In the Name of the Bodleian and Other Essays
Augustine Birrell

Part 2 out of 3

designed a binding of his own) died on November 24, 1693, and the
epitaph, of his own composition, on his tombstone may still be read
with profit by time-servers of all degrees and denominations, cleric
and lay, in Parliament and out of it. All the deprived Bishops, so Mr.
Lathbury assures us, were in very narrow circumstances, and of Turner,
of Ely, Mr. Lathbury very properly writes: 'This man who, by adhering
to the new Sovereign, and taking the oath, might have ended his day
amidst an abundance of earthly blessings, was actually sustained in
his declining years by the bounty of those who sympathized with him in
his distresses.' Bishop Turner died in 1700.

Despite this distressing and most genuine poverty, the reader of old
books will not infrequently come across traces of many happy and
well-spent hours during which these poor Non-Jurors managed 'to fleet
the time' in their own society, for they were, many of them, men of
the most varied tastes and endowed with Christian tempers; whilst
their writings exhibit, as no other writings of the period do, the
saintliness and devotion which are supposed to be among the 'notes'
of the Catholic Church. Two better men than Kettlewell and Dodwell
are nowhere to be found, and as for vigorous writing, where is Charles
Leslie to be matched?

So long as the deprived fathers continued to live, the schism--for
complete schism it was between 'the faithful remnant of the Church of
England' and the Established Church--was on firm ground. But what was
to happen when the last Bishop died? Dodwell, who, next to Hickes,
seems to have dominated the Non-Juring mind, did not wish the schism
to continue after the death of the deprived Bishops; for though he
admitted that the prayers for the Revolution Sovereigns would be
'unlawful prayers,' to which assent could not properly be given, he
still thought that communion with the Church of England was possible.
Hickes thought otherwise, and Hickes, it must not be forgotten, though
only known to the world and even to Non-Jurors generally, as the
deprived Dean of Worcester, was in sober truth and reality Bishop of
Thetford, having been consecrated a Suffragan Bishop under that title
by the deprived Bishops of Norwich, Peterborough, and Ely, at
Southgate, in Middlesex, on February 24, 1693, in the Bishop of
Peterborough's lodgings. At the same time the accomplished Thomas
Wagstaffe was consecrated Suffragan Bishop of Ipswich, though he
continued to earn his living as a physician all the rest of his days.

These were clandestine consecrations, for even so well-tried and
whole-hearted a Non-Juror as Thomas Hearne, of Oxford, knew nothing
about them, though a great friend of both the new Bishops, until long
years had sped. It would be idle at this distance of time, and having
regard to the events which have happened since February, 1693, to
consider the nice questions how far the Act of Henry VIII. relating to
the appointment of suffragans could have any applicability to such
consecrations, or what degree of Episcopal authority was thereby
conferred, or for how long.

As things turned out, Ken proved the longest liver of the deprived
fathers. The good Bishop died at Longleat, one of the few great houses
which sheltered Non-Jurors, on March 19, 1711. But before his death he
had made cession of his rights to his friend Hooper, who on the
violent death of Kidder, the intruding revolution Bishop, had been
appointed by Queen Anne, who had wished to reinstate Ken, to Bath and
Wells. It was the wish of Ken that the schism should come to an end on
his death.

It did nothing of the kind, though some very leading Non-Jurors,
including the learned Dodwell and Nelson, rejoined the main body of
the Church, saving all just exceptions to the 'unlawful prayers.'

Bishop Wagstaffe died in 1712, leaving Bishop Hickes alone in his
glory, who in 1713, assisted by two Scottish Bishops, consecrated
Jeremy Collier, Samuel Hawes, and Nathaniel Spinckes, Bishops of 'the
faithful remnant.' Hickes died in 1715, and the following year the
great and hugely learned Thomas Brett became a Bishop, as also did
Henry Gawdy.

Then, alas! arose a schism which rent the faithful remnant in twain.
It was about a great subject, the Communion Service. Collier and Brett
were in favour of altering the Book of Common Prayer so as to restore
it to the First Book of King Edward VI., which provided for (1) The
mixed chalice; (2) prayers for the faithful departed; (3) prayer for
the descent of the Holy Ghost on the consecrated elements; (4) the
Oblatory Prayer, offering the elements to the Father as symbols of His
Son's body and blood. This side of the controversy became known as
'The Usagers,' whilst those Non-Jurors, headed by Bishop Spinckes, who
held by King Charles's Prayer-Book, were called 'the Non-Usagers.' The
discussion lasted long, and was distinguished by immense learning and

The Usagers may be said to have carried the day, for after the
controversy had lasted fourteen years, in 1731 Timothy Mawman was
consecrated a Bishop by three Bishops, two of whom were 'Usagers' and
one a 'Non-Usager.' But in the meantime what had become of the
congregations committed to their charge? Never large, they had
dwindled almost entirely away.

The last regular Bishop was Robert Gordon, who was consecrated in 1741
by Brett, Smith, and Mawman. Gordon, who was an out-and-out Jacobite,
died in 1779.

I have not even mentioned the name of perhaps the greatest of the
Non-Jurors, William Law, nor that of Carte, an historian, the fruits
of whose labour may still be seen in other men's orchards.

The whole story, were it properly told, would prove how hard it is in
a country like England, where nobody really cares about such things,
to run a schism. But who knows what may happen to-morrow?


'Buy good books and read them; the best books are the commonest, and
the last editions are always the best, if the editors are not
blockheads.' So wrote Lord Chesterfield to his son, that
highly-favoured and much bewritten youth, on March 19, 1750, and his
words have been chosen with great cunning by Mr. Charles Strachey as a
motto for his new edition of these famous letters.[A]

[Footnote A: Published by Methuen and Co. in 2 vols.]

The quotation is full of the practical wisdom, but is at the same
time--so much, at least, an old book-collector may be allowed to
say--a little suggestive of the too-well-defined limitations of their
writer's genius and character. Lord Chesterfield is always clear and
frequently convincing, yet his wisdom is that of Mr. Worldly Wiseman,
and not only never points in the direction of the Celestial City, but
seldom displays sympathy with any generous emotion or liberal taste.
Yet as we have nobody like him in the whole body of our literature, we
can welcome even another edition--portable, complete, and cheap--of
his letters to his son with as much enthusiasm as is compatible with
the graces, and with the maxim, so dear to his lordship's heart, _Nil

What, I have often wondered, induced Lord Chesterfield to write this
enormously long and troublesome series of letters to a son who was not
even his heir? Their sincerity cannot be called in question. William
Wilberforce did not more fervently desire the conversion to God of his
infant Samuel than apparently did Lord Chesterfield the transformation
of his lumpish offspring into 'the all-accomplished man' he wished to
have him.

'All this,' so the father writes in tones of fervent pleading--'all
this you may compass if you please. You have the means, you have the
opportunities; employ them, for God's sake, while you may, and make
yourself the all-accomplished man I wish to have you. It entirely
depends upon the next two years; they are the decisive ones' (Letter

It is the very language of an evangelical piety applied to the
manufacture of a worldling. But what promoted the anxiety? Was it
natural affection--a father's love? If it was, never before or since
has that world-wide and homely emotion been so concealed. There is a
detestable, a forbidding, an all-pervading harshness of tone
throughout this correspondence that seems to banish affection, to
murder love. Read Letter CLXXVIII., and judge for yourselves. I will
quote a passage:

'The more I love you now from the good opinion I have of you, the
greater will be my indignation if I should have reason to change
it. Hitherto you have had every possible proof of my affection,
because you have deserved it, but when you cease to deserve it you
may expect every possible mark of my resentment. To leave nothing
doubtful upon this important point, I will tell you fairly
beforehand by what rule I shall judge of your conduct: by Mr.
Harte's account.... If he complains you must be guilty, and I shall
not have the least regard for anything you may allege in your own

Ugh! what a father! Lord Chesterfield despised the Gospels, and made
little of St. Paul; yet the New Testament could have taught him
something concerning the nature of a father's love. His language is
repulsive, repugnant, and yet how few fathers have taken the trouble
to write 400 educational letters of great length to their sons! All
one can say is that Chesterfield's letters are without natural

'If this be error and upon me proved,
I never writ, and no man ever loved.'

If affection did not dictate these letters, what did? Could it be
ambition? So astute a man as Chesterfield, who was kept well informed
as to the impression made by his son, could hardly suppose it likely
that the boy would make a name for himself, and thereby confer
distinction upon the family of which he was an irregular offshoot. A
respectable diplomatic career, with an interval in the House of
Commons, was the most that so clear-sighted a man could anticipate for
the young Stanhope. Was it literary fame for himself? This, of course,
assumes that subsequent publication was contemplated by the writer.
The dodges and devices of authors are well-nigh infinite and quite
beyond conjecture, and it is, of course, possible that Lord
Chesterfield kept copies of these letters, which bear upon their
faces evidence of care and elaboration. It is not to be supposed for a
moment that he ever forgot he had written them. It is hard to believe
he never inquired after them and their whereabouts. Great men have
been known to write letters which, though they bore other addresses,
were really intended for their biographers. It would not have been
surprising if Lord Chesterfield wrote these letters intending some day
to publish them, but not only is there no warrant for such an opinion,
but the opposite is clearly established. It is, no doubt, odd that the
son should have carefully preserved more than 400 letters written to
him during a period beginning with his tenderest years and continuing
whilst he was travelling on the Continent. It seems almost a miracle.
What made the son treasure them so carefully? Did he look forward to
being his father's biographer? Hardly so at the age of ten, or even
twenty. Biographies were not then what they have since become. No
doubt in the middle of the eighteenth century letters were more
treasured than they are to-day, and young Stanhope's friends may also
have thought it wise to encourage him to preserve documentary evidence
of the great interest taken in him by his father. None the less, I
think the preservation of this correspondence is in the circumstances
a most extraordinary though well-established fact.

The son died in 1768 of a dropsy at Avignon, and the news was
communicated to the Earl by his daughter-in-law, Mrs. Eugenia
Stanhope, of whose existence he was previously unaware. Two grandsons
accompanied her. It was a shock; but 'les manieres nobles et aisees,
la tournure d'un homme de condition, le ton de la bonne compagnie,
les graces le je ne scais quoi qui plait,' came to Lord Chesterfield's
assistance, and he received his son's widow, who was not a pleasing
person, and her two boys with kindness and good feeling, and provided
for them quite handsomely by his will. The Earl died in 1773, in his
seventy-ninth year, and thereupon Mrs. Stanhope, who was in possession
of all the original letters addressed to her late husband, carried
her wares to market, and made a bargain with Mr. Dodsley for their
publication, she to receive L1,575. Mr. Dodsley advertised the
forthcoming work, and on that the Earl's executors, relying upon the
well-known case of Pope _v._ Curl, decided by Lord Hardwicke in 1741,
filed their bill against Mrs. Stanhope, seeking an injunction to
restrain publication. The widow put in her sworn Answer, in which she
averred that she had, on more occasions than one, mentioned
publication to the Earl, and that he, though recovering from her
certain written characters of eminent contemporaries, had seemed quite
content to let her do what she liked with the letters, only remarking
that there was too much Latin in them. The executors seem to have
moved for what is called an interim injunction--that is, an injunction
until trial of the cause, and, from the report in _Ambler_, it appears
that Lord Apsley (a feeble creature) granted such an injunction, but
recommended the executors to permit the publication if, on seeing a
copy of the correspondence, they saw no objection to it. In the result
the executors gave their consent, and the publication became an
authorized one, so much so that Dodsley was able to obtain an
interdict in the Scotch Court preventing a certain Scotch bookseller,
caller McFarquhar, from reprinting the letters in Edinburgh. Whether
the executors believed Mrs. Stanhope's story, or saw no reason to
object to the publication of the letters, I do not know, but it is
clear that the opposition was a half-hearted one.

