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creation at once so wholesome and so useful. We hope many a man of business will refresh himself with the short pieces in these volumes, and return to his work the fitter to bafile craft, and yet retain a reverence for simplicity.
Every man who has a right sense of business, whether his business be that of the world or of himself, has a respect for all right things apart from it; because business with him is not a mindless and merely instinctive industry, like that of a beetle rolling its ball of clay, but an exercise of faculties congenial with the other powers of the human being, and all working to some social end. Hence he approves of judicious and reflecting leisure--of domestic and social evenings—of suburban retreats—of gardens—of ultimate retirement " for good "-of a reading and reflective old age. Such retirements have been longed for, and in many instances realized, by wise and great men of all classes, from the Diocletians of old to the Foxes and Burkes of our own days. Warren Hastings, who had ruled in India, yearned for the scenes of his boyhood; and lived to be happy in them. The wish to possess a country-house, a retreat, a nest, a harbour of some kind from the storms and even from the agitating pleasures of life, is as old as the sorrows and joys of civilization. The child feels it when he “ plays at house ;" the schoolboy, when he is reading in his corner; the lover, when he thinks of his mistress. Epicurus felt it in his garden; Horace and Virgil expressed their desire of it in passages which the sympathy of mankind bas rendered immortal. It was the end of all the
wisdom and experience of Shakspeare. He retired to his native town, and built himself a house in which he died. And who else does not occasionally “fit” somewhere meantime if he can? The country for many miles round London, and indeed in most other places, is adorned with houses and grounds of men of business, who are whirled to and fro on weekly or daily evenings, and who would all find something to approve in the closing chapters of our work. The greatest moneyed man of our time, Rothschild, who weighed kings in his balance, could not do without his house at Gunnersbury. Even the turbulent De Retz, according to Madame de Sévigné, became the sweetest of retired Signiors, and did nothing but read books and feed his trout. It is customary to jest upon such men, and indeed upon all retirement; to say that they would still meddle with affairs if they could, and that retirement is a failure and a “ bore." Fox did not think so. It is possible that De Retz would have meddled fast enough ; nor are many energetic men superior, perhaps, to temptations of their spirit in this way, when such occur. But this does not hinder them from enjoying another and a seasonable pleasure meantime. On the contrary, this very energy is the thing which hinders it from palling ; that is to say, supposing their intellects are large enough to include a sense of it. De Retz, like Burke and Fox, was a lover of books. Sir Robert Walpole, who retired only to be sick and to die, did not care for books. Occupation is the necessary basis of all enjoyment; and he who cannot read, or botanize, or farm, or amuse himself
with his neighbours, or exercise his brain with thinking, is in a bad way for the country at any time, much more for retiring into it. He has nothing to do but to get back as fast as he can, and be hustled into a sensation by a mob.
“ Books, Venus, books.” It is those that teach us to refine on our pleasures when young, and which, having so taught us, enable us to recall them with satisfaction when old. For let the half-witted say what they will of delusions, no thorough reader ever ceased to believe in his books, whatever doubts they might have taught him by the way. They are pleasures too palpable and habitual for him to deny. The habit itself is a pleasure. They contain his young dreams and his old discoveries; all that he has lost, as well as all that he has gained ; and, as he is no surer of the gain than of the loss, except in proportion to the strength of his perceptions, the dreams, in being renewed, become truths again. He is again in communion with the past ; again interested in its adventures, grieving with its griefs, laughing with its merriment, forgetting the very chair and room he is sitting in. Who, in the mysterious operation of things, shall dare to assert in what unreal corner of time and space that man's mind is; or what better proof he has of the existence of the poor goods and chattels about him, which at that moment (to him) are non-existent? “ Oh !" people say,“ but he wakes up, and sees them there." Well; he woke down then, and saw the rest. What we distinguish into dreams and realities, are, in both cases, but representatives of impressions. Who shall know what dif
ference there is in them at all, save that of degree, till some higher state of existence help us to a criterion ?
For our part, such real things to us are books, that, if habit and perception make the difference between real and unreal, we may say that we more frequently wake out of common life to them, than out of them to common life. Yet we do not find the life the less real. We only feel books to be a constituent part of it; a world, as the poet says,
“ Round which, with tendrils strong as flesh and blood,
Our pastime and our happiness may grow.”
What do readers care for “existing things" (except when Ireland is mentioned, or a child is grieving) compared with poetry and romance? What for Bonaparte and his pretences, compared with the honest jealousy of " Orlando," or the cakes of Alfred ? What for all the parsons in the world (except Pius IX. or some Welsh curate) compared with Parson Adams or the Vicar of Wakefield ? What men (generally speaking) are they so sure of? are so intimate with ? can describe, quote, and talk of to one another with so much certainty of a mutual interest ? And yet, when readers wake up to that other dream of life, called real life (and we do not mean to deny its palpability), they do not find their enjoyment of it diminished. It is increased increased by the contrast—by the variety—by the call upon them to show the faith which books have originally given them in all true and good things, and which books, in spite of contradiction and disappointment, have constantly main
tained. Mankind are the creatures of books, as well as of other circumstances; and such they eternally remain ; proofs, that the race is a noble and a believing race, and capable of whatever books can stimulate.
The volumes now offered to our fellow readers originated in this kind of passion for books. They were suggested by a wish we had long felt to get up a book for our private enjoyment, and of a very particular and unambitious nature. It was to have consisted of favourite passages, not out of the authors we most admired, but those whom we most loved; and it was to have commenced, as the volumes do, with Shenstone's Schoolmistress, and ended with Gray's Elegy. It was to have contained indeed little which the volumes do not comprise, though not intended to be half so big, and it was to have proceeded on the same plan of beginning with childhood and ending with the church-yard. We did not intend to omit the greatest authors on account of their being the greatest, but because they moved the feelings too strongly. What we desired was not an excitement, but a balm. Readers, who have led stirring lives, have such men as Shakspeare with them always, in their very struggles and sufferings, and in the tragic spectacles of the world. Great crowds and great passions are Shakspeares; and we, for one (and such we take to be the case with many readers), are sometimes as willing to retire from their “ infinite agitation of wit," as from strifes less exalted; and retreat into the placider corners of genius more humble. It is out of no disrespect to their greatness ; neither, we may be allowed