets paved, and the
Conduits kept up at the publick charge.' A disagreeable account is
given of the brutishness of the people employed in the salt works at
Tynemouth. At Berwick the travellers got into trouble with the sentry,
but the mistake was rectified with the captain of the guard over '2
bowles of punch, there being no wine in the town.'

Scotland was now in sight, and the travellers became grave, as
befitted the occasion. They were told that the journey that lay before
them was extremely dangerous, that 'twould be difficult to escape with
their lives, much less (ominous words) without 'the distemper of the
country.' But Mr. Taylor, Mr. Harrison, and Mr. Sloman were as brave
as Mr. Pickwick, and they would on. 'Yet notwithstanding all these sad
representations, we resolv'd to proceed and stand by one another to
the last.'

What the Itinerists thought of Scotland when they got there is not for
me to say. I was once a Scottish member.

They arrived in Edinburgh at a great crisis in Scottish history. They
saw the Duke of Argyll, as Queen Anne's Lord High Commissioner, go to
the Parliament House in this manner:

   'First a coach and six Horses for his Gentlemen, then a Trumpet,
   then his own coach with six white horses, which were very fine,
   being those presented by King William to the Duke of Queensbury,
   and by him sold to the Duke of Argyle for L300; next goes a troop
   of Horse Guards, cloathed like my Lord of Oxford's Regiment, but
   the horses are of several colours; and the Lord Chancellor and the
   Secretary of State, and the Lord Chief Justice Clerk, and other
   officers of State close the cavalcade in coaches and six horses.
   Thus the Commissioner goes and returns every day.'

The Itinerists followed the Duke and his procession into the
Parliament House, and heard debated the great question--the greatest
of all possible questions for Scotland--whether this magnificence
should cease, whether there should be an end of an auld sang--in
short, whether the proposed Act of Union should be proceeded with. By
special favour, our Itinerists had leave to stand upon the steps of
the throne, and witnessed a famous fiery and prolonged debate, the
Duke once turning to them and saying, _sotto voce_, 'It is now
deciding whether England and Scotland shall go together by the ears.'
How it was decided we all know, and that it was wisely decided no one
doubts; yet, when we read our Itinerist's account of the Duke's coach
and horses, and the cavalcade that followed him, and remember that
this was what happened every day during the sitting of the Parliament,
and must not be confounded with the greater glories of the first day
of a Parliament, when every member, be he peer, knight of the shire,
or burgh member, had to ride on horseback in the procession, it is
impossible not to feel the force of Miss Grisel Dalmahoy's appeal in
the _Heart of Midlothian_, she being an ancient sempstress, to Mr.
Saddletree, the harness-maker:

   'And as for the Lords of States ye suld mind the riding o' the
   Parliament in the gude auld time before the Union. A year's rent o'
   mony a gude estate gaed for horse-graith and harnessing, forby
   broidered robes and foot-mantles that wad hae stude by their lane
   with gold and brocade, and that were muckle in my ain line.'

The graphic account of a famous debate given by, Taylor is worth
comparing with the _Lockhart Papers_ and Hill Burton. The date is a
little troublesome. According to our Itinerist, he heard the
discussion as to whether the Queen or the Scottish Parliament should
nominate the Commissioners. Now, according to the histories, this
all-important discussion began and ended on September 1, but our
Itinerist had only arrived in Edinburgh the night before the first,
and gives us to understand that he owed his invitation to be present
to the fact that whilst in Edinburgh he and his friends had had the
honour to have several lords and members of Parliament to dine, and
that these guests informed him 'of the grand day when the Act was to
be passed or rejected.' The Itinerist's account is too particular--for
he gives the result of the voting--to admit of any possibility of a
mistake, and he describes how several of the members came afterwards
to his lodgings, and, so he writes, 'embraced us with all the outward
marks of love and kindness, and seemed mightily pleased at what was
done, and told us we should now be no more English and Scotch, but
Brittons.' In the matter of nomenclature, at all events, the promises
of the Union have not been carried out.

After September 1 the Parliament did not meet till the 4th, when an
Address was passed to the Queen, but apparently without any repetition
of debate. So it really is a little difficult to reconcile the dates.
Perhaps Itinerists are best advised to keep off public events.