It would be hasty to assume that Lord Chesterfield wrote these letters
with any intention of publication, and I am therefore left without
being able to suggest any strong reason for their existence. A
restless, itching pen, perhaps, accounts for them. Some men find a
pleasure in writing, even at great length; others, of whom Carlyle was
one, though they hate the labour, are yet compelled by some fierce
necessity to blacken paper.

At all events, we have Lord Chesterfield's letters, and, having them,
they will always have readers, for they are readable.

That the letters are full of wit and wisdom and sound advice is
certain. Mr. Strachey, in his preface, seems to be under the
impression that in the popular estimate Chesterfield is reckoned an
elegant trifler, a man of no serious account. What the popular or
vulgar estimate of Chesterfield may be it would be hard to determine,
nor is it of the least importance, for no one who knows about Lord
Chesterfield can possibly entertain any such opinion. How it came
about that so able and ambitious a man made so poor a thing out of
life, and failed so completely, is puzzling at first, though a little
study would, I think, make the reasons of Chesterfield's failure plain

To prove by extracts from the Letters how wise a man Chesterfield was
would be easy, but tiresome; to exhibit him in a repulsive character
would be equally easy, but spiteful. I prefer to leave him alone, and
to content myself with but one quotation, which has a touch of both
wisdom and repulsiveness:

'Consult your reason betimes. I do not say it will always prove an
unerring guide, for human reason is not infallible, but it will
prove the least erring guide that you can follow. Books and
conversation may assist it, but adopt neither blindly and
implicitly; try both by that best rule God has given to direct
us--reason. Of all the truths do not decline that of thinking. The
host of mankind can hardly be said to think; their prejudices are
almost all adoptive; and in general I believe it is better that it
should be so, as such common prejudices contribute more to order
and quiet than their own separate reasonings would do, uncultivated
as they are. We have many of these useful prejudices in this
country which I should be very sorry to see removed. The good
Protestant conviction that the Pope is both Antichrist and the
Whore of Babylon is a more effectual preservative against Popery
than all the solid and unanswerable arguments of Chillingworth.'


The ten handsome volumes which the indefatigable and unresting zeal of
Dr. Birkbeck Hill, and the high spirit of the Clarendon Press, have
edited, arranged, printed, and published for the benefit of the world
and the propagation of the Gospel according to Dr. Johnson are
pleasant things to look upon. I hope the enterprise has proved
remunerative to those concerned, but I doubt it. The parsimony of the
public in the matter of books is pitiful. The ordinary purse-carrying
Englishman holds in his head a ready-reckoner or scale of charges by
which he tests his purchases--so much for a dinner, so much for a
bottle of champagne, so much for a trip to Paris, so much for a pair
of gloves, and so much for a book. These ten volumes would cost him L4
9s. 3d. 'Whew! What a price for a book, and where are they to be put,
and who is to dust them?' Idle questions! As for room, a bicycle takes
more room than 1,000 books; and as for dust, it is a delusion. You
should never dust books. There let it lie until the rare hour arrives
when you want to read a particular volume; then warily approach it
with a snow-white napkin, take it down from its shelf, and,
withdrawing to some back apartment, proceed to cleanse the tome. Dr.
Johnson adopted other methods. Every now and again he drew on huge
gloves, such as those once worn by hedgers and ditchers, and then,
clutching his folios and octavos, he banged and buffeted them together
until he was enveloped in a cloud of dust. This violent exercise over,
the good doctor restored the volumes, all battered and bruised, to
their places, where, of course, the dust resettled itself as speedily
as possible.

Dr. Johnson could make books better than anybody, but his notions of
dusting them were primitive and erroneous. But the room and the dust
are mere subterfuges. The truth is, there is a disinclination to pay
L4 9s. 3d. for the ten volumes containing the complete Johnsonian
legend. To quarrel with the public is idiotic and most un-Johnsonian.
'Depend upon it, sir,' said the Sage, 'every state of society is as
luxurious as it can be.' We all, a handful of misers excepted, spend
more money than we can afford upon luxuries, but what those luxuries
are to be is largely determined for us by the fashions of our time. If
we do not buy these ten volumes, it is not because we would not like
to have them, but because we want the money they cost for something we
want more. As for dictating to men how they are to spend their money,
it were both a folly and an impertinence.

These ten volumes ended Dr. Hill's labours as an editor of _Johnson's
Life and Personalia_, but did not leave him free. He had set his mind
on an edition of the _Lives of the Poets_. This, to the regret of all
who knew him either personally or as a Johnsonian, he did not live to
see through the press. But it is soon to appear, and will be a
storehouse of anecdote and a miracle of cross-references. A poet who
has been dead a century or two is amazing good company--at least, he
never fails to be so when Johnson tells us as much of his story as he
can remember without undue research, with that irony of his, that vast
composure, that humorous perception of the greatness and the
littleness of human life, that make the brief records of a Spratt, a
Walsh, and a Fenton so divinely entertaining. It is an immense
testimony to the healthiness of the Johnsonian atmosphere that Dr.
Hill, who breathed it almost exclusively for a quarter of a century
and upwards, showed no symptoms either of moral deterioration or
physical exhaustion. His appetite to the end was as keen as ever, nor
was his temper obviously the worse. The task never became a toil, not
even a tease. 'You have but two subjects,' said Johnson to Boswell:
'yourself and myself. I am sick of both.' Johnson hated to be talked
about, or to have it noticed what he ate or what he had on. For a
hundred years now last past he has been more talked about and noticed
than anybody else. But Dr. Hill never grew sick of Dr. Johnson.

The _Johnsonian Miscellanies_[A] open with the _Prayers and
Meditations_, first published by the Rev. Dr. Strahan in 1785. Strahan
was the Vicar of Islington, and into his hands at an early hour one
morning Dr. Johnson, then approaching his last days, put the papers,
'with instructions for committing them to the press and with a promise
to prepare a sketch of his own life to accompany them.' This promise
the doctor was not able to keep, and shortly after his death his
reverend friend published the papers just as they were put into his
hands. One wonders he had the heart to do it, but the clerical mind is
sometimes strangely insensitive to the privacy of thought. But, as in
the case of most indelicate acts, you cannot but be glad the thing was
done. The original manuscript is at Pembroke College, Oxford. In these
_Prayers and Meditations_ we see an awful figure. The _solitary_
Johnson, perturbed, tortured, oppressed, in distress of body and of
mind, full of alarms for the future both in this world and the next,
teased by importunate and perplexing thoughts, harassed by morbid
infirmities, vexed by idle yet constantly recurring scruples, with an
inherited melancholy and a threatened sanity, is a gloomy and even a
terrible picture, and forms a striking contrast to the social hero,
the triumphant dialectician of Boswell, Mrs. Thrale, and Madame
D'Arblay. Yet it is relieved by its inherent humanity, its fellowship
and feeling. Dr. Johnson's piety is delightfully full of human
nature--far too full to please the poet Cowper, who wrote of the
_Prayers and Meditations_ as follows:

'If it be fair to judge of a book by an extract, I do not wonder
that you were so little edified by Johnson's Journal. It is even
more ridiculous than was poor Rutty's of flatulent memory. The
portion of it given us in this day's paper contains not one
sentiment worth one farthing, except the last, in which he resolves
to bind himself with no more unbidden obligations. Poor man! one
would think that to pray for his dead wife and to pinch himself
with Church fasts had been almost the whole of his religion.'

[Footnote A: Two volumes. Oxford Clarendon Press, 1897.]

It were hateful to pit one man's religion against another's, but it
is only fair to Dr. Johnson's religion to remember that, odd compound
as it was, it saw him through the long struggle of life, and enabled
him to meet the death he so honestly feared like a man and a
Christian. The _Prayers and Meditations_ may not be an edifying book
in Cowper's sense of the word; there is nothing triumphant about it;
it is full of infirmities and even absurdities; but, for all that, it
contains more piety than 10,000 religious biographies. Nor must the
evidence it contains of weakness be exaggerated. Beset with
infirmities, a lazy dog, as he often declared himself to be, he yet
managed to do a thing or two. Here, for example, is an entry:

'29, EASTER EVE (1777).

'I rose and again prayed with reference to my departed wife. I
neither read nor went to church, yet can scarcely tell how I have
been hindered. I treated with booksellers on a bargain, but the
time was not long.'

Too long, perhaps, for Johnson's piety, but short enough to enable the
booksellers to make an uncommon good bargain for the _Lives of the
Poets_. 'As to the terms,' writes Mr. Dilly, 'it was left entirely to
the doctor to name his own; he mentioned 200 guineas; it was
immediately agreed to.' The business-like Malone makes the following
observation on the transaction: 'Had he asked 1,000, or even 1,500,
guineas the booksellers, who knew the value of his name, would
doubtless have readily given it.' Dr. Johnson, though the son of a
bookseller, was the least tradesman-like of authors. The bargain was
bad, but the book was good.

A year later we find this record:

'MONDAY, _April_ 20 (1778).

'After a good night, as I am forced to reckon, I rose seasonably
and prayed, using the collect for yesterday. In reviewing my time
from Easter, 1777, I find a very melancholy and shameful blank. So
little has been done that days and months are without any trace. My
health has, indeed, been very much interrupted. My nights have been
commonly not only restless but painful and fatiguing.... I have
written a little of the _Lives of the Poets_, I think, with all my
usual vigour. I have made sermons, perhaps, as readily as formerly.
My memory is less faithful in retaining names, and, I am afraid, in
retaining occurrences. Of this vacillation and vagrancy of mind I
impute a great part to a fortuitous and unsettled life, and
therefore purpose to spend my life with more method.

'This year the 28th of March passed away without memorial. Poor
Tetty, whatever were our faults and failings, we loved each other.
I did not forget thee yesterday. Couldst thou have lived! I am now,
with the help of God, to begin a new life.'

Dr. Hill prints an interesting letter of Mr. Jowett's, in which occur
the following observations:

'It is a curious question whether Boswell has unconsciously
misrepresented Johnson in any respect. I think, judging from the
materials, which are supplied chiefly by himself, that in one
respect he has. He has represented him more as a sage and
philosopher in his conduct as well as his conversation than he
really was, and less as a rollicking "King of Society." The gravity
of Johnson's own writings tends to confirm this, as I suspect,
erroneous impression. His religion was fitful and intermittent; and
when once the ice was broken he enjoyed Jack Wilkes, though he
refused to shake hands with Hume. I was much struck with a remark
of Sir John Hawkins (excuse me if I have mentioned this to you
before): "He was the most humorous man I ever knew."'

Mr. Jowett's letter raises some nice points--the Wilkes and Hume
point, for example. Dr. Johnson hated both blasphemy and bawd, but he
hated blasphemy most. Mr. Jowett shared the doctor's antipathies, but
very likely hated bawd more than he did blasphemy. But, as I have
already said, the point is a nice one. To crack jokes with Wilkes at
the expense of Boswell and the Scotch seems to me a very different
thing from shaking hands with Hume. But, indeed, it is absurd to
overlook either Johnson's melancholy piety or his abounding humour and
love of fun and nonsense. His _Prayers and Meditations_ are full of
the one, Boswell and Mrs. Thrale and Madame D'Arblay are full of the
other. Boswell's _Johnson_ has superseded the 'authorized biography'
by Sir John Hawkins, and Dr. Hill did well to include in these
_Miscellanies_ Hawkins' inimitable description of the memorable
banquet given at the Devil Tavern, near Temple Bar, in the spring of
1751, to celebrate the publication of Mrs. Charlotte Lennox's first
novel. What delightful revelry! what innocent mirth! prolonged though
it was till long after dawn. Poor Mrs. Lennox died in distress in
1804, at the age of eighty-three. Could Johnson but have lived he
would have lent her his helping hand. He was no fair-weather friend,
but shares with Charles Lamb the honour of being able to unite narrow
means and splendid munificence.

