These are not the real difficulties, though they seem to have pressed somewhat heavily on Lord Penzance.
The circumstances attendant upon the publication of the Folio of 1623 are undoubtedly puzzling. Shakespeare died in 1616, leaving behind him more than forty plays circulating in London and more or less associated with his name. His will, a most elaborate document, does not contain a single reference to his literary life or labours. Seven years after his death the Folio appears, which contains twenty-six plays out of the odd forty just referred to, and ten extra plays which had never before been in print, and about six of which there is a very scanty Shakespearean tradition. Of the twenty-six old plays, seventeen had been printed in small Quartos, possibly surreptitiously, in Shakespeare's lifetime, but the Folio does not reprint from these Quartos, but from enlarged, amended, and enormously improved copies. Messrs. Heminge and Condell, the editor of this priceless treasure, the First Folio, wrote a long-winded dedication to Lords Pembroke and Montgomery, which contains but one pertinent passage, in which they ask their readers to believe that it had been the office of the editors to collect and publish the author's 'mere writings,' he being dead, and to offer them, not 'maimed and deformed,' in surreptitious and stolen copies, but 'cured and perfect of their limbs and all the rest, absolute in their numbers as he conceived them, who as he was a happie imitator of Nature was a most gentle expresser of it. His mind and hand went together, and what he thought, he uttered with that easiness, that we have scarce received from him a blot in his papers.'
From whose custody did those 'papers' come? Where had they been all the seven years? Of what did they consist? If in truth unblotted, all the seventeen Quartos as well as the new plays must have been printed from fair manuscript copies. From whom were these unblotted copies received, and what became of them? The silence of these players is irritating and perplexing,—though, possibly, the explanation of the mystery, were it forthcoming, would be, as often happens, of the simplest. It may be that these unblotted copies were in the theatre library all the time.
Whether these interrogatories, now unanswerable, raise doubts in the mind of sufficient potency to destroy the tradition of centuries, and to prevent us from sharing the conviction of Milton, of Dryden, of Pope, and Johnson that Shakespeare was the author of Shakespeare's plays must be left for individual consideration. But, however destructive these doubts may prove, they do not go a yard of the way to let in Bacon.
Once more I will quote Spedding, for he, of all the moderns, by virtue of his taste and devouring studies, is the best qualified to speak:
'Aristotle was an extraordinary man. Plato was an extraordinary man. That two men each severally so extraordinary should have been living at the same time in the same place was a very extraordinary thing. But would it diminish the wonder to suppose the two to be one? So I say of Bacon and Shakespeare. That a human being possessed of the faculties necessary to make a Shakespeare should exist is extraordinary. That a human being possessed of the necessary faculties to make Bacon should exist is extraordinary. That two such human beings should have been living in London at the same time was more extraordinary still. But that one man should have existed possessing the faculties and opportunities necessary to make both would have been the most extraordinary thing of all' (see Spedding's Essays and Discussions, 1879, pp. 371, 372).
'Great writers, especially being contemporary, have many features in common, but if they are really great writers they write naturally, and nature is always individual. I doubt whether there are five lines together to be found in Bacon which could be mistaken for Shakespeare, or five lines in Shakespeare which could be mistaken for Bacon, by one who was familiar with their several styles and practised in such observations' (Ibid., p. 373).
To anyone blessed or cursed with an ironical humour the troublesome history of the Church of England since the Reformation cannot fail to be an endless source of delight. It really is exciting. Just a little more of Calvin and of Beza, half a dozen words here, or Cranmer's pencil through a single phrase elsewhere; a 'quantum suff.' of the men 'that allowed no Eucharistic sacrifice,' and away must have gone beyond recall the possibility of the Laudian revival and all that still appertains thereunto. We must have lost the 'primitive' men, the Kens, the Wilsons, the Knoxes, the Kebles, the Puseys. On the other hand, but for the unfaltering language of the Articles, the hearty tone of the Homilies, and the agreeable readiness of both sides to curse the Italian impudence of the Bishop of Rome and all his 'detestable enormities,' our Anglican Church history could never have been enriched with the names or sweetened by the memories of the Romaines, the Flavels, the Venns, the Simeons, and of many thousand unnamed saints who finished their course in the fervent faith of Evangelicalism. But on what a thread it has always hung! An ill-considered Act of Parliament, an amendment hastily accepted by a pestered layman at midnight, a decision in a court of law, a Jerusalem Bishoprick, a passage in an early Father, an ancient heresy restudied, and off to Rome goes a Newman or a Manning, whilst a Baptist Noel finds his less romantic refuge in Protestant Dissent. Schism is for ever in the air. Disruption a lively possibility. It has always been a ticklish business belonging to the Church of England, unless you can muster up enough courage to be a frank Erastian, and on the rare occasions when you attend your parish church handle the Book of Common Prayer with all the reverence due to a schedule to an Act of Parliament.