How our travellers escaped the 'national distemper' and journeyed
home by Ecclefechan, Carlisle, Shap Fell, Liverpool, Chester,
Coventry, and Warwick must be read in the _Journey_ itself, which,
though it only occupies 182 small pages, is full of matter and even
merriment; in fact, it is an excellent itinerary.


Epitaphs, if in rhyme, are the real literature of the masses. They
need no commendation and are beyond all criticism. A Cambridge don, a
London bus-driver, will own their charm in equal measure. Strange
indeed is the fascination of rhyme. A commonplace hitched into verse
instantly takes rank with Holy Scripture. This passion for poetry, as
it is sometimes called, is manifested on every side; even tradesmen
share it, and as the advertisements in our newspapers show, are
willing to pay small sums to poets who commend their wares in verse.
The widow bereft of her life's companion, the mother bending over an
empty cradle, find solace in thinking what doleful little scrag of
verse shall be graven on the tombstone of the dead. From the earliest
times men have sought to squeeze their loves and joys, their sorrows
and hatreds, into distichs and quatrains, and to inscribe them
somewhere, on walls or windows, on sepulchral urns and gravestones, as
memorials of their pleasure or their pain.

          'Hark! how chimes the passing bell--
           There's no music to a knell;
           All the other sounds we hear
           Flatter and but cheat our ear.'

So wrote Shirley the dramatist, and so does he truthfully explain the
popularity of the epitaph as distinguished from the epigram. Who ever
wearies of Martial's 'Erotion'?--

          'Hic festinata requiescit Erotion umbra,
           Crimine quam fati sexta peremit hiems.
           Quisquis eris nostri post me regnator agelli
           Manibus exiguis annua justa dato.
           Sic lare perpetuo, sic turba sospite, solus
           Flebilis in terra sit lapis iste tua'--

so prettily Englished by Leigh Hunt:

          'Underneath this greedy stone
           Lies little sweet Erotion,
           Whom the Fates with hearts as cold
           Nipped away at six years old.
           Those, whoever thou may'st be,
           That hast this small field after me,
           Let the yearly rites be paid
           To her little slender shade;
           So shall no disease or jar
           Hurt thy house or chill thy Lar,
           But this tomb be here alone
           The only melancholy stone.'

Our English epitaphs are to be found scattered up and down our country
churchyards--'uncouth rhymes,' as Gray calls them, yet full of the
sombre philosophy of life. They are fast becoming illegible, worn out
by the rain that raineth every day, and our prim, present-day parsons
do not look with favour upon them, besides which--to use a clumsy
phrase--besides which most of our churchyards are now closed against
burials, and without texts there can be no sermons:

          'I'll stay and read my sermon here,
             And skulls and bones shall be my text.

                 *       *       *       *

           Here learn that glory and disgrace,
             Wisdom and Folly, pass away,
           That mirth hath its appointed space,
             That sorrow is but for a day;
           That all we love and all we hate,
             That all we hope and all we fear,
           Each mood of mind, each turn of fate,
             Must end in dust and silence here.'

The best epitaphs are the grim ones. Designed, as epitaphs are, to
arrest and hold in their momentary grasp the wandering attention and
languid interest of the passer-by, they must hit him hard and at once,
and this they can only do by striking some very responsive chord, and
no chords are so immediately responsive as those which relate to death
and, it may be, judgment to come.

Mr. Aubrey Stewart, in his interesting _Selection of English Epigrams
and Epitaphs_, published by Chapman and Hall, quotes an epitaph from a
Norfolk churchyard which I have seen in other parts of the country.
The last time I saw it was in the Forest of Dean. It is admirably
suited for the gravestone of any child of very tender years, say four:

          'When the Archangel's trump shall blow
             And souls to bodies join,
           Many will wish their lives below
             Had been as short as mine.'

It is uncouth, but it is warranted to grip.

Frequently, too, have I noticed how constantly the attention is
arrested by Pope's well-known lines from his magnificent 'Verses to
the Memory of an Unfortunate Lady,' which are often to be found on

          'So peaceful rests without a stone and name
           What once had beauty, titles, wealth, and fame.
           How loved, how honoured once avails thee not,
           To whom related or by whom begot.
           A heap of dust alone remains of thee;
           'Tis all thou art and all the proud shall be.'