I must end with an anecdote:

'Henderson asked the doctor's opinion of _Dido_ and its author.
"Sir," said Dr. Johnson, "I never did the man an injury. Yet he
would read his tragedy to me."'


Boswell's position in English literature cannot be disputed, nor can
he ever be displaced from it. He has written our greatest biography.
That is all. Theorize about it as much as you like, account for it how
you may, the fact remains. 'Alone I did it.' There has been plenty of
theorizing. Lord Macaulay took the subject in hand and tossed it up
and down for half a dozen pages with a gusto that drove home to many
minds the conviction, the strange conviction, that our greatest
biography was written by one of the very smallest men that ever lived,
'a man of the meanest and feeblest intellect'--by a dunce, a parasite,
and a coxcomb; by one 'who, if he had not been a great fool, would
never have been a great writer.' So far Macaulay, _anno Domini_ 1831,
in the vigorous pages of the _Edinburgh Review_. A year later appears
in _Fraser's Magazine_ another theory by another hand, not then
famous, Mr. Thomas Carlyle. I own to an inordinate affection for Mr.
Carlyle as 'literary critic' As philosopher and sage, he has served
our turn. We have had the fortune, good or bad, to outlive him; and
our sad experience is that death makes a mighty difference to all but
the very greatest. The sight of the author of _Sartor Resartus_ in a
Chelsea omnibus, the sound of Dr. Newman's voice preaching to a small
congregation in Birmingham, kept alive in our minds the vision of
their greatness--it seemed then as if that greatness could know no
limit; but no sooner had they gone away, than somehow or another
one became conscious of some deficiency in their intellectual
positions--the tide of human thought rushed visibly by them, and it
became plain that to no other generation would either of these men be
what they had been to their own. But Mr. Carlyle as literary critic
has a tenacious grasp, and Boswell was a subject made for his hand.
'Your Scottish laird, says an English naturalist of those days, may be
defined as the hungriest and vainest of all bipeds yet known.' Carlyle
knew the type well enough. His general description of Boswell is

'Boswell was a person whose mean or bad qualities lay open to the
general eye, visible, palpable to the dullest. His good qualities,
again, belonged not to the time he lived in; were far from common
then; indeed, in such a degree were almost unexampled; not
recognisable, therefore, by everyone; nay, apt even, so strange
had they grown, to be confounded with the very vices they lay
contiguous to and had sprung out of. That he was a wine-bibber and
good liver, gluttonously fond of whatever would yield him a little
solacement, were it only of a stomachic character, is undeniable
enough. That he was vain, heedless, a babbler, had much of the
sycophant, alternating with the braggadocio, curiously spiced, too,
with an all-pervading dash of the coxcomb; that he gloried much
when the tailor by a court suit had made a new man of him; that he
appeared at the Shakespeare Jubilee with a riband imprinted
"Corsica Boswell" round his hat, and, in short, if you will, lived
no day of his life without saying and doing more than one
pretentious ineptitude, all this unhappily is evident as the sun at
noon. The very look of Boswell seems to have signified so much. In
that cocked nose, cocked partly in triumph over his weaker
fellow-creatures, partly to snuff up the smell of coming pleasure
and scent it from afar, in those big cheeks, hanging like
half-filled wine-skins, still able to contain more, in that
coarsely-protruded shelf mouth, that fat dew-lapped chin; in all
this who sees not sensuality, pretension, boisterous imbecility
enough? The underpart of Boswell's face is of a low, almost brutish

This is character-painting with a vengeance. Portrait of a Scotch
laird by the son of a Scotch peasant. Carlyle's Boswell is to me the
very man. If so, Carlyle's paradox seems as great as Macaulay's, for
though Carlyle does not call Boswell a great fool in plain set terms,
he goes very near it. But he keeps open a door through which he
effects his escape. Carlyle sees in Bozzy 'the old reverent feeling of
discipleship, in a word, hero-worship.'

'How the babbling Bozzy, inspired only by love and the recognition
and vision which love can lend, epitomizes nightly the words of
Wisdom, the deeds and aspects of Wisdom, and so, little by little,
unconsciously works together for us a whole "Johnsoniad"--a more
free, perfect, sunlit and spirit-speaking likeness than for many
centuries has been drawn by man of man.'

This I think is a little overdrawn. That Boswell loved Johnson, God
forbid I should deny. But that he was inspired only by love to write
his life, I gravely question. Boswell was, as Carlyle has said, a
greedy man--and especially was he greedy of fame--and he saw in his
revered friend a splendid subject for artistic biographic treatment.
Here is where both Macaulay and Carlyle are, as I suggest, wrong.
Boswell was a fool, but only in the sense in which hundreds of great
artists have been fools; on his own lines, and across his own bit of
country, he was no fool. He did not accidentally stumble across
success, but he deliberately aimed at what he hit. Read his preface
and you will discover his method. He was as much an artist as either
of his two famous critics. Where Carlyle goes astray is in attributing
to discipleship what was mainly due to a dramatic sense. However,
theories are no great matter.

Our means of knowledge of James Boswell are derived mainly from
himself; he is his own incriminator. In addition to the life there is
the Corsican tour, the Hebrides tour, the letters to Erskine and to
Temple, and a few insignificant occasional publications in the shape
of letters to the people of Scotland, etc. With these before him it is
impossible for any biographer to approach Bozzy in a devotional
attitude; he was all Carlyle calls him. Our sympathies are with his
father, who despised him, and with his son, who was ashamed of him. It
is indeed strange to think of him staggering, like the drunkard he
was, between these two respectable and even stately figures--the
Senator of the Court of Justice and the courtly scholar and antiquary.
And yet it is to the drunkard humanity is debtor. Respectability is
not everything.

Boswell had many literary projects and ambitions, and never intended
to be known merely as the biographer of Johnson. He proposed to write
a life of Lord Kames and to compose memoirs of Hume. It seems he did
write a life of Sir Robert Sibbald. He had other plans in his head,
but dissipation and a steadily increasing drunkenness destroyed them
all. As inveterate book-hunter, I confess to a great fancy to lay
hands on his _Dorando: A Spanish Tale_, a shilling book published in
Edinburgh during the progress of the once famous Douglas case, and
ordered to be suppressed as contempt of court after it had been
through three editions. It is said, probably hastily, that no copy is
known to exist--a dreary fate which, according to Lord Macaulay, might
have attended upon the _Life of Johnson_ had the copyright of that
work become the property of Boswell's son, who hated to hear it
mentioned. It is not, however, very easy to get rid of any book once
it is published, and I do not despair of reading _Dorando_ before I


[Footnote A: _Pleasure Gardens of the Eighteenth Century_, by Warwick
Wroth, F.S.A., assisted by Arthur Edgar Wroth. London: Macmillan and

This is an honest book, disfigured by no fine writing or woeful
attempts to make us dance round may-poles with our ancestors. Terribly
is our good language abused by the swell-mob of stylists, for whom it
is certainly not enough that Chatham's language is their mother's
tongue. May the Devil fly away with these artists; though no sooner
had he done so than we should be 'wae' for auld Nicky-ben. Mr. Wroth,
of the British Museum, and his brother, Mr. Arthur Wroth, are above
such vulgar pranks, and never strain after the picturesque, but in the
plain garb of honest men carry us about to the sixty-four gardens
where the eighteenth-century Londoner, his wife and family--the John
Gilpins of the day--might take their pleasure either sadly, as indeed
best befits our pilgrim state, or uproariously to deaden the ear to
the still small voice of conscience--the pangs of slighted love, the
law's delay, the sluggish step of Fortune, the stealthy strides of
approaching poverty, or any other of the familiar incidents of our
mortal life. The sixty-two illustrations which adorn the book are as
honest as the letterpress. There is a most delightful Morland
depicting a very stout family indeed regaling itself _sub tegmine
fagi_. It is called a 'Tea Party.' A voluminous mother holds in her
roomy lap a very fat baby, whose back and neck are full upon you as
you stare into the picture. And what a jolly back and innocent neck it
is! Enough to make every right-minded woman cry out with pleasure.
Then there is the highly respectable father stirring his cup and
watching with placid content a gentleman in lace and ruffles attending
to the wife, whilst the two elder children play with a wheezy dog.

In these pages we can see for ourselves the British public--God rest
its soul!--enjoying itself. This honest book is full of _la
bourgeoisie_. The rips and the painted ladies occasionally, it is
true, make their appearance, but they are reduced to their proper
proportions. The Adam and Eve Tea Gardens, St. Pancras, have a
somewhat rakish sound, calculated to arrest the jaded attention of the
debauchee, but what has Mr. Wroth to tell us about them?

'About the beginning of the present century it could still be
described as an agreeable retreat, "with enchanting prospects"; and
the gardens were laid out with arbours, flowers, and shrubs. Cows
were kept for making syllabubs, and on summer afternoons a regular
company met to play bowls and trap-ball in an adjacent field. One
proprietor fitted out a mimic squadron of frigates in the garden,
and the long-room was used a good deal for beanfeasts and
tea-drinking parties' (p. 127).

What a pleasant place! Syllabubs! How sweet they sound! Nobody
worried then about diphtheria; they only died of it. Mimic frigates,
too! What patriotism! These gardens are as much lost as those of the
Hesperides. A cemetery swallowed them up--the cemetery which adjoins
the old St. Pancras Churchyard. The Tavern, shorn of its amenities, a
mere drink-shop, survived as far down the century as 1874, soon after
which date it also disappeared. Hornsey Wood House has a name not
unknown in the simple annals of tea-drinking. It is now part of
Finsbury Park, but in the middle of the last century its long-room 'on
popular holydays, such as Whit Sunday, might be seen crowded as early
as nine or ten in the morning with a motley assemblage eating rolls
and butter and drinking tea at an extravagant price.' 'Hone remembered
the old Hornsey Wood House as it stood embowered, and seeming a part
of the wood. It was at that time kept by two sisters--Mrs. Lloyd and
Mrs. Collier--and these aged dames were usually to be found before
their door on a seat between two venerable oaks, wherein swarms of
bees hived themselves.'

What a picture is this of these vanished dames! Somewhere, I trust,
they are at peace.

'And there, they say, two bright and aged snakes,
Who once were Cadmus and Harmonia,
Bask in the glens or on the warm sea-shore.'

A more raffish place was the Dog and Duck in St. George's Fields,
which boasted mineral springs, good for gout, stone, king's evil, sore
eyes, and inveterate cancers. Considering its virtue, the water was a
cheap liquor, for a dozen bottles could be had at the spa for a
shilling. The Dog and Duck, though at last it exhibited depraved
tastes, was at one time well conducted. Miss Talbot writes about it to
Mrs. Carter, and Dr. Johnson advised his Thralia to try the waters. It
was no mean place, but boasted a breakfast-room, a bowling-green, and
a swimming-bath 200 feet long and 100 feet (nearly) broad. Mr. Wroth
narrates the history of its fall with philosophical composure. In the
hands of one Hedger the decencies were disregarded, and thieves made
merry where once Miss Talbot sipped bohea. One of its frequenters,
Charlotte Shaftoe, is said to have betrayed seven of her intimates to
the gallows. Few visitors' lists could stand such a strain as Miss
Shaftoe put upon hers. In 1799 the Dog and Duck was suppressed, and
Bethlehem Hospital now reigns in its stead. 'The Peerless Pool' has a
Stevensonian sound. It was a dangerous pond behind Old Street, long
known as 'The Parlous or Perilous Pond' 'because divers youth by
swimming therein have been drowned.' In 1743 a London jeweller called
Kemp took it in hand, turned it into a pleasure bath, and renamed it,
happily enough, 'The Peerless Pool.' It was a fine open-air bath, 170
feet long, more than 100 feet broad, and from 3 to 5 feet deep. 'It
was nearly surrounded by trees, and the descent was by marble steps to
a fine gravel bottom, through which the springs that supplied the pool
came bubbling up.' Mr. Kemp likewise constructed a fish-pond. The
enterprise met with success, and anglers, bathers, and at due seasons
skaters, flocked to 'The Peerless Pool.' Hone describes how every
Thursday and Saturday the boys from the Bluecoat School were wont to
plunge into its depths. You ask its fate. It has been built over.
Peerless Street, the second main turning on the left of the City Road
just beyond Old Street in coming from the City, is all that is left to
remind anyone of the once Parlous Pool, unless, indeed, it still
occasionally creeps into a cellar and drowns cockroaches instead of
divers youths. The Three Hats, Highbury Barn, Hampstead Wells, are not
places to be lightly passed over. In Mr. Wroth's book you may read
about them and trace their fortunes--their fallen fortunes. After all,
they have only shared the fate of empires.

