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In these days of books and bookmaking, when, to the ordinary mortal, the attempt to breast the ever-swelling tide of intellectual outpouring seems hopeless, it is refreshing to pause in the struggle at a spot where the rushing waters form a back eddy, when the froth and splashing of actual production is lost and the calm, clear depths can be easily gazed into without bewildering excitement. So in this volume many a jaded brain and weary thinker may find pleasurable respite from every-day toil, while sauntering amongst this choice collection of literary flowers.
It does not often occur that a mind so gifted and vigorous as that of the Compiler of this common-place book has left no original production behind to speak its power and genius. But to those who knew the Rev. John Guard, the following pages are eloquent of his mind and character. A great debt of gratitude is due to those by whose genius and exertions great works of science and art have been at all times given to the world. And how few would have been those privileged to enjoy those master-pieces, but for the establishment of museums and collections. In a day can be seen the result of lives of toil and the piled-up knowledge of ages. In the wide world of literature, this is even more the case ; the majority can only accept the result of the studies of others, and should be only too glad for another well-arranged bouquet from the gardens of the mind.
The Compiler of this common-place book has well carried out the meaning and intent of the term, for he instructs without inducing a yawn, and amuses, but not to satiety; so trespassing upon no one's forbearance, and earning his title to be the common friend in place in every bookshelf.
I am asked by those interested to thank very sincerely the friends who have kindly subscribed to this volume.
Christmas at home.
The author of the following reflections would premise that he is about to consider the subject proposed in its social and physical, rather than its religious, aspect He is fully aware that the very name of Christmas is suggestive of all that is joyous and holy. To a truly Christian mind it seems to appeal to the kindliest and most grateful instincts of human nature. The event commemorated is the event which, beyond all others, calls for religious joy. It is the anniversary of the world's new birth—the celebration of that marvellous fact (so marvellous that it requires some mental effort to grasp it as a fact), that He who was God over all appeared among His creatures in the form of a humble child. “Ye shall find the babe wrapt in swaddling clothes,' &c. Wondrous announcement, amazing to us as to the shepherds ! Glad news, good tidings--the best news that ever was brought from Heaven to earth, the best tidings that ever were poured into mortal ears ! But the author of the present paper is not writing a sermon, and has no intention of dwelling long on the religious aspect of Christmas. That must be much the same in whatever quarter or corner of the world the festival is observed, whether in England or in New Zealand, within the torrid or frigid
But regarding the subject in what may be called its material aspect, he has often thought how much the outward celebration must vary according to the geographical position of the place in which we may chance to be living. His own recollections of Christmas festivities carry him back in thought, some half century or more, to dear Ottery, the place of his birth ; and to one particular spot, associated in his mind with much that is pleasing in the retrospect, and especially with reference to the subject on hand. certain brick house at the upper end of the town, approached by a flight of stone steps and flanked by a couple of lime-trees, with an ornamental garden and shrubbery opposite, barely intercepted by the road leading to Honiton, lives in his mind fresh and unfading. This was the house (so well known to the members of the S. H. C.) in which his Christmas holidays were spent. Christmas holidays ! What a mockery to some, what a joyful reality to others ! What an actual reality (if he may be allowed the term) was it to him!
The return from school! What does not this imply? Six weeks' freedom from Latin and Greek grammar; six weeks freedom from getting up in the dark, and sitting shivering in the cold, gas-lit school-room two hours before breakfast; six weeks' freedom from going to bed with your repetition unlearnt, or your copy of verses unfinished; six weeks' freedom from the necessity of swallowing with your dinner a vile compound which passed for beer, and for your breakfast a collection of stale crusts soaked in a basin of water slightly diluted with milk. These and other abominations, or rather the suspension of them for awhile, are included in the idea of Christmas holidays.
But the absence of pain is not veritable pleasure, or at least not the only ingredient of pleasure; and the suspension of the above-named abominations was not the only source