I wish our modern poetasters who deny Pope's claim to be a poet no
worse fate than to lie under stones which have engraved upon them the
lines just quoted, for they will then secure in death what in life was
denied them--the ear of the public.

Next to the grim epitaph, I should be disposed to rank those which
remind the passer-by of his transitory estate. In different parts of
the country--in Cumberland and Cornwall, in Croyland Abbey, in
Llangollen Churchyard, in Melton Mowbray--are to be found lines more
or less resembling the following:

          'Man's life is like unto a winter's day,
           Some break their fast and so depart away,
           Others stay dinner then depart full fed,
           The longest age but sups and goes to bed.
             O reader, there behold and see
             As we are now, so thou must be.'

The complimentary epitaph seldom pleases. To lie like a tombstone has
become a proverb. Pope's famous epitaph on Newton:

          'Nature and Nature's laws lay hid in night,
            God said, Let Newton be! and all was light.'

is hyperbolical and out of character with the great man it seeks to
honour. It was intended for Westminster Abbey. I rejoice at the
preference given to prose Latinity.

The tender and emotional epitaphs have a tendency to become either
insipid or silly. But Herrick has shown us how to rival Martial:


          Here she lies a pretty bud
          Lately made of flesh and blood;
          Who as soon fell fast asleep
          As her little eyes did peep.
          Give her strewings, but not stir
          The earth that lightly covers her.'

Mr. Dodd, the editor of the admirable volume called _The
Epigrammatists_, published in Bohn's Standard Library, calls these
lines a model of simplicity and elegance. So they are, but they are
very vague. But then the child was very young. Erotion, one must
remember, was six years old. Ben Jonson's beautiful epitaph on S.P., a
child of Queen Elizabeth's Chapel, beginning,

          'Weep with me all you that read
             This little story;
           And know for whom the tear you shed
             Death's self is sorry,'

is fine poetry, but it is not life or death as plain people know those
sober realities. The flippant epitaph is always abominable. Gay's, for

          'Life is a jest, and all things show it.
           I thought so once, but now I know it.'

But _does_ he know it? Ay, there's the rub! The note of Christianity
is seldom struck in epitaphs. There is a deep-rooted paganism in the
English people which is for ever bubbling up and asserting itself in
the oddest of ways. Coleridge's epitaph for himself is a striking

          'Stop, Christian passer-by! stop, child of God,
           And read with gentle breast, Beneath this sod
           A poet lies, or that which once seemed he.
           O lift one thought in prayer for S.T.C,
           That he who many a year with toil of breath
           Found death in life, may here find life in death!
           Mercy for praise--to be forgiven for fame,
           He ask'd and hoped through Christ. Do thou the same.'


'Men are we, and must mourn when e'en the shade of that which once was
great has passed away.' This quotation--which, in obedience to the
prevailing taste, I print as prose--was forced upon me by reading in
the papers an account of some proceedings in a sale-room in Chancery
Lane last Tuesday,[A] when the entire stock and copyright of
_Hansard's Parliamentary History and Debates_ were exposed for sale,
and, it must be added, to ridicule. Yet 'Hansard' was once a name to
conjure with. To be in it was an ambition--costly, troublesome, but
animating; to know it was, if not a liberal education, at all events
almost certain promotion; whilst to possess it for your very own was
the outward and visible sign of serious statesmanship. No wonder that
unimaginative men still believed that _Hansard_ was a property with
money in it. Is it not the counterpart of Parliament, its dark and
majestic shadow thrown across the page of history? As the pious
Catholic studies his _Acta Sanctorum_, so should the constitutionalist
love to pore over the _ipsissima verba_ of Parliamentary gladiators,
and read their resolutions and their motions. Where else save in the
pages of _Hansard_ can we make ourselves fully acquainted with the
history of the Mother of Free Institutions? It is, no doubt, dull, but
with the soberminded a large and spacious dulness like that of
_Hansard's Debates_ is better than the incongruous chirpings of the
new 'humourists.' Besides, its dulness is exaggerated. If a reader
cannot extract amusement from it the fault is his, not _Hansard's_.
But, indeed, this perpetual talk of dulness and amusement ought not to
pass unchallenged. Since when has it become a crime to be dull? Our
fathers were not ashamed to be dull in a good cause. We are ashamed,
but without ceasing to be dull.