Of the most famous London gardens--Marylebone, Ranelagh, and, greatest
of them all, Vauxhall--Mr. Wroth writes at, of course, a becoming
length. Marylebone Gardens, when at their largest, comprised about 8
acres. Beaumont Street, part of Devonshire Street and of Devonshire
Place and Upper Wimpole Street, now occupy their site. Music was the
main feature of Marylebone. A band played in the evening. Vocalists at
different times drew crowds. Masquerades and fireworks appeared later
in the history of the gardens, which usually were open three nights of
the week. Dr. Johnson's turbulent behaviour, on the occasion of one of
his frequent visits, will easily be remembered. Marylebone, at no
period, says Mr. Wroth, attained the vogue of Ranelagh or the
universal popularity of Vauxhall. In 1776 the gardens were closed, and
two years later the builders began to lay out streets. Ranelagh is,
perhaps, the greatest achievement of the eighteenth century. Its
Rotunda, built in 1741, is compared by Mr. Wroth to the reading-room
of the British Museum. No need to give its dimensions; only look at
the print, and you will understand what Johnson meant when he declared
that the _coup d'oeil_ of Ranelagh was the finest thing he had ever
seen. The ordinary charge for admission was half a crown, which
secured you tea or coffee and bread-and-butter. The gardens were
usually open Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays, and the amusements were
music, tea-drinking, walking, and talking. Mr. Wroth quotes a
Frenchman, who, after visiting Ranelagh in 1800, calls it 'le plus
insipide lieu d'amusement que l'on ait pu imaginer,' and even hints at
Dante's Purgatory. An earlier victim from Gaul thus records his
experience of Ranelagh: 'On s'ennui avec de la mauvaise musique, du
the et du beurre.' So true is it that the cheerfulness you find
anywhere is the cheerfulness you have brought with you. However,
despite the Frenchman, good music and singing were at times to be
heard at Ranelagh. The nineteenth century would have nothing to do
with Ranelagh, and in 1805 it was pulled down. The site now belongs to
Chelsea Hospital. Cuper's Gardens lacked the respectability of
Marylebone and the style of Ranelagh, but they had their vogue during
the same century. They were finely situated on the south side of the
Thames opposite Somerset House. Cuper easily got altered into Cupid;
and when on the death of Ephraim Evans in 1740 the business came to be
carried on by his widow, a comely dame who knew a thing or two, it
proved to be indeed a going concern. But the new Licensing Bill of
1752 destroyed Cupid's Garden, and Mrs. Evans was left lamenting and
wholly uncompensated. Of Vauxhall Mr. Wroth treats at much length, and
this part of his book is especially rich in illustrations. Every lover
of Old London and old times and old prints should add Mr. Wroth's book
to his library.


There has just been a small flutter amongst those who used to be
called stationers or text-writers in the good old days, before
printing was, and when even Peers of the Realm (now so highly
educated) could not sign their names, or, at all events, preferred not
to do so--booksellers they are now styled--and the question which
agitates them is discount. Having mentioned this, one naturally passes

No great trade has an obscurer history than the book trade. It seems
to lie choked in mountains of dust which it would be suicidal to
disturb. Men have lived from time to time of literary skill--Dr.
Johnson was one of them--who had knowledge, extensive and peculiar, of
the traditions and practices of 'the trade,' as it is proudly styled
by its votaries; but nobody has ever thought it worth his while to
make record of his knowledge, which accordingly perished with him, and
is now irrecoverably lost.

In old days booksellers were also publishers, frequently printers, and
sometimes paper-makers. Jacob Tonson not only owned Milton's _Paradise
Lost_--for all time, as he fondly thought, for little did he dream of
the fierce construction the House of Lords was to put upon the
Copyright Act of Queen Anne--not only was Dryden's publisher, but also
kept shop in Chancery Lane, and sold books across the counter. He
allowed no discount, but, so we are told, 'spoke his mind upon all
occasions, and flattered no one,' not even glorious John.

For a long time past the trades of bookselling and book-publishing
have been carried on apart. This has doubtless rid booksellers of all
the unpopularity which formerly belonged to them in their other
capacity. This unpopularity is now heaped as a whole upon the
publishers, who certainly need not dread the doom awaiting those of
whom the world speaks well.

A tendency of the two trades to grow together again is perhaps
noticeable. For my part, I wish they would. Some publishers are
already booksellers, but the books they sell are usually only new
books. Now it is obvious that the true bookseller sells books both old
and new. Some booksellers are occasional publishers. May each
usurp--or, rather, reassume--the business of the other, whilst
retaining his own!

The world, it must be admitted, owes a great deal of whatever
information it possesses about the professions, trades, and
occupations practised and carried on in its midst to those who have
failed in them. Prosperous men talk 'shop,' but seldom write it. The
book that tells us most about booksellers and bookselling in bygone
days is the work of a crack-brained fellow who published and sold in
the reigns of Queen Anne and George I., and died in 1733 in great
poverty and obscurity. I refer to John Dunton, whose _Life and
Errors_ in the edition in two volumes edited by J.B. Nichols, and
published in 1818, is a common book enough in the second-hand shops,
and one which may be safely recommended to everyone, except, indeed,
to the unfortunate man or woman who is not an adept in the art, craft,
or mystery of skipping.

The book will strangely remind the reader of Amory's _Life of John
Buncle_--those queer volumes to which many a reader has been sent by
Hazlitt's intoxicating description of them in his _Round Table_, and
a few perhaps by a shy allusion contained in one of the essays of
Elia. The real John Dunton has not the boundless spirits of the
fictitious John Buncle; but in their religious fervour, their
passion for flirtation, their tireless egotism, and their love of
character-sketching, they greatly resemble one another.

It is this last characteristic that imparts real value to Dunton's
book, and makes it, despite its verbiage and tortuosity, throb with
human interest. For example, he gives us a short sketch of no less
than 135 then living London booksellers in this style: 'Mr. Newton is
full of kindness and good-nature. He is affable and courteous in
trade, and is none of those men of forty whose religion is yet to
chuse, for his mind (like his looks) is serious and grave; and his
neighbours tell me his understanding does not improve too fast for his
practice, for he is not religious by start or sally, but is well fixed
in the faith and practice of a Church of England man--and has a
handsome wife into the bargain.'

Most of the 135 booksellers were good men, according to Dunton, but
not all. 'Mr. Lee in Lombard Street. Such a pirate, such a cormorant
was never before. Copies, books, men, shops, all was one. He held no
propriety right or wrong, good or bad, till at last he began to be
known; and the booksellers, not enduring so ill a man among them,
spewed him out, and off he marched to Ireland, where he acted as
_felonious Lee_ as he did in London. And as Lee lived a thief, so he
died a hypocrite; for being asked on his death-bed if he would forgive
Mr. C. (that had formerly wronged him), "Yes," said Lee, "if I die, I
forgive him; but if I happen to live, I am resolved to be revenged on

The Act of Union destroyed the trade of these pirates, but their
felonious editions of eighteenth-century authors still abound. Mr.
Gladstone, I need scarcely say, was careful in his Home Rule Bill
(which was denounced by thousands who never read a line of it) to
withdraw copyright from the scope of action of his proposed Dublin

There are nearly eleven hundred brief character-sketches in Dunton's
book, of all sorts and kinds, but with a preference for bookish
people, divines, both of the Establishment and out of it, printers and
authors. Sometimes, indeed, the description is short enough, and tells
one very little. To many readers, references so curt to people of whom
they never heard, and whose names are recorded nowhere else, save on
their mouldering grave-stones, may seem tedious and trivial, but for
others they will have a strange fascination. Here are a few examples:

'Affable _Wiggins_. His conversation is general but never

'The kind and golden _Venables_. He is so good a man, and so truly
charitable, he that will write of him, must still write more.

'Mr. _Bury_--my old neighbour in Redcross Street. He is a plain
honest man, sells the best coffee in all the neighbourhood, and
lives in this world like a spiritual stranger and pilgrim in a
foreign country.

'Anabaptist (alias _Elephant_) _Smith_. He was a man of great
sincerity and happy contentment in all circumstances of life.'

If an affection for passages of this kind be condemned as trivial, and
akin to the sentimentalism of the man in Calverley's poem who wept
over a box labelled 'This side up,' I will shelter myself behind
Carlyle, who was evidently deeply moved, as his review of Boswell's
Johnson proves, by the life-history of Mr. F. Lewis, 'of whose birth,
death, and whole terrestrial _res gestae_ this only, and, strange
enough, this actually, survives--"Sir, he lived in London, and hung
loose upon society. _Stat_ PARVI _hominis umbra_."' On that peg
Carlyle's imagination hung a whole biography.

Dunton, who was the son of the Rector of Aston Clinton, was
apprenticed, about 1675, to a London bookseller. He had from the
beginning a great turn both for religion and love. He, to use his own
phrase, 'sat under the powerful ministry of Mr. Doolittle.' 'One
Lord's day, and I remember it with sorrow, I was to hear the Rev. Mr.
Doolittle, and it was then and there the beautiful Rachel Seaton gave
me that fatal wound.'

The first book Dunton ever printed was by the Rev. Mr. Doolittle, and
was of an eminently religious character.

'One Lord's Day (and I am very sensible of the sin) I was strolling
about just as my fancy led me, and, stepping into Dr. Annesley's
meeting-place--where, instead of engaging my attention to what the
Doctor said, I suffered both my mind and eyes to run at random--I soon
singled out a young lady that almost charmed me dead; but, having made
my inquiries, I found to my sorrow she was pre-engaged.' However,
Dunton was content with the elder sister, one of the three daughters
of Dr. Annesley. The one he first saw became the wife of the Reverend
Samuel Wesley, and the mother of John and Charles. The third daughter
is said to have been married to Daniel De Foe.

As soon as he was out of his apprenticeship, Dunton set up business as
a publisher and bookseller. He says grimly enough:

'A man should be well furnished with an honest policy if he intends
to set out to the world nowadays. And this is no less necessary in
a bookseller than in any other tradesman, for in that way there are
plots and counter-plots, and a whole army of hackney authors that
keep their grinders moving by the travail of their pens. These
gormandizers will eat you the very life out of a _copy_ so soon as
ever it appears, for as the times go, _Original_ and _Abridgement_
are almost reckoned as necessary as man and wife.'

The mischief to which Dunton refers was permitted by the stupidity of
the judges, who refused to consider an abridgment of a book any
interference with its copyright. Some learned judges have, indeed,
held that an abridger is a benefactor, but as his benefactions are not
his own, but another's, a shorter name might be found for him. The law
on the subject is still uncertain.

