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ened into a hastier development, by Arkwright and the
gance belonging to my father's establishment, but for the very opposite reason, as belonging very generally to my father's class. Many of them possessed collections much finer than his; and I remember that two of the few visits, on which, when a child, I was allowed to accompany my mother, were expressly to see a picture-gallery, belonging to a merchant, not much wealthier than my father. In reality, I cannot say anything more to the honor of this mercantile class than the fact, that, being a wealthy class, and living with a free and liberal expenditure, they applied a very considerable proportion of this expenditure to intellectual pleasures to pictures, very commonly, as I have mentioned - to liberal society — and, in a large measure, to books. Yet, whilst the whole body of the merchants in this place lived in a style which, for its mixed liberality and elegance, resembled that of Venetian merchants, there was very little about themselves or their establishments of external splendor, that is, in any features which met the public eye. According to the manners of their country, the internal economy of their establishments erred by too much profusion. They had too many servants; and those servants were maintained in a style of luxury and comfort, not often matched in the mansions of the nobility. Yet, on the other hand, none of these were kept for show or ostentation; and, accordingly, it was not very common to find servants in livery. The women had their fixed and appropriate duties; but the men acted in mixed capacities. Carriages were not very commonly kept; even where from one to two thousand a year might be spent. There was in this town a good deal of society; somewhat better in an intellectual sense than such as is merely literary; for that is, of all society, the feeblest. From the clergyman, the medical body, and the merchants, was supported a Philosophical Society, who regularly published their transactions.
And some of the members were of a rank in science to correspond with D'Alembert, and others of the leading Parisian wits and literati. Yet so little even here did mere outside splendor and imposing names avail against the palpable evidence of things-against mother-wit and natural robustness of intellect, that the particular physician who chiefly corresponded with the Encyclopedists, spite of his Buffon, his Diderot, his D'Alembert, by whom, in fact, he swore, and whose frothy letters he kept like amulets in his pocket-book, ranked in general esteem as no better than one of the sons of the feeble; and the treason went so far as sometimes to comprehend his correspondthe great men of the Academy-in the same derogatory estimate; and, in reality, their printed letters are evidences enough that no great wrong was done them
being generally vapid, and as much inferior to Gray's letters, recently made popular by Mason's life throughout England, as these again are, in spirit, and naïveté · to Cowper's only, but to many an unknown woman's in every night of the year- little thought of perhaps by her correspondent, and destined pretty certainly to oblivion. One word only I shall add, descriptive of my father's library; because in describing his, I describe those of all his class. It was very extensive; comprehending the whole general literature both of England and Scotland for the preceding generation. It was impossible to name a book in the classes of history, biography, voyages and travels, belles-lettres, or popular divinity, which was wanting. And to these was added a pretty complete body of local tours, (such as Pennant's,) and topography; many of which last, being illustrated extensively with plates, were fixed for ever in the recollections of children. But one thing was noticeable, - all the books were English. There was no affectation either in my father or
mother, of decorating their tables with foreign books, not better than thousands of corresponding books in their mother idiom; or of painfully spelling out the contents, obscurely and doubtfully, as must always happen when people have not a familiar oral acquaintance with the whole force and value of a language. How often, upon the table of a modern litterateur, languid, perhaps, and dyspeptic, so as to be in no condition for enjoying anything, do we see books lying in six or eight different languages, not one of which he has mastered in a degree putting him really and unaffectedly in possession of its idiomatic wealth, or really, and seriously, in a condition to seek his unaffected pleasures in that language. Besides, what reason has any man looking only for enjoyment, to import exotic luxuries, until he has a little exhausted those which are native to the soil? Are Abana and Pharpar, rivers of Damascus, better indeed than all the waters of Israel? True it is, there are different reasons for learning a language; and with some I have here nothing to do. But where the luxuries of literature are the things sought, I can understand why a Dane should learn English; because his native literature is not wide, nor very original; and the best modern writers of his country have a trick of writing in German, with a view to a larger audience. Even a Spaniard, or a Portuguese, might, with much good sense, acquire at some pains the English or the German; because his own literature, with a few splendid jewels, is not mounted in all departments equally well. But is it for those who have fed on the gifts of Ceres, to discard them for acorns? This is to reverse the old mythological history of human progress. Now, for example, one of the richest departments in English literature happens to be its drama, from the reign of Elizabeth, to the Parliamentary war: such another exhi
bition of human life under a most picturesque form of manners, and a stage of society so rich in original portraiture, and in strength of character, has not existed elsewhere, nor is ever likely to revolve upon ourselves. The tragic drama of Greece is the only section of literature having a corresponding interest or value. Well; few readers are now much acquainted with this section of literature; even the powerful sketches of Beaumont and Fletcher, who, in their comic delineations, approach to Shakspeare, lie covered with dust; and yet, whilst these things are, some twenty years ago we all saw the arid sterilities of Alfieri promoted to a place in every young lady's boudoir. It is true that, in this particular instance, the undue honor paid to this lifeless painter of life, and this undramatic dramatist, was owing to the accident of his memoirs having been just then published; and true also it is, that the insipid dramas, unable to sustain themselves, have long since sunk back into oblivion. But other writers, not better, are still succeeding; as must ever be the case, with readers not sufficiently masters of a language, to bring the true pretensions of a work to any test of feeling, and who are for ever mistaking for some pleasure conferred by the writer, what is in fact the pleasure * naturally attached to the sense of a difficulty overcome.
Not only were there in my father's library no books except English; but even amongst those there were none connected with the Black Letter literature; none in fact, of any kind, which presupposed study and labor, for their enjoyment. It was a poor library, on this account, for a scholar or a man of research. Its use and purpose was mere enjoyment, instant amusement, without effort or
* There can be no doubt that this particular mistake has been a chief cause of the vastly exaggerated appreciation of much that is mediocre in Greek literature.