 [Footnote A: March 8, 1902.]

But it is idle to argue with the higgle of the market. 'Things are
what they are,' said Bishop Butler in a passage which has lost its
freshness; that is to say, they are worth what they will fetch. 'Why,
then, should we desire to be deceived?' The test of truth remains
undiscovered, but the test of present value is the auction mart. Tried
by this test, it is plain that _Hansard_ has fallen upon evil days.
The bottled dreariness of Parliament is falling, falling, falling. An
Elizabethan song-book, the original edition of Gray's _Elegy_, or
_Peregrine Pickle_, is worth more than, or nearly as much as, the 458
volumes of _Hansard's Parliamentary Debates_. Three complete sets were
sold last Tuesday; one brought L110, the other two but L70 each. And
yet it is not long ago since a _Hansard_ was worth three times as
much. Where were our young politicians? There are serious men on both
sides of the House. Men of their stamp twenty years ago would not have
been happy without a _Hansard_ to clothe their shelves with dignity
and their minds with quotations. But these young men were not bidders.

As the sale proceeded, the discredit of _Hansard_ became plainer and
plainer. For the copyright, including, of course, the goodwill of the
name--the right to call yourself 'Hansard' for years to come--not a
penny was offered, and yet, as the auctioneer feelingly observed, only
eighteen months ago it was valued at L60,000. The cold douche of the
auction mart may brace the mind, but is apt to lower the price of
commodities of this kind. Then came incomplete and unbound sets, with
doleful results. For forty copies of the 'Indian Debates' for 1889
only a penny a copy was offered. It was rumoured that the bidder
intended, had he been successful, to circulate the copies amongst the
supporters of a National Council for India; but his purpose was
frustrated by the auctioneer, who, mindful of the honour of the
Empire, sorrowfully but firmly withdrew the lot, and proceeded to the
next, amidst the jeers of a thoroughly demoralized audience. But this
subject why pursue? It is, for the reason already cited at the
beginning, a painful one. The glory of _Hansard_ has departed for
ever. Like a new-fangled and sham religion, it began in pride and
ended in a police-court, instead of beginning in a police-court and
ending in pride, which is the now well-defined course of true

The fact that nobody wants _Hansard_ is not necessarily a rebuff to
Parliamentary eloquence, yet these low prices jump with the times and
undoubtedly indicate an impatience of oratory. We talk more than our
ancestors, but we prove our good faith by doing it very badly. We have
no Erskines at the Bar, but trials last longer than ever. There are
not half a dozen men in the House of Commons who can make a speech,
properly so called, but the session is none the shorter on that
account. _Hansard's Debates_ are said to be dull to read, but there is
a sterner fate than reading a dull debate: you may be called upon to
listen to one. The statesmen of the time must be impervious to
dulness; they must crush the artist within them to a powder. The new
people who have come bounding into politics and are now claiming their
share of the national inheritance are not orators by nature, and will
never become so by culture; but they mean business, and that is well.
Caleb Garth and not George Canning should be the model of the virtuous
politician of the future.


The late Mr. Carlyle has somewhere in his voluminous but well-indexed
writings a highly humorous and characteristic passage in which he,
with all his delightful gusto, dilates upon the oddity of the scene
where a withered old sinner perched on a bench, quaintly attired in
red turned up with ermine, addresses another sinner in a wooden pew,
and bids him be taken away and hung by the neck until he is dead; and
how the sinner in the pew, instead of indignantly remonstrating with
the sinner on the bench, 'Why, you cantankerous old absurdity, what
are you about taking my life like that?' usually exhibits signs of
great depression, and meekly allows himself to be conducted to his
cell, from whence in due course he is taken and throttled according to

This situation described by Carlyle is doubtless mighty full of
humour; but, none the less, were any prisoner at the bar to adopt
Craigenputtock's suggestion, he would only add to the peccadillo of
murder the grave offence of contempt of court, which has been defined
'as a disobedience to the court, an opposing or despising the
authority, justice, and dignity thereof.'

The whole subject of Contempt is an interesting and picturesque one,
and has been treated after an interesting and picturesque yet accurate
and learned fashion by a well-known lawyer, in a treatise[A] which
well deserves to be read not merely by the legal practitioner, but by
the student of constitutional law and the nice observer of our manners
and customs.