Dunton proceeds: 'Printing was now the uppermost in my thoughts, and
hackney authors began to ply me with _specimens_ as earnestly and
with as much passion and concern as the watermen do passengers with
_Oars_ and _Scullers_. I had some acquaintance with this generation in
my apprenticeship, and had never any warm affection for them, in
regard I always thought their great concern lay more in _how much a
sheet_, than in any generous respect they bore to the _Commonwealth of
Learning_; and indeed the learning itself of these gentlemen lies very
often in as little room as their honesty, though they will pretend to
have studied for six or seven years in the Bodleian Library, to have
turned over the Fathers, and to have read and digested the whole
compass both of human and ecclesiastic history, when, alas! they have
never been able to understand a single page of St. Cyprian, and cannot
tell you whether the Fathers lived before or after Christ.'

Yet of one of this hateful tribe Dunton is able to speak well. He
declares Mr. Bradshaw to have been the best accomplished hackney
author he ever met with. He pronounces his style incomparably fine. He
had quarrelled with him, but none the less he writes: 'If Mr. Bradshaw
is yet alive, I here declare to the world and to him that I freely
forgive him what he owes, both in money and books, if he will only be
so kind as to make me a visit. But I am afraid the worthy gentleman is
dead, for he was wretchedly overrun with melancholy, and the very
blackness of it reigned in his countenance. He had certainly performed
wonders with his pen, had not his poverty pursued him and almost laid
the necessity upon him to be unjust.'

All hackney authors were not poor. Some of the compilers and
abridgers made what even now would be considered by popular novelists
large sums. Scotsmen were very good at it. Gordon and Campbell became
wealthy men. If authors had a turn for politics, Sir Robert Walpole
was an excellent paymaster. Arnall, who was bred an attorney, is
stated to have been paid L11,000 in four years by the Government for
his pamphlets.

'Come, then, I'll comply.
Spirit of Arnall, aid me while I lie!'

It cannot have been pleasant to read this, but then Pope belonged to
the opposition, and was a friend of Lord Bolingbroke, and would
consequently say anything.

There is not a more interesting and artless autobiography to be read
than William Hutton's, the famous bookseller and historian of
Birmingham. Hutton has been somewhat absurdly called the English
Franklin. He is not in the least like Franklin. He has none of
Franklin's supreme literary skill, and he was a loving, generous, and
tender-hearted man, which Franklin certainly was not. Hutton's first
visit to London was paid in 1749. He walked up from Nottingham, spent
three days in London, and then walked back to Nottingham. The jaunt,
if such an expression is applicable, cost him eleven shillings less
fourpence. Yet he paid his way. The only money he spent to gain
admission to public places was a penny to see Bedlam.

Interesting, however, as is Hutton's book, it tells us next to nothing
about book-selling, except that in his hands it was a prosperous


Copyright, which is the exclusive liberty reserved to an author and
his assigns of printing or otherwise multiplying copies of his book
during certain fixed periods of time, is a right of modern origin.

There is nothing about copyright in Justinian's compilations.

It is a mistake to suppose that books did not circulate freely in the
era of manuscripts. St. Augustine was one of the most popular authors
that ever lived. His _City of God_ ran over Europe after a fashion
impossible to-day. Thousands of busy hands were employed, year out and
year in, making copies for sale of this famous treatise. Yet Augustine
had never heard of copyright, and never received a royalty on sales in
his life.

The word 'copyright' is of purely English origin, and came into
existence as follows:

The Stationers' Company was founded by royal charter in 1556, and from
the beginning has kept register-books, wherein, first, by decrees of
the Star Chamber, afterwards by orders of the Houses of Parliament,
and finally by Act of Parliament, the titles of all publications and
reprints have had to be entered prior to publication.

None but booksellers, as publishers were then content to be called,
were members of the Stationers' Company, and by the usage of the
Company no entries could be made in their register-books except in the
names of members, and thereupon the book referred to in the entry
became the 'copy' of the member or members who had caused it to be

By virtue of this registration the book became, in the opinion of the
Stationers' Company, the property _in perpetuity_ of the member or
members who had effected the registration. This was the 'right' of the
stationer to his 'copy.'

Copyright at first is therefore not an author's, but a bookseller's
copyright. The author had no part or lot in it unless he chanced to be
both an author and a bookseller, an unusual combination in early days.
The author took his manuscript to a member of the Stationers' Company,
and made the best bargain he could for himself. The stationer, if
terms were arrived at, carried off the manuscript to his Company and
registered the title in the books, and thereupon became, in his
opinion, and in that of his Company, the owner, at common law, in
perpetuity of his 'copy.'

The stationers, having complete control over their register-books,
made what entries they chose, and all kinds of books, even Homer and
the Classics, became the 'property' of its members. The booksellers,
nearly all Londoners, respected each other's 'copies,' and jealously
guarded access to their registers. From time to time there were sales
by auction of a bookseller's 'copies,' but the public--that is, the
country booksellers, for there were no other likely buyers--were
excluded from the sale-room. A great monopoly was thus created and
maintained by the trade. There was never any examination of title to a
bookseller's copy. Every book of repute was supposed to have a
bookseller for its owner. Bunyan's _Pilgrim's Progress_ was Mr.
Ponder's copy, Milton's _Paradise Lost_ Mr. Tonson's copy, _The Whole
Duty of Man_ Mr. Eyre's copy, and so on. The thing was a corrupt and
illegal trade combination.

The expiration of the Licensing Act, and the consequent cessation of
the penalties it inflicted upon unlicensed printing, exposed the
proprietors of 'copies' to an invasion of their rights, real or
supposed, and in 1703, and again in 1706 and 1709, they applied to
Parliament for a Bill to protect them against the 'ruin' with which
they alleged themselves to be threatened.[A]

[Footnote A: What the booksellers wanted was not to be left to their
common law remedy--_i.e._, an action of trespass on the case--but to
be supplied with penalties for infringement, and especially with the
right to seize and burn unauthorized editions.]

In 1710 they got what they asked for in the shape of the famous
Statute of Queen Anne, the first copyright law in the world. A truly
English measure, ill considered and ill drawn, which did the very last
thing it was meant to do--viz., destroy the property it was intended
to protect.

By this Act, in which the 'author' first makes his appearance actually
in front of the 'proprietor,' it was provided that, _in case of new
books_, the author and his assigns should have the sole right of
printing them for fourteen years, and if at the end of that time the
author was still alive, a second term of fourteen years was conceded.
In the case of _existing books_, there was to be but one term--viz.,
twenty-one years, from August 10, 1710.

Registration at the Stationers' Company was still required, but
nothing was said as to who might make the entries, or into whose names
they were to be made.

Then followed the desired penalties for infringement. The booksellers
thought the terms of years meant no more than that the penalties were
to be limited by way of experiment to those periods.

Many years flew by before the Stationers' Company discovered the
mischief wrought by the statute they had themselves promoted. To cut a
long matter short, it was not until 1774 that the House of Lords
decided that, whether there ever had been a perpetuity in literary
property at common law or not, it was destroyed by the Act of Queen
Anne, and that from and after the passing of that law neither author,
assignee, nor proprietor of 'copy' had any exclusive right of
multiplication, save for and during the periods of time the statute

It was a splendid fight--a Thirty Years' War. Great lawyers were fee'd
in it; luminous and lengthy judgments were delivered. Mansfield was a
booksellers' man; Thurlow ridiculed the pretensions of the Trade. It
can be read about in _Boswell's Johnson_ and in Campbell's _Lives of
the Lord Chancellors_. The authors stood supinely by, not contributing
a farthing towards the expenses. It was a booksellers' battle, and the
booksellers were beaten, as they deserved to be.

All this is past history, in which the modern money-loving, motoring
author takes scant pleasure. Things are on a different footing now.
The Act of 1842 has extended the statutory periods of protection. The
perpetuity craze is over. A right in perpetuity to reprint Frank
Fustian's novel or Tom Tatter's poem would not add a penny to the
present value of the copyright of either of those productions. In
business short views must prevail. An author cannot expect to raise
money on his hope of immortality. Milton's publisher, good Mr.
Symonds, probably thought, if he thought about it at all, that he was
buying _Paradise Lost_ for ever when he registered it as his 'copy' in
the books of his Company; but into the calculations he made to
discover how much he could afford to give the author posterity did not
and could not enter. How was Symonds to know that Milton's fame was to
outlive Cleveland's or Flatman's?

How many of the books published in 1905 would have any copyright cash
value in A.D. 2000? I do not pause for a reply.

The modern author need have no quarrel with the statutory periods
fixed by the Act of 1842,[A] though common-sense has long since
suggested that a single term, the author's life and thirty or forty
years after, should be substituted for the alternative periods named
in the Act.

[Footnote A: Author's life _plus_ seven years, or forty-two years
from date of publication, whichever term is the longer. The great
objection to the second term is that an author's books go out of
copyright at different dates, and the earlier editions go out

What the modern author alone desiderates is a big, immediate, and
protected market.

The United States of America have been a great disappointment to many
an honest British author. In the wicked old days when the States took
British books without paying for them they used to take them in large
numbers, but now that they have turned honest and passed a law
allowing the British author copyright on certain terms, they have in
great measure ceased to take; for, by the strangest of coincidences,
no sooner were British novels, histories, essays, and the like,
protected in America, than there sprang up in the States themselves,
novelists, historians, and essayists, not only numerous enough to
supply their own home markets, but talented enough to cross the
Atlantic in large numbers and challenge us in our own. Such a reward
for honesty was not contemplated.

International copyright and the Convention of Berne are things to be
proud of and rejoice over. As the first chapter in a Code of Public
European Law, they may mark the beginning of a time of settled peace,
order, and disarmament, but they have not yet enriched a single
author, though hereafter possibly an occasional novelist or
play-wright may prosper greatly under their provisions.

The copyright question is now at last really a settled question, save
in a single aspect of it. What, if anything, should be done in the
case of those authors, few in number, whose literary lives prove
longer than the period of statutory protection? Should any distinction
in law be struck between a Tennyson and a Tupper? between--But why
multiply examples? There is no need to be unnecessarily offensive.

The law and practice of to-day give the meat that remains on the bones
of the dead author after the expiration of the statutory period of
protection to the Trade. Any publisher who likes to bring out an
edition can do so, though by doing so he does not gain any exclusive
rights. A brother publisher may compete with him. As a result
the public is usually well served with cheap editions of those
non-copyright authors whose works are worth reprinting the moment the
copyright expires.

Some lovers of justice, however, think that it is unnecessary all at
once to endow the Trade with these windfalls, and that if an author's
family, or his or their assignees, were prepared to publish cheap
editions immediately after the expiration of the usual period of
protection, they ought to be allowed to do so for a further period of,
say, forty years. If they failed within a reasonable time either to do
so themselves or to arrange for others to do so, this extended period
should lapse.

Were this to be the law nobody could say that it was unfair; but it is
never likely to be the law. It would take time for discussion, and now
there is no time left in which to discuss anything in Parliament. A
much-needed Copyright Bill has been in draft for years, has been
mentioned in Queen's and King's speeches, but it has never been read
even a first time. If it ever is read a first time, its only chance of
becoming law will be if it is taken in a lump, as it stands, without
consideration or amendment. To such a pass has legislation been
reduced in this country!

This draft Bill does not contain any provision for specially
protecting the families of authors whose works long outlive their
mortal lives. It makes no invidious distinctions. It leaves all the
authors to hang together, the quick and the dead. Perhaps this is the
better way.


I have been told by more than one correspondent, and not always in
words of urbanity, that I owe an apology to the manes of Miss Hannah
More, whose works I once purchased in nineteen volumes for 8s. 6d.,
and about whom in consequence I wrote a page some ten years ago.[A]

[Footnote A: See _Collected Essays_, ii. 255.]

