Imágenes de páginas
PDF
EPUB

At such a season the Tempest, or his own Winter's Tale.

These two poets you cannot avoid reading aloud-to yourself, or (as it chances) to some single person listening. More than one, and it degenerates into an audience.

Books of quick interest, that hurry on for incidents, are for the eye to glide over only. It will not do to read them out. I could never listen to even the better kind of modern novela without extreme irksomeness.

A newspaper read out is intolerable. In some of the Bank offices it is the custom (to save sa much individual time) for one of the clerks, who is the best scholar, to commence upon the Times, or the Chronicle, and recite its entire contents aloud, pro bono publico. With every advantage of lungs and elocution, the effect is singularly vapid. In barbers' shops and publichouses a fellow will get up and spell out a para. graph, which he communicates as some discovery. Another follows with his selection. So the entire journal transpires at length by piecemeal. Seldom-readers are slow readers, and without this expedient no one in the company would probably ever travel through the con. tents of a whole paper..

Newspapers always excite curiosity. No one ever lays one down without a feeling of disappointment.

What an eternal time that gentleman in black, at Nando's, keeps the paper! I am sick of

hearing the waiter bawling out incessantly, “The Chronicle is in hand, Sir."

Coming into an inn at night-having ordered your supper-what can be more delightful than to find lying in the window-seat, left there time out of mind by the carelessness of some former guest, two or three numbers of the old Town and Country Magazine, with its amusing têten e-tête pictures-“The Royal Lover and Lady G- ;" "The Melting Platonic and the old Beau,"_and such-like antiquated scandal? Would you exchange it-at that time, and in that place for a better book?

Poor Tobin, who latterly fell blind, did not regret it so much for the weightier kinds of reading, (the "Paradise Lost," or "Comus," he could have read to him,) but he missed the pleasure of skimming over with his own eye a magazine, or a light pamphlet.

I should not care to be caught in the serious avenues of some cathedral alone, and reading Candide.

I do not remember a more whimsical sur. prise than having been once detected, by a familiar damsel, reclined at my case upon the grass, on Primrose Hill, (her Cythera,) read. ing Pamela. There was nothing in the book to make a man seriously ashamed at the exposure; but as she seated herself down by me and seemed determined to read in company, I could have wished it had been any other book. We read on very sociably for a few pages; but

not finding the author much to her taste she got up and went away. Gentle casuist, I leave it to thee to conjecture, whether the blush (for there was one between us) was the property of the nymph or the swain in this dilemma. From me you shall never get the secret.

I am not much a friend to out-of-doors read. ing. I cannot settle my spirits to it. I knew a Unitarian minister, who was generally to be seen upon Snow Hill, (as yet Skinner's Street was not,) between the hours of ten and eleven in the morning, studying a volume of Lardner, I own this to have been a strain of abstraction beyond my reach. I used to admire how he sidled along, keeping clear of secular contacts. An illiterate encounter with a porter's knot or a bread-basket would have quickly put to flight all the theology I am master of, and have left mc worse than indifferent to the five points.

There is a class of street readers whom I can never contemplate without affection, the poor gentry, who, not having wherewithal to buy or hire a book, filch a little learning at the open stalls; the owner, with his hard eye, casting envious looks at them all the while, and thinking when they will have done. Venturing ten. derly, page after page, expecting every moment when he shall interpose his interdict, and yet unable to deny themselves the gratification, they "snatch a fearful joy." Martin B , in this way, by daily fragments, got through two volumes of "Clarissa," when the stall-keeper

damped his laudable ambition, by asking him (it was in his younger days) whether he meant to purchase the work. M- declares, that under no circumstance in his life did he ever peruse a book with half the satisfaction which he took in those uneasy snatches. A quaint poetess of our day has moralised upon this subject in two very touching but homely stanzas :

“ I saw a boy with eager eye
Open a book upon a stall,
And read, as he'd devour it all ;
Which when the stall-man did espy,
Soon to the boy I heard him call,
• You Sir, you never buy a book,
Therefore in one you shall not look.'
The boy pass'd slowly on, and with a sigh
He wish'd he never had been taught to read,
Then of the old churl's books he should have

had no need.

Of sufferings the poor have many,
Which never can the rich annoy:
I soon perceived another boy,
Who look'd as if he had not any
Food--for that day at least-enjoy
The sight of cold meat in a tavern larder.
This boy's case, then thought I, is surely

harder,
Thus hungry, longing, thus without a penny,
Beholding choice of dainty-dressed meat :
No wonder if he wish he ne'er had learn'd to

cat.."

THE SUPERANNUATED MAN

Sera tamen respexit.
Libertas.

VIRGIL
A Clerk I was in London gay.-O'KEEFE.

IF peradventure, Reader, it has been thy lot to waste the golden years of thy life, thy shining youth, in the irksome confinement of an office; to have thy prison days prolonged through middle age down to decrepitude and silver hairs, without hope of release or respite; to have lived to forget that there are such things as holidays, or to remember them but as the prerogatives of childhood; then, and then only, will you be able to appreciate my deliverance.

It is now six-and-thirty years since I took my seat at the desk in Mincing Lane. Melancholy was the transition at fourteen from the abundant playtime, and the frequently intervening vacations of school days, to the eight, nine, and sometimes ten hours a-day attend. ance at the counting-house. But time partially reconciles us to anything. I gradually became content; doggedly contented, as wild animals in cages.

It is true I had my Sundays to myself; but Sundays, admirable as the institution of them is for purposes of worship, are for that very reason the very worst adapted for days of unbending and recreation. In particular, there is

« AnteriorContinuar »