« AnteriorContinuar »
“is an old library! It seems as though all the souls of all the writers that have bequeathed their labours to these Bodleians, were reposing here, as in a dormitory, or middle state. I do not want to handle, to profane the leaves, their winding-sheets. I would as soon dislodge a shade. I seem to inhale learning, walking amid their foliage ; and the odours of their old moth-scented coverings is fragrant as the first bloom of those scirential apples which grew amid the happy orchard." In such a mood it is a delight to merely look at booksin a state of quiet reverie to dream of the rich fruit which you will not pluck, of the sweet grapes which you will not taste. There . spread before you is a banquet fit for gods, and the consciousness that you
could eat and be satisfied fills up your cup of pleasure to the brim. It is a feast at which the imagination supplies ambrosia and nectar, and, for the time, coarser food is neither required nor desired. You walk in meadows of asphodel, and in the gardens of the Hesperides, and have no wish to pluck a flower, or to gather the fruit. It is enough that they are there, and that the spirits who guard them are ready to supply you with both. There is no flaming sword to drive you from this Eden, no fierce dragon to slay ere you can gain admission, or feed on the delicious, but never satiating fruits of the trees both of Knowledge and of Life. You know the magicians are ready—why should you be in haste to enter their kingdom, and rifle it of its treasures ? They will never be borne away, never diminish; for over them neither the hand of the robber, nor the edacious tooth of time has power.
They will remain from day to day
“To the last syllable of recorded time,”
and when you please you can open the golden store-house, make yourself free of its contents, bear away as much as you can carry, load yourself with the richest and most precious of its treasures, knowing that it will not suffer diminution or loss ! And what treasures they are !
All that the thought, fancy, imagination, labour, wisdom, and research which the wisest and best of all
have produced, is there, the undisputed possession and the common property of every one who will claim it. These treasures are exhaustless ; and what is more they do “not perish in the using;” but continually supply new pleasures and new powers of giving pleasures to others. The poorest man will find “shelter among books, which insult not; and studies that ask no questions of a youth's finances." They are indeed “spiritual repasts
” · which never cloy the taste, but strengthen the appetite. With them “increase of appetite grows by what it feeds on," and you share your banquet with the best of company