To be accused of rudeness to a lady who exchanged witticisms with Dr.
Johnson, soothed the widowed heart of Mrs. Garrick, directed the early
studies of Macaulay, and in the spring of 1815 presented a small copy
of her _Sacred Dramas_ to Mr. Gladstone, is no light matter. To libel
the dead is, I know, not actionable--indeed, it is impossible; but
evil-speaking, lying, and slandering are canonical offences from which
the obligation to refrain knows no limits of time or place.

I have often felt uneasy on this score, and never had the courage,
until this very evening, to read over again what in the irritation of
the moment I had been tempted to say about Miss Hannah More, after the
outlay upon her writings already mentioned. Eight shillings and
sixpence is, indeed, no great sum, but nineteen octavo volumes are a
good many books. Yet Richardson is in nineteen volumes in Mangin's
edition, and Swift is in nineteen volumes in Scott's edition, and
glorious John Dryden lacks but a volume to make a third example. True
enough; yet it will, I think, be granted me that you must be very fond
of an author, male or female, if nineteen octavo volumes, all his or
hers, are not a little irritating and provocative of temper. Think of
the room they take! As for selling them, it is not so easy to sell
nineteen volumes of a stone-dead author, particularly if you live
three miles from a railway-station and do not keep a trap. Elia, the
gentle Elia, as it is the idiotic fashion to call a writer who could
handle his 'maulies' in a fray as well as Hazlitt himself, has told us
how he could never see well-bound books he did not care about, but he
longed to strip them so that he might warm his ragged veterans in
their spoils. My copy of _Hannah More_ was in full calf, but never
once did it occur to me--though I, too, have many a poor author with
hardly a shirt to his back shivering in the dark corners of the
library--to strip her of her warm clothing. And yet I had to do
something, and quickly too, for sorely needed was Miss More's shelf.
So I buried the nineteen volumes in the garden. 'Out of sight, out of
mind,' said I cheerfully, stamping them down.

This has hardly proved to be the case, for though Hannah More is
incapable of a literary resurrection, and no one of her nineteen
volumes has ever haunted my pillow, exclaiming,

'Think how thou stab'dst me in my prime of youth,'

nevertheless, I have not been able to get quite rid of an uneasy
feeling that I was rude to her ten years ago in print--not, indeed, so
rude as was her revered friend Dr. Johnson 126 years ago to her face;
but then, I have not the courage to creep under the gabardine of our
great Moralist.

When, accordingly, I saw on the counters of the trade the daintiest of
volumes, hailing, too, from the United States, entitled _Hannah
More_,[A] and perceived that it was a short biography and appreciation
of the lady on my mind, I recognised that my penitential hour had at
last come. I took the little book home with me, and sat down to read,
determined to do justice and more than justice to the once celebrated
mistress of Cowslip Green and Barley Wood.

[Footnote A: _Hannah More_, by Marian Harland. New York and London:
G.P. Putnam.]

Miss Harland's preface is most engaging. She reminds a married sister
how in the far-off days of their childhood in a Southern State their
Sunday reading, usually confined or sought to be confined, to 'bound
sermons and semi-detached tracts,' was enlivened by the _Works of
Hannah More_. She proceeds as follows:

'At my last visit to you I took from your bookshelves one of a set
of volumes in uniform binding of full calf, coloured mellowly by
the touch and the breath of fifty odd years. They belonged to the
dear old home library.... The leaves of the book I held fell apart
at _The Shepherd of Salisbury Plain_.'

I leave my readers to judge how uncomfortable these innocent words
made me:

'The usher took six hasty strides
As smit with sudden pain.'

I knew that set of volumes, their distressing uniformity of binding,
their full calf. Their very fellows lie mouldering in an East Anglian
garden, mellow enough by this time and strangely coloured.

Circumstances alter cases. Miss Harland thinks that if the life of
Charlotte Bronte's mother had been mercifully spared, the authoress of
_Jane Eyre_ and _Villette_ might have grown up more like Hannah More
than she actually did. Perhaps so. As I say, circumstances alter
cases, and if the works of Hannah More had been in my old home
library, I might have read _The Shepherd of Salisbury Plain_ and
_The Search after Happiness_ of a Sunday, and found solace therein.
But they were not there, and I had to get along as best I could with
the _Pilgrim's Progress_, stories by A.L.O.E., the crime-stained
page of Mrs. Sherwood's _Tales from the Church Catechism_, and,
'more curious sport than that,' the _Bible in Spain_ of the
never-sufficiently-bepraised George Borrow.

What, however, is a little odd about Miss Harland's enthusiasm for
Hannah More's writings is that it expires with the preface. _There_,
indeed, it glows with a beautiful light:

'And _The Search after Happiness!_ You cannot have forgotten all of
the many lines we learned by heart on Sunday afternoons in the
joyful spring-time when we were obliged to clear the pages every
few minutes of yellow jessamine bells and purple Wistaria petals
flung down by the warm wind.'

This passage lets us into the secret. I suspect in sober truth both
Miss Harland and her sister have long since forgotten all the lines in
_The Search after Happiness_, but what they have never forgotten, what
they never can forget, are the jessamine bells and the Wistaria
petals, yellow and purple, blown about in the warm winds that visited
their now desolate and forsaken Southern home. Less beautiful things
than jessamine and Wistaria, if only they clustered round the house
where you were born, are remembered when the lines of far better
authors than Miss Hannah More have gone clean out of your head:

'As life wanes, all its cares and strife and toil
Seem strangely valueless, while the old trees
Which grew by our youth's home, the waving mass
Of climbing plants heavy with bloom and dew,
The morning swallows with their songs like words--
All these seem dear, and only worth our thoughts.'

Thus the youthful Browning in his marvellous _Pauline_. The same note
is struck after a humbler and perhaps more moving fashion in the
following simple strain of William Allingham:

'Four ducks on a pond,
A grass-bank beyond;
A blue sky of spring,
White clouds on the wing;
How little a thing
To remember for years--
To remember with tears!'

If this be so--and who, looking into his own heart, but must own that
so it is?--it explains how it comes about that as soon as Miss Harland
finished her preface, got away from her childhood and began her
biography, she has so little to tell us about Miss More's books, and
from that little the personal note of enjoyment is entirely wanting.
Indeed, though a pious soul, she occasionally cannot restrain her
surprise how such ponderous commonplaces ever found a publisher, to
say nothing of a reader.

'Such books as Miss More's,' she says, 'would to-day in America fall
from the press like a stone into the depths of the sea of oblivion,
creating no more sensation upon the surface than the bursting of a
bubble in mid-Atlantic.'

And again:

'That Hannah More was a power for righteousness in her long
generation we must take upon the testimony of her best and wisest

However good may be your intentions, it seems hard to avoid being rude
to this excellent lady.

I confess I never liked her love story. Anything more cold-blooded I
never read. I am not going to repeat it. Why should I? It is told at
length in Miss More's authorized biography in four volumes by William
Roberts, Esq. I saw a copy yesterday exposed for sale in New Oxford
Street, price 1s. Miss Harland also tells the tale, not without
chuckling. I refer the curious to her pages.

Then there are those who can never get rid of the impression that
Hannah More 'fagged' her four sisters mercilessly; but who can tell?
Some people like being fagged.

Precisely _when_ Miss More bade farewell to what in later life she was
fond of calling her gay days, when she wrote dull plays and went to
stupid Sunday parties, one finds it hard to discover, but at no time
did it ever come home to her that she needed repentance herself. She
seems always thinking of the sins and shortcomings of her neighbours,
rich and poor. Sometimes, indeed, when deluged with flattery, she
would intimate that she was a miserable sinner, but that is not what I
mean. She concerned herself greatly with the manners of the great,
and deplored their cards and fashionable falsehoods. John Newton,
captain as he had been of a slaver, saw the futility of such

'The fashionable world,' so he wrote to Miss More, 'by their numbers
form a phalanx not easily impressible, and their habits of life are as
armour of proof which renders them not easily vulnerable. Neither the
rude club of a boisterous Reformer nor the pointed, delicate weapons
of the authoress before me can overthrow or rout them.'

But Miss More never forgot to lecture the rich or to patronize the

_Coelebs in Search of a Wife_ is an impossible book, and I do not
believe Miss Harland has read it; but as for the famous _Shepherd_, we
are never allowed to forget how Mr. Wilberforce declared a few years
before his death, to the admiration of the religious world, that he
would rather present himself in heaven with _The Shepherd of Salisbury
Plain_ in his hand than with--what think you?--_Peveril of the Peak_!
The bare notion of such a proceeding on anybody's part is enough to
strike one dumb with what would be horror, did not amazement swallow
up every other feeling. What rank Arminianism! I am sure the last
notion that ever would have entered the head of Sir Walter was to take
_Peveril_ to heaven.

But whatever may be thought of the respective merits of Miss More's
nineteen volumes and Sir Walter's ninety-eight, there is no doubt that
Barley Wood was as much infested with visitors as ever was Abbotsford.
Eighty a week!

'From twelve o'clock until three each day a constant stream of
carriages and pedestrians filled the evergreen bordered avenue
leading from the Wrington village road.'

Among them came Lady Gladstone and W.E.G., aged six, the latter
carrying away with him the _Sacred Dramas_, to be preserved during a
long life.

Miss More was a vivacious and agreeable talker, who certainly failed
to do herself justice with her pen. Her health was never good, yet, as
she survived thirty-five of her prescribing physicians, her vitality
must have been great. Her face in Opie's portrait is very pleasant. If
I was rude to her ten years ago, I apologize and withdraw; but as for
her books, I shall leave them where they are--buried in a cliff facing
due north, with nothing between them and the Pole but leagues upon
leagues of a wind-swept ocean.


The name of Arthur Young is a familiar one to all readers of that
history which begins with the forebodings of the French Revolution.
Thousands of us learnt to be interested in him as the 'good Arthur,'
'the excellent Arthur,' of Thomas Carlyle, a writer who had the art of
making not only his own narrative, but the sources of it, attractive.
Even 'Carrion-Heath,' in the famous introductory chapter to the
_Cromwell_, is invested with a kind of charm, whilst in the stormy
firmament of the _French Revolution_ the star of Arthur Young twinkles
with a mild effulgency. The autobiography of such a man could hardly
fail to be interesting.[A] The 'good Arthur' was born in 1741, the
younger son of a small 'squarson' who inherited from his father the
manor of Bradfield Combust, in Suffolk, but held the living of Thames
Ditton. Here he made the acquaintance of the Onslow family, and
Speaker Onslow was one of Arthur's godfathers. The Rev. Dr. Young died
in 1759, much in debt. The Bradfield property had been settled for
life on his wife, who had brought her husband some fortune, and to
the manor-house she retired to economize.

[Footnote A: _The Autobiography of Arthur Young_. Edited by M. Betham
Edwards. Smith, Elder and Co.]

Arthur's education had been muddled; and an attempt to make a merchant
of him having fallen through, he found himself, on his father's death,
aged eighteen, 'without education, profession, or employment,' and his
whole fortune, during his mother's life, consisting of a copyhold farm
of 20 acres, producing as many pounds. In these circumstances, to
think of literature was well-nigh inevitable, and, in 1762, the
autobiography tells us:

'I set on foot a periodical publication, entitled the _Universal
Museum_, which came out monthly, printed with glorious imprudence
on my own account. I waited on Dr. Johnson, who was sitting by the
fire so half-dressed and slovenly a figure as to make me stare at
him. I stated my plan, and begged that he would favour me with a
paper once a month, offering at the same time any remuneration that
he might name.'

Here we see dimly prefigured a modern editor prematurely soliciting
the support of Great Names. But the Cham of literature, himself the
son of a bookseller, would have none of it.