 [Footnote A: _Contempt of Court, etc._ By J.F. Oswald, Q.C. London:
 William Clowes and Sons, Limited.]

An ill-disposed person may exhibit contempt of court in divers
ways--for example, he may scandalize the the court itself, which may
be done not merely by the extreme measure of hurling missiles at the
presiding judge, or loudly contemning his learning or authority, but
by ostentatiously reading a newspaper in his presence, or laughing
uproariously at a joke made by somebody else. Such contempts,
committed as they are _in facie curiae_, are criminal offences, and
may be punished summarily by immediate imprisonment without the right
of appeal. It speaks well both for the great good sense of the judges
and for the deep-rooted legal instincts of our people that such
offences are seldom heard of. It would be impossible nicely to define
what measure of freedom of manners should be allowed in a court of
justice, which, as we know, is neither a church nor a theatre, but, as
a matter of practice, the happy mean between an awe-struck and unmanly
silence and free-and-easy conversation is well preserved. The
practising advocate, to avoid contempt and obtain, if instructed so to
do, a hearing, must obey certain sumptuary laws, for not only must he
don the horsehair wig, the gown, and bands of his profession, but his
upper clothing must be black, nor should his nether garment be
otherwise than of sober hue. Mr. Oswald reports Mr. Justice Byles as
having once observed to the late Lord Coleridge whilst at the Bar: 'I
always listen with little pleasure to the arguments of counsel whose
legs are encased in light gray trousers.' The junior Bar is growing
somewhat lax in these matters. Dark gray coats are not unknown, and it
was only the other day I observed a barrister duly robed sitting in
court in a white waistcoat, apparently oblivious of the fact that
whilst thus attired no judge could possibly have heard a word he said.
However, as he had nothing to say, the question did not arise. It is
doubtless the increasing Chamber practice of the judges which has
occasioned this regrettable laxity. In Chambers a judge cannot
summarily commit for contempt, nor is it necessary or customary for
counsel to appear before him in robes. Some judges object to fancy
waistcoats in Chambers, but others do not. The late Sir James Bacon,
who was a great stickler for forensic propriety, and who, sitting in
court, would not have allowed a counsel in a white waistcoat to say a
word, habitually wore one himself when sitting as vacation judge in
the summer.

It must not be supposed that there can be no contempt out of court.
There can. To use bad language on being served with legal process is
to treat the court from whence such process issued with contempt. None
the less, considerable latitude of language on such occasions is
allowed. How necessary it is to protect the humble officers of the law
who serve writs and subpoenas is proved by the case of one Johns, who
was very rightly committed to the Fleet in 1772, it appearing by
affidavit that he had compelled the poor wretch who sought to serve
him with a subpoena to devour both the parchment and the wax seal of
the court, and had then, after kicking him so savagely as to make him
insensible, ordered his body to be cast into the river. No amount of
irritation could justify such conduct. It is no contempt to tear up
the writ or subpoena in the presence of the officer of the court,
because, the service once lawfully effected, the court is indifferent
to the treatment of its stationery; but such behaviour, though lawful,
is childish. To obstruct a witness on his way to give evidence, or to
threaten him if he does give evidence, or to tamper with the jury, are
all serious contempts. In short, there is a divinity which hedges a
court of justice, and anybody who, by action or inaction, renders the
course of justice more difficult or dilatory than it otherwise would
be, incurs the penalty of contempt. Consider, for example, the case of
documents and letters. Prior to the issue of a writ, the owner of
documents and letters may destroy them, if he pleases--the fact of his
having done so, if litigation should ensue on the subject to which the
destroyed documents related, being only matter for comment--but the
moment a writ is issued the destruction by a defendant of any document
in his possession relating to the action is a grave contempt, for
which a duchess was lately sent to prison. There is something majestic
about this. No sooner is the aid of a court of law invoked than it
assumes a seizin of every scrap of writing which will assist it in its
investigation of the matter at issue between the parties, and to
destroy any such paper is to obstruct the court in its holy task, and
therefore a contempt.