Among the many noticeable humours of the present situation is the tone adopted by an average Churchman like Canon Overton to the Non-Jurors. When the late Mr. Lathbury published his admirable History of the Non-Jurors,[A] he had to prepare himself for a very different public of Churchmen and Churchwomen than will turn over Canon Overton's agreeable pages.[B] In 1845 the average Churchman, after he had conquered the serious initial difficulty of comprehending the Non-Juror's position, was only too apt to consider him a fool for his pains. 'It has been the custom,' wrote Mr. Lathbury, 'to speak of the Non-Jurors as a set of unreasonable men, and should I succeed in any measure in correcting those erroneous impressions, I shall feel that my labour has not been in vain.' But in 1902, as Canon Overton is ready enough to perceive, 'their position is a little better understood.' The well-nigh 'fools' are all but 'confessors.'
[Footnote A: A History of the Non-Jurors. By Thomas Lathbury. London: Pickering, 1845.]
[Footnote B: The Non-Jurors. By J.H. Overton, D.D. London: Smith, Elder and Co., 1902, 16s.]
The early history of the Non-Jurors is as fascinating and as fruitful as their later history is dull, melancholy, and disappointing.
Nobody will deny that the Bishops, clergy, and laity of the Church of England who refused to take the oaths to William and Mary and George I., when tendered to them, were amply justified in the Court of Conscience. They were ridiculed by the politicians of the day for their supersensitiveness; but what were they to do? If they took the oaths, they apostalized from the faith they had once professed.
Before the Revolution it was the faith of all High Churchmen—part of the deposition they had to guard—that the doctrine of non-resistance and passive obedience was Gospel truth, primitive doctrine, and a chief 'characteristic' of the Anglican Church.
The saintly John Kettlewell, in his tractate, Christianity: a Doctrine of the Cross, or Passive Obedience under any Pretended Invasion of Legal Rights and Liberties (1696), makes this perfectly plain; and when Ken came to compose his famous will, wherein he declared that he died in the Communion of the Church of England, 'as it adheres to the doctrine of the Cross,' the good Bishop did not mean what many a pious soul in later days has been edified by thinking he did mean, the doctrine of the Atonement, but that of passive obedience, which was the Non-Juror's cross.
It is sad to think a doctrine dear to so many saintly men, maintained with an erudition so vast and exemplified by sacrifices so great, should have disappeared in the vortex of present-day conflict. It may some day reappear in Convocation. Kettlewell, who was a precise writer and accurate thinker, defined sovereignty as supremacy. 'Kings,' he said, 'can be no longer sovereigns, but subjects, if they have any superiors'; and he points out with much acumen that the best security under a sovereign 'which sovereignty allows' is that the Kings and Ministers are accountable and liable for breach of law as well as others. Kettlewell, had he lived long enough, might have come to transfer his idea of sovereignty to Kings, Lords, and Commons speaking through an Act of Parliament, and if so, he would have urged active obedience to its enactments, when not contrary to conscience, and passive obedience if they were so contrary. Therefore, were he alive to-day, and did he think it contrary to conscience (as he easily might) to pay a school-rate for an 'undenominational' school, he would not draw a cheque for the amount, but neither would he punch the bailiff's head who came to seize his furniture. Kettlewell's treatise is well worth reading. Its last paragraph is most spirited.