'"No, sir," he replied; "such a work would be sure to fail if the
booksellers have not the property, and you will lose a great deal
of money by it."

'"Certainly, sir," I said, "if I am not fortunate enough to induce
authors of real talent to contribute."

'"No, sir, you are mistaken; such authors will not support such a
work, nor will you persuade them to write in it. You will purchase
disappointment by the loss of your money, and I advise you by all
means to give up the plan."

'Somebody was introduced, and I took my leave.'

The _Universal Museum_, none the less, appeared, but after five
numbers Young 'procured a meeting of ten or a dozen booksellers, and
had the luck and address to persuade them to take the whole scheme
upon themselves.' He then calmly adds, 'I believe no success ever
attended it.' It was, indeed, 100 years before its time. Literature
abandoned, Young took one of his mother's farms. 'I had no more idea
of farming than of physic or divinity,' nor did he, man of European
reputation as a farmer though he soon became, ever make farming pay.
He had an itching pen, and after four years' farming (1763-1766) he
published the result of his experience. Never, surely, before has an
author spoken of his first-born as in the autobiography Young speaks
of this publication:

'And the circumstance which perhaps of all others in my life I
most deeply regretted and considered as a sin of the blackest dye
was the publishing of my experience during these four years,
which, speaking as a farmer, was nothing but ignorance, folly,
presumption, and rascality.'

None the less, it was writing this rascally book that seems to have
given him the idea of those agricultural tours which were to make his
name famous throughout the world. His Southern tour was in 1767, his
Northern in 1768, and his Eastern in 1770. The subject he specially
illuminated in these epoch-making books was the rotation of crops,
though he occasionally diverged upon deep-ploughing and kindred
themes. The tours excited, for the first time, the agricultural spirit
of Great Britain, and their author almost at once became a celebrated

In 1765 Young married the wrong woman, and started upon a career of
profound matrimonial discomfort, and even misery; a blunt, truthful
writer, he makes no bones about it. It was an unhappy marriage from
its beginning in 1765 to its end in 1815. Young himself, though by no
means vivacious in this autobiography, where he frankly complains of
himself as having no more wit than a fig, was a very popular person
with all classes and both sexes. He was an enormous diner-out, and his
authority as an agriculturist, united to his undeniable charm as a
companion, threw open to him all the great places in the country. But
his finances were a perpetual trouble. On carrot seeds and cabbages he
was an authority, but from 1766-1775 his income never exceeded L300 a
year. He had an excellent mother, whom he dearly loved, and who with
the characteristic bluntness of the family bade him think less about
carrots and more about his Creator. 'You may call all this rubbish if
you please, but a time will come when you will be convinced whose
notions are rubbish, yours or mine.' And the old lady was quite right,
as mothers so frequently turn out to be. In 1778 Young went over to
Ireland as agent to Lord Kingsborough. He got L500 down, and was to
have an annual salary of L500 and a house. Young soon got to work, and
became anxious to persuade his employer to let his lands direct to the
occupying cottar, and so get rid of the middlemen. This did not suit a
certain Major Thornhill, a relative and leaseholder, and thereupon a
pretty plot was hatched. Lady K. had a Catholic governess, a Miss
Crosby, upon whom it was thought my lord occasionally cast the eye of
partiality, whilst Arthur himself got on very well with her ladyship,
who was heard to pronounce him to be, as he was, 'one of the most
lively, agreeable fellows.' Out of these materials the Major and his
helpmeet concocted a double plot--namely, to make the lord jealous of
the steward, and the lady jealous of the governess, and to cause both
lord and lady respectively to believe that the steward was deeply
engaged both in abetting the amour of the lord and the governess, and
in prosecuting his own amour with the lady. The result was that both
governess and steward got notice to quit; but--and this is very
Irish--both went off with life annuities, the governess with one of
L50 per annum, and the steward with one of L72, and, what is still
more odd, we find Young at the end of his life in receipt of his
annuity. They were an expensive couple, these two.

In 1780 Young published his _Irish Tour_, which was immediately
successful and popular in both kingdoms. In it he attacked the bounty
paid on the land-carriage of corn to Dublin. The bounty was, in the
session of Parliament next after the publication of Young's book,
reduced by one-half, and soon given up entirely. Young maintains that
this saved Ireland L80,000 a year. Nobody seems to have said 'Thank

In May, 1783, was born the child 'Bobbin,' whose death, fourteen years
later, was to change the current of Young's life. The following year
Arthur Young paid his first visit to France, confining himself,
however, to Calais and its neighbourhood, and in the same year his
mother died, and, by an arrangement with his eldest brother, 'this
patch of landed property,' as Young calls Bradfield, descended upon
him. His first famous journey in France was made between May and
November, 1787, and cost the marvellously small sum of L118 15s. 2d.
His second and third French journeys were made in July, 1788, and in
June, 1789. The third was the longest, and extended into 1790. Three
years later Young was appointed, by Pitt, Secretary of the then Board
of Agriculture. A melancholy account is given by Young of a visit he
paid Burke at Gregory's in 1796. Young drove there in the chariot of
his fussy chief, Sir John Sinclair, to discover what Burke's
intentions might be as to an intended publication of his relating to
the price of labour. The account, which occupies four pages, is too
long for quotation. It concludes thus:

'I am glad once more to have seen and conversed with the man who I
hold to possess the greatest and most brilliant gifts of any penman
of the age in which he lived. Whose conversation has often
fascinated me, whose eloquence has charmed; whose writings have
delighted and instructed the world; whose name will without
question descend to the latest posterity. But to behold so great a
genius, so deepened with melancholy, stooping with infirmity of
body, feeling the anguish of a lacerated mind, and sinking to the
grave under accumulated misery--to see all this in a character I
venerate, and apparently without resource or comfort, wounded
every feeling of my soul, and I left him the next day almost as
low-spirited as himself.'

But Young himself was soon to pass into the same Valley of the Shadow,
not so much of Death as of Joyless Life. His beloved and idolized
Bobbin died on July 14, 1797. She seems to have been a wise little
maiden, to whom her father wrote most affectionate letters, full of
rather unsuitable details, political and financial and otherwise, and
not scrupling to speak of the child's mother in a disagreeable manner.
Bobbin replies with delightful composure to these worrying letters:

'I have just got six of the most beautiful little rabbits you ever
saw; they skip about so prettily you can't think, and I shall have
some more in a few weeks. Having had so much physic, I am right
down tired of it. I take it still twice a day--my appetite is
better. What can you mind politics so for? I don't think about
them.--Well, good-bye, and believe me, dear papa, your dutiful

After poor little Bobbin's death, it happened to Arthur Young even as
his mother foretold. Carrots and crops and farming tours hastily
retreat, and we find the eminent agriculturist busying himself, with
the same seriousness and good faith he had devoted to the rotation of
the crops, with the sermons and treatises of Clarke and Jortin and
Secker and Tillotson, etc., and all to discover what had become of his
dear little Bobbin. His outlook upon the world was changed--the great
parties at Petworth, at Euston, at Woburn struck him differently; the
huge irreligion of the world filled him as for the first time with
amazement and horror:

'How few years are passed since I should have pushed on eagerly to
Woburn! This time twelve months I dined with the Duke on
Sunday--the party not very numerous, but chiefly of rank--the
entertainment more splendid than usual there. He expects me to-day,
but I have more pleasure in resting, going twice to church, and
eating a morsel of cold lamb at a very humble inn, than partaking
of gaiety and dissipation at a great table which might as well be
spread for a company of heathens as English lords and men of

It is all mighty fine calling this religious hypochondria and
depression of spirits. It is one of the facts of life. Young stuck to
his post, and did his work, and quarrelled with his wife to the end,
or nearly so. He cannot have been so lively and agreeable a companion
as of old, for we find him in November, 1806, at Euston, endeavouring
to impress on the Duke of Grafton that by his tenets he had placed
himself entirely under the covenant of works, and that he must be
tried for them, and that 'I would not be in such a situation for ten
thousand worlds. He was mild and more patient than I expected.'
Perhaps, after all, Carlyle was not so far wrong when he praised our
aristocracy for their 'politeness.' In 1808 Young became blind. In
1815 his wife died. In 1820 he died himself, leaving behind him seven
packets of manuscript and twelve folio volumes of correspondence.

Young's great work, _Travels during the Years 1787, 1788, and 1789,
undertaken more particularly with a View of Ascertaining the
Cultivation, Wealth, Resources, and National Prosperity of the Kingdom
of France_, published in 1792, is one of those books which will always
be a great favourite with somebody. It will outlive eloquence and
outstay philosophy. It contains some famous passages.


Proverbs are said to be but half-truths, but 'give a dog a bad name
and hang him' is a saying almost as veracious as it is felicitous; and
to no one can it possibly be applied with greater force than to Thomas
Paine, the rebellious staymaker, the bankrupt tobacconist, the amazing
author of _Common-sense_, _The Rights of Man_, and _The Age of Reason_.

Until quite recently Tom Paine lay without the pale of toleration. No
circle of liberality was constructed wide enough to include him. Even
the scouted Unitarian scouted Thomas. He was 'the infamous Paine,'
'the vulgar atheist.' Whenever mentioned in pious discourse it was but
to be waved on one side as thus: 'No one of my hearers is likely to be
led astray by the scurrilous blasphemies of Paine.'

I can well remember when an asserted intimacy with the writings of
Paine marked a man from his fellows and invested him in children's
minds with a horrid fascination. The writings themselves were only to
be seen in bookshops of evil reputation, and, when hastily turned over
with furtive glances, proved to be printed in small type and on
villainous paper. For a boy to have bought them and taken them inside
a decent home would have been to run the risk of fierce wrath in this
life and the threat of it in the next. If ever there was a hung dog,
his name was Tom Paine.

But History is, as we know, for ever revising her records. None of her
judgments are final. A life of Thomas Paine, in two portly and
well-printed volumes, with gilt tops, wide margins, spare leaves at
the end, and all the other signs and tokens of literary
respectability, has lately appeared. No President, no Prime
Minister--nay, no Bishop or Moderator--need hope to have his memoirs
printed in better style than are these of Thomas Paine, by Mr. Moncure
D. Conway. Were any additional proof required of the complete
resuscitation of Paine's reputation, it might be found in the fact
that his life _is_ in two volumes, though it would have been far
better told in one.

Mr. Conway believes implicitly in Paine--not merely in his virtue and
intelligence, but that he was a truly great man, who played a great
part in human affairs. He will no more admit that Paine was a
busybody, inflated with conceit and with a strong dash of insolence,
than he will that Thomas was a drunkard. That Paine's speech was
undoubtedly plain and his nose undeniably red is as far as Mr. Conway
will go. If we are to follow the biographer the whole way, we must not
only unhang the dog, but give him sepulture amongst the sceptred
Sovereigns who rule us from their urns.

Thomas Paine was born at Thetford, in Norfolk, in January, 1737, and
sailed for America in 1774, then being thirty-seven years of age. Up
to this date he was a rank failure. His trade was staymaking, but he
had tried his hand at many things. He was twice an Excise officer, but
was twice dismissed the service, the first time for falsely
pretending to have made certain inspections which, in fact, he had not
made, and the second time for carrying on business in an excisable
article--tobacco, to wit--without the leave of the Board. Paine had
married the tobacconist's business, but neither the marriage nor the
business prospered; the second was sold by auction, and the first
terminated by mutual consent.

Mr. Conway labours over these early days of his hero very much, but he
can make nothing of them. Paine was an Excise officer at Lewes, where,
so Mr. Conway reminds us, 'seven centuries before Paine opened his
office in Lewes, came Harold's son, possibly to take charge of the
Excise as established by Edward the Confessor, just deceased.' This
device of biographers is a little stale. The Confessor was guiltless
of the Excise.