To disobey a specific order of the court is, of course, contempt. The
old Court of Chancery had a great experience in this aspect of the
question. It was accustomed to issue many peremptory commands; it
forbade manufacturers to foul rivers, builders so to build as to
obstruct ancient lights, suitors to seek the hand in matrimony of its
female wards, Dissenting ministers from attempting to occupy the
pulpits from which their congregations had by vote ejected them, and
so on through almost all the business of this mortal life. It was more
ready to forbid than to command; but it would do either if justice
required it. And if you persisted in doing what the Court of Chancery
told you not to do, you were committed; whilst if you refused to do
what it had ordered you to do, you were attached; and the difference
between committal and attachment need not concern the lay mind.

To pursue the subject further would be to plunge into the morasses of
the law where there is no footing for the plain man; but just a word
or two may be added on the subject of punishment for contempt. In old
days persons who were guilty of contempt _in facie curiae_ had their
right hands cut off, and Mr. Oswald prints as an appendix to his book
certain clauses of an Act of Parliament of Henry VIII. which provide
for the execution of this barbarous sentence, and also (it must be
admitted) for the kindly after-treatment of the victim, who was to
have a surgeon at hand to sear the stump, a sergeant of the poultry
with a cock ready for the surgeon to wrap about the stump, a sergeant
of the pantry with bread to eat, and a sergeant of the cellar with a
pot of red wine to drink.

Nowadays the penalty for most contempts is costs. The guilty party in
order to purge his contempt has to pay all the costs of a motion to
commit and attach. The amount is not always inconsiderable, and when
it is paid it would be idle to apply to the other side for a pot of
red wine. They would only laugh at you. Our ancestors had a way of
mitigating their atrocities which robs the latter of more than half
their barbarity. Costs are an unmitigable atrocity.


The appearance of this undebated Act of Parliament in the attenuated
volume of the Statutes of 1905 almost forces upon sensitive minds an
unwelcome inquiry as to what is the attitude proper to be assumed by
an emancipated but trained intelligence towards a decision of the
House of Lords, sitting judicially as the highest (because the last)
Court of Appeal.

So far as the _parties_ to the litigation are concerned, the decision,
if of a final character, puts an end to the _lis_. Litigation must, so
at least it has always been assumed, end somewhere, and in these
realms it ends with the House of Lords. Higher you cannot go, however
litigiously minded.

In the vast majority of appeal cases a final appeal not only ends the
_lis_, but determines once for all the rights of the parties to the
subject-matter. The successful litigant leaves the House of Lords
quieted in his possession or restored to what he now knows to be his
own, conscious of a victory, final and complete; whilst the
unsuccessful litigant goes away exceeding sorrowful, knowing that his
only possible revenge is to file his petition in bankruptcy.

This, however, is not always so.

In August, 1904, the House of Lords decided in a properly constituted
_lis_ that a particular ecclesiastical body in Scotland, somewhat
reduced in numbers, but existent and militant, was entitled to certain
property held in trust for the use and behoof of the Free Church of
Scotland. There is no other way of holding property than by a legal
title. Sometimes that title has been created by an Act of Parliament,
and sometimes it is a title recognised by the general laws and customs
of the realm, but a legal title it has got to be. Titles are never
matters of rhetoric, nor are they _jure divino_, or conferred in
answer to prayer; they are strictly legal matters, and it is the very
particular business of courts of law, when properly invoked, to
recognise and enforce them.

In the case I have in mind there were two claimants to the
subject-matter--the Free Church and the United Free Church--and the
House of Lords, after a great argle-bargle, decided that the property
in question belonged to the Free Church.

Thereupon the expected happened. A hubbub arose in Scotland and
elsewhere, and in consequence of the hubbub an Act of Parliament has
somewhat coyly made its appearance in the Statute Book (5 Edward VII.,
chapter 12) appointing and authorizing Commissioners to take away from
the successful litigant a certain portion of the property just
declared to be his, and to give it to the unsuccessful litigant.

The reasons alleged for taking away by statute from the Free Church
some of the property that belongs to it are that the Free Church is
not big enough to administer satisfactorily all the property it
possesses; and that the State may reasonably refuse to allow a
religious body to have more property than it can in the opinion of
State-appointed Commissioners usefully employ in the propagation of
its religion. Let the reasons be well noted. They have made their
appearance before in history. These were the reasons alleged by Henry
VIII. for the suppression of the smaller monasteries. The State,
having made up its mind to take away from the Free Church so much of
its property as the Commissioners may think it cannot usefully
administer, then proceeds, by this undebated Act of Parliament, to
give the overplus to the unsuccessful litigant, the United Free
Church. Why to them? It will never do to answer this question by
saying because it is always desirable to return lost property to its
true owner, since so to reply would be to give the lie direct to a
decision of the Final Court of Appeal on a question of property.

In the eye--I must not write the blind eye--of the law, this
parliamentary gift to the United Free Church is not a _giving back_
but an _original free gift_ from the State by way of endowment to a
particular denomination of Presbyterian dissenters. In theory the
State could have done what it liked with so much of the property of
the Free Church as that body is not big enough to spend upon itself.
It might, for example, have divided it between Presbyterians
generally, or it might have left it to the Free Church to say who was
to be the disponee of its property.

As a matter of hard fact, the State had no choice in the matter. It
could not select, or let the Free Church select, the object of its
bounty. The public sense (a vague term) demanded that the United Free
Church should not be required to abide by the decision of the House of
Lords, but should have given to it whatever property could, under any
decent pretext of public policy and by Act of Parliament, be taken
away from the Free Church. If the pretext of the inability of the
Free Church to administer its own estate had not been forthcoming,
some other pretext must and would have been discovered.

Having regard, then, to 5 Edward VII., chapter 12, how ought one to
feel towards the decision of the House of Lords in the Scottish
Churches case? In public life you can usually huddle up anything, if
only all parties, for reasons, however diverse, of their own, are
agreed upon what is to be done. Like many another Act of Parliament, 5
Edward VII., chapter 12, was bought with a sum of money. Nobody, not
even Lord Robertson, really wanted to debate or discuss it, least of
all to discover the philosophy of it. But in an essay you can huddle
up nothing. At all hazards, you must go on. This is why so many
essayists have been burnt alive.

_First_.--Was the decision wrong? 'Yes' or 'No.' If it was right--

_Second_.--Was the law, in pursuance of which the decision was given,
so manifestly unjust as to demand, not the alteration of the law for
the future, but the passage through Parliament, _ex post facto_, of an
Act to prevent the decision from taking effect between the parties
according to its tenour?

_Third_.--Supposing the decision to be right, and the law it expounded
just and reasonable in general, was there anything in the peculiar
circumstances of the successful litigant, and in the sources from
which a considerable portion of the property was derived, to justify
Parliamentary interference and the provisions of 5 Edward VII.,
chapter 12?

_Number Three_, being the easiest way out of the difficulty, has been
adopted. The _decision_ remains untouched, the _law_ it expounds
remains unaltered--nothing has gone, except the _order_ of the Final
Court giving effect to the untouched decision and to the unaltered
law. _That_ has been tampered with for the reasons suggested in
_Number Three_.

John Locke was fond of referring questions to something he called 'the
bulk of mankind'--an undefinable, undignified, unsalaried body, of
small account at the beginning of controversies, but all-powerful at
their close.

My own belief is that eventually 'the bulk of mankind' will say
bluntly that the House of Lords went wrong in these cases, and that
the Act of Parliament was hastily patched up to avert wrong, and to
do substantial justice between the parties.

If asked, What can 'the bulk of mankind' know about law? I reply, with
great cheerfulness, 'Very little indeed.' But suppose that the
application of law to a particular _lis_ requires precise and full
knowledge of all that happened during an ecclesiastical contest, and,
in addition, demands a grasp of the philosophy of religion, and the
ascertainment of true views as to the innate authority of a church and
the development of doctrine, would there be anything very surprising
if half a dozen eminent authorities in our Courts of Law and Equity
were to go wrong?

Between a frank admission of an incomplete consideration of a
complicated and badly presented case and such blunt _ex post facto_
legislation as 5 Edward VII., chapter 12, I should have preferred the
former. The Act is what would once have been called a dangerous
precedent. To-day precedents, good or bad, are not much considered. If
we want to do a thing, we do it, precedent or no precedent. So far we
have done so very little that the question has hardly arisen. If our
Legislature ever reassumes activity under new conditions, and in
obedience to new impulses, it may be discovered whether bad precedents
are dangerous or not.


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