There could be no doubt about it. The High Church party were bound hand and foot to the doctrine of the Cross—i.e., passive obedience to the Lord's Anointed. Whoever else might actively resist or forsake the King, they could not without apostasy. But the Revolution of 1688 was not content to pierce the High Churchmen through one hand. Not only did the Revolution require the Church to forswear its King, but also to see its spiritual fathers deprived and intruders set in their places without even the semblance of any spiritual authority. If it was hard to have James II. a fugitive in foreign lands and Dutch William in Whitehall, it was perhaps even harder to see Sancroft expelled from Lambeth, and the Erastian and latitudinarian Tillotson, who was prepared to sacrifice even episcopacy for peace, usurping the title of Archbishop of Canterbury. After all, no man, not even a Churchman, can serve two masters. The loyalty of a High Churchman to the throne is always subject to his loyalty to the Church, and at the Revolution he was wounded in both houses.
When Queen Elizabeth ascended the throne, and established what was then unblushingly called 'the new religion,' the whole Anglican Hierarchy, with the paltry exception of the Bishop of Llandaff, refused the oaths of supremacy, and were superseded. In a little more than 100 years the Protestant Bench was bombarded with a heart-searching oath—this time of allegiance. Opinion was divided; the point was not so clear as in 1559. The Archbishop of York and his brethren of London, Lincoln, Bristol, Winchester, Rochester, Llandaff and St. Asaph, Carlisle and St. David's, swore to bear true allegiance to Their Majesties King William and Queen Mary. The Archbishop of Canterbury and the Bishops of Bath and Wells, Ely, Gloucester, Norwich, Peterborough, Worcester, Chichester, and Chester refused to swear anything of the kind, and were consequently, in pursuance of the terms of an Act of Parliament, and of an Act of Parliament only, deprived of their ecclesiastical preferments. They thus became the first Non-Jurors, and were long, except two who died before actual sentence of exclusion, affectionately known and piously venerated in all High Church homes as 'the Deprived Fathers.'
Who can doubt that they were right, holding the faith they did? Yet Englishmen do not take kindly to martyrdom, and some of the Bishops were strangely puzzled. The excellent Ken, who, like Keble, was an Englishman first and a Catholic afterwards (in other words, no true Catholic at all), when told that James was ready to give Ireland to France, as nearly as possible conformed, so angry was he with the Lord's Anointed; and even the fiery Leslie, one of our most agreeable writers, was always ready to forgive those pious, peaceful souls who thought it no sin, though great sorrow, to comply with the demands of Caesar, but still managed to retain their old Church and King principles. Leslie reserved his wrath for the Tillotsons and the Tenisons and the Burnets, who first, to use his own words, swallowed 'the morsels of usurpation' and then dressed them up 'with all the gaudy and ridiculous flourishes that an Apostate eloquence can put upon them.'
The early Non-Jurors included among their number a very large proportion of holy, learned, and primitive-minded men. At least 400 of the general body of the clergy refused the oaths and accepted for themselves and those dependent on them lives of poverty and seclusion. They were from the beginning an unpopular body. They were not Puritans, they were not Deists, they were not Presbyterians, they would not go to their parish churches; and yet they vehemently objected to being called Papists. What troublesome people! Five of the deprived fathers, including the Primate, had known what it was, when they defied their Sovereign, to be the idols of the mob; but when they adhered to his fallen cause they were deprived of their sees, and sent packing from their palaces without a single growl of popular discontent. Oblivion was their portion, even as it was of their Roman Catholic predecessors at the time of the Reformation.
The Archbishop of Canterbury, when turned out of Lambeth by a judgment of the Court of King's Bench to make way for Tillotson, retired to his native village in Fressingfield, where he did not attend the parish church, nor would allow any but non-juring clergy to perform Divine service in his presence. Dr. Sancroft (who was a book-lover, and had 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 acumen.
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 admirari!
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 CLXXVII.).
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 defence.'
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 affection:
'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 enough.
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 JOHNSONIAN LEGEND
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 AS BIOGRAPHER
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 savage:
'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 character.'
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 die.
OLD PLEASURE GARDENS[A]
[Footnote A: Pleasure Gardens of the Eighteenth Century, by Warwick Wroth, F.S.A., assisted by Arthur Edgar Wroth. London: Macmillan and Co.]
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 on.
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 him."'
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 Parliament.
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 impertinent.
'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 undertaking.
A FEW WORDS ABOUT COPYRIGHT IN BOOKS
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 registered.
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 created.
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 first.]
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.
HANNAH MORE ONCE MORE
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.