Paine's going to America was due to Benjamin Franklin, who made
Paine's acquaintance in London, and, having the wit to see his
ability, recommended him 'as a clerk or assistant-tutor in a school or
assistant-surveyor.' Thus armed, Paine made his appearance in
Philadelphia, where he at once obtained employment as editor of an
intended periodical called the _Pennsylvanian Magazine or American
Museum_, the first number of which appeared in January, 1775. Never
was anything luckier. Paine was, without knowing it, a born
journalist. His capacity for writing on the spur of the moment was
endless, and his delight in doing so boundless. He had no difficulty
for 'copy', though in those days contributors were few. He needed no
contributors. He was 'Atlanticus'; he was 'Vox Populi'; he was
'Aesop.' The unsigned articles were also mostly his. Having at last,
after many adventures and false starts, found his vocation, Paine
stuck to it. He spent the rest of his days with a pen in his hand,
scribbling his advice and obtruding his counsel on men and nations.
Both were usually of excellent quality.

Paine was also happy in the moment of his arrival in America. The War
of Independence was imminent, and in April, 1775, occurred 'the
massacre of Lexington.' The Colonists were angry, but puzzled. They
hardly knew what they wanted. They lacked a definite opinion to
entertain and a cry to asseverate. Paine had no doubts. He hated
British institutions with all the hatred of a civil servant who has
had 'the sack.'

In January, 1776, he published his pamphlet _Common-sense_, which must
be ranked with the most famous pamphlets ever written. It is difficult
to wade through now, but even _The Conduct of the Allies_ is not easy
reading, and yet between Paine and Swift there is a great gulf fixed.
The keynote of _Common-sense_ was separation once and for ever, and
the establishment of a great Republic of the West. It hit between wind
and water, had a great sale, and made its author a personage and, in
his own opinion, a divinity.

Paine now became the penman of the rebels. His series of manifestoes,
entitled _The Crisis_, were widely read and carried healing on their
wings, and in 1777 he was elected Secretary to the Committee of
Foreign Affairs. Charles Lamb once declared that Rousseau was a good
enough Jesus Christ for the French, and he was capable of declaring
Tom Paine a good enough Milton for the Yankees. However that may be,
Paine was an indefatigable and useful public servant. He was a bad
gauger for King George, but he was an admirable scribe for a
revolution conducted on constitutional principles.

To follow his history through the war would be tedious. What
Washington and Jefferson really thought of him we shall never know.
He was never mercenary, but his pride was wounded that so little
recognition of his astounding services was forthcoming. The
ingratitude of Kings was a commonplace; the ingratitude of peoples an
unpleasing novelty. But Washington bestirred himself at last, and
Paine was voted an estate of 277 acres, more or less, and a sum of
money. This was in 1784.

Three years afterwards Thomas visited England, where he kept good
company and was very usefully employed engineering, for which
excellent pursuit he would appear to have had great natural aptitude.
Blackfriars Bridge had just tumbled down, and it was Paine's laudable
ambition to build its successor in iron. But the Bastille fell down as
well as Blackfriars Bridge, and was too much for Paine. As Mr. Conway
beautifully puts it: 'But again the Cause arose before him; he must
part from all--patent interests, literary leisure, fine society--and
take the hand of Liberty undowered, but as yet unstained. He must beat
his bridge-iron into a key that shall unlock the British Bastille,
whose walls he sees steadily closing around the people.' 'Miching
mallecho--this means mischief;' and so it proved.

Burke is responsible for the _Rights of Man_. This splendid
sentimentalist published his _Reflections on the Revolution in France_
in November, 1790. Paine immediately sat down in the Angel, Islington,
and began his reply. He was not unqualified to answer Burke; he had
fought a good fight between the years 1775 and 1784. Mr. Conway has
some ground for his epigram, 'where Burke had dabbled, Paine had
dived.' There is nothing in the _Rights of Man_ which would now
frighten, though some of its expressions might still shock, a
lady-in-waiting; but to profess Republicanism in 1791 was no joke, and
the book was proclaimed and Paine prosecuted. Acting upon the advice
of William Blake (the truly sublime), Paine escaped to France, where
he was elected by three departments to a seat in the Convention, and
in that Convention he sat from September, 1792, to December, 1793,
when he was found quarters in the Luxembourg Prison.

This invitation to foreigners to take part in the conduct of the
French Revolution was surely one of the oddest things that ever
happened, but Paine thought it natural enough so far, at least, as he
was concerned. He could not speak a word of French, and all his
harangues had to be translated and read to the Convention by a
secretary, whilst Thomas stood smirking in the Tribune. His behaviour
throughout was most creditable to him. He acted with the Girondists,
and strongly opposed and voted against the murder of the King. His
notion of a revolution was one by pamphlet, and he shrank from deeds
of blood. His whole position was false and ridiculous. He really
counted for nothing. The members of the Convention grew tired of his
doctrinaire harangues, which, in fact, bored them not a little; but
they respected his enthusiasm and the part he had played in America,
whither they would gladly he had returned. Who put him in prison is a
mystery. Mr. Conway thinks it was the American Minister in Paris,
Gouverneur Morris. He escaped the guillotine, and was set free after
ten months' confinement.

All this time Washington had not moved a finger in behalf of the
author of _Common-sense_ and _The Crisis_. Amongst Paine's papers this
epigram was found:


Take from the mine the coldest, hardest stone;
It needs no fashion--it is Washington.
But if you chisel, let the stroke be rude,
And on his heart engrave--"Ingratitude."'

This is hard hitting.

So far we have only had the Republican Paine, the outlaw Paine; the
atheist Paine has not appeared. He did so in the _Age of Reason_,
first published in 1794-1795. The object of this book was religious.
Paine was a vehement believer in God and in the Divine government of
the world, but he was not, to put it mildly, a Bible Christian. Nobody
now is ever likely to read the _Age of Reason_ for instruction or
amusement. Who now reads even Mr. Greg's _Creed of Christendom_, which
is in effect, though not in substance, the same kind of book? Paine
was a coarse writer, without refinement of nature, and he used brutal
expressions and hurled his vulgar words about in a manner certain to
displease. Still, despite it all, the _Age of Reason_ is a religious
book, though a singularly unattractive one.

Paine remained in France advocating all kinds of things, including a
descent on England, the abduction of the Royal Family, and a Free
Constitution. Napoleon sought him out, and assured him that he
(Napoleon) slept with the _Rights of Man_ under his pillow. Paine
believed him.

In 1802 Paine returned to America, after fifteen years' absence.

'Thou stricken friend of man,' exclaims Mr. Conway in a fine passage,
'who hast appealed from the God of Wrath to the God of Humanity, see
in the distance that Maryland coast which early voyagers called
Avalon, and sing again your song when first stepping on that shore
twenty-seven years ago.'

The rest of Paine's life was spent in America without distinction or
much happiness. He continued writing to the last, and died bravely on
the morning of June 8, 1809.

The Americans did not appreciate Paine's theology, and in 1819 allowed
Cobbett to carry the bones of the author of _Common-sense_ to England,
where--'as rare things will,' so, at least, Mr. Browning sings--they
vanished. Nobody knows what has become of them.

As a writer Paine has no merits of a lasting character, but he had a
marvellous journalistic knack for inventing names and headings. He is
believed to have concocted the two phrases 'The United States of
America' and 'The Religion of Humanity.' Considering how little he had
read, his discourses on the theory of government are wonderful, and
his views generally were almost invariably liberal, sensible, and
humane. What ruined him was an intolerable self-conceit, which led him
to believe that his own productions superseded those of other men. He
knew off by heart, and was fond of repeating, his own _Common-sense_
and the _Rights of Man_. He was destitute of the spirit of research,
and was wholly without one shred of humility. He was an oddity, a
character, but he never took the first step towards becoming a great


[Footnote A: _Charles Bradlaugh: A Record of His Life and Work_. By
his daughter, Hypatia Bradlaugh Bonner. Two vols. London: T. Fisher
Unwin, 1894.]

Mr. Bradlaugh was a noticeable man, and his life, even though it
appears in the unwelcome but familiar shape of two octavo volumes, is
a noticeable book. It is useless to argue with biographers; they, at
all events, are neither utilitarians nor opportunists, but idealists
pure and simple. What is the good of reminding them, being so
majestical, of Guizot's pertinent remark, 'that if a book is
unreadable it will not be read,' or of the older saying, 'A great book
is a great evil'? for all such observations they simply put on one
side as being, perhaps, true for others, but not for them. Had _Mr.
Bradlaugh's Life_ been just half the size it would have had, at least,
twice as many readers.

The pity is all the greater because Mrs. Bonner has really performed a
difficult task after a noble fashion and in a truly pious spirit. Her
father's life was a melancholy one, and it became her duty as his
biographer to break a silence on painful subjects about which he had
preferred to say nothing. His reticence was a manly reticence; though
a highly sensitive mortal, he preferred to put up with calumny rather
than lay bare family sorrows and shame. His daughter, though compelled
to break this silence, has done so in a manner full of dignity and
feeling. The ruffians who in times past slandered the moral character
of Bradlaugh will not probably read his life, nor, if they did, would
they repent of their baseness. The willingness to believe everything
evil of an adversary is incurable, springing as it does from a habit
of mind. It was well said by Mr. Mill: 'I have learned from experience
that many false opinions may be exchanged for true ones, without in
the least altering the habits of mind of which false opinions are the
result.' Now that Mr. Bradlaugh is dead, no purpose is served by
repeating false accusations as to his treatment of his wife, or of his
pious brother, or as to his disregard of family ties; but the next
atheist who crops up must not expect any more generous treatment than
Bradlaugh received from that particularly odious class of persons of
whom it has been wittily said that so great is their zeal for
religion, they have never time to say their prayers.

Mr. Bradlaugh will, I suppose, be hereafter described in the
dictionaries of biography as 'Freethinker and Politician.' Of the
politician there is here no need to speak. He was a Radical of the
old-fashioned type. When he first stood for Northampton in 1868, his
election address was made up of tempting dishes, which afterwards
composed Mr. Chamberlain's famous but unauthorized programme of 1885,
with minority representation thrown in. Unpopular thinkers who have
been pelted with stones by Christians, slightly the worse for liquor,
are apt to think well of minorities. Mr. Bradlaugh's Radicalism had
an individualistic flavour. He thought well of thrift, thereby
incurring censure. Mr. Bradlaugh's politics are familiar enough. What
about his freethinking? English freethinkers may be divided into two
classes--those who have been educated and those who have had to
educate themselves. The former class might apply to their own case the
language once employed by Dr. Newman to describe himself and his
brethren of the Oratory:

'We have been nourished for the greater part of our lives in the
bosom of the great schools and universities of Protestant England;
we have been the foster foster-sons of the Edwards and Henries, the
Wykehams and Wolseys, of whom Englishmen are wont to make so much;
we have grown up amid hundreds of contemporaries, scattered at
present all over the country in those special ranks of society
which are the very walk of a member of the legislature.'

These first-class free-thinkers have an excellent time of it, and, to
use a fashionable phrase, 'do themselves very well indeed.' They move
freely in society; their books lie on every table; they hob-a-nob with
Bishops; and when they come to die, their orthodox relations gather
round them, and lay them in the earth 'in the sure and certain
hope'--so, at least, priestly lips are found willing to assert--'of
the resurrection to eternal life through our Lord Jesus Christ.' And
yet there was not a dogma of the Christian faith in which they were in
a position to profess their belief.

The free-thinkers of the second class, poor fellows! have hitherto led
very different lives. Their foster-parents have been poverty and
hardship; their school education has usually terminated at eleven; all
their lives they have been desperately poor; alone, unaided, they
have been left to fight the battle of a Free Press.


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