Page images
PDF
EPUB

men. This class of character have been called “ God Almighty's gentlemen.” There are not a great many of them. The late G--D was one ; for we understand that that gentleman was not able to survive some ill-disposed person's having asserted of him, that he had mistaken Lord Castlereagh for the author of Waverley !

Blood pull off his hat to every one in the street, till he came to the beggarman that swept the crossing. This was a nice Jistinction. Farther, it was a distinction that the writer of this Essay would not make to be a Prince of the Blood. Perhaps, however, a question might be started in the manner of Montaigne, whether the beggar did not pull off his hat in quality of asking charity, and not as a mark of respect. Now a Prince may decline giving charity, though he is obliged to return a civility. If he does not, he may be treated with disrespect another time, and that is an alternative he is bound to prevent. Any other person might set up such a plea, but the

person to whom a whole street had been bowing just before.

ESSAY III.

ON READING OLD BOOKS.

ESSAY III.

ON READING OLD BOOKS.

I HATE to read new books. There are twenty or thirty volumes that I have read over and over again, and these are the only ones that I have any desire ever to read at all. It was a long time before I could bring myself to sit down to the Tales of My Landlord, but now that author's works have made a considerable addition to my scanty library. I am told that some of Lady Morgan's are good, and have been recommended to look into Anastasius; but I have not yet ventured upon that task. that task. A lady, the other day, could not refrain from expressing her surprise to a friend, who said he had been reading Delphine:-she asked,-If it had not been published some time back? Women judge of books as they do of fashions or complexions, which are admired only "in their newest gloss." That is not my way. I am not one of those who trouble the circulating libraries much, or pester the booksellers for mail-coach copies of

standard periodical publications. I cannot say that I am greatly addicted to black-letter, but I profess myself well versed in the marble bindings of Andrew Millar, in the middle of the last century; nor does my taste revolt at Thurloe's State Papers, in Russia leather; or an ample impression of Sir William Temple's Essays, with a portrait after Sir Godfrey Kneller in front. I do not think altogether the worse of a book for having survived the author a generation or two. I have more confidence in the dead than the living. Contemporary writers may generally be divided into two classes-one's friends or one's foes. Of the first we are compelled to think too well, and of the last we are disposed to think too ill, to receive much

genuine pleasure from the perusal, or to judge fairly of the merits of either. One candidate for literary

fame, who happens to be of our acquaintance, writes finely, and like a man of genius; but unfortunately has a foolish face, which spoils a delicate passage:-another inspires us with the highest respect for his personal talents and character, but does not quite come up to our expectations in print. All these contradictions and petty details interrupt the calm current of our reflections. If you want to know what any of the authors were who lived before our time, and

« PreviousContinue »