In the Name of the Bodleian and Other Essays
Augustine Birrell

Part 1 out of 3

Produced by Janet Kegg and PG Distributed Proofreaders





_'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_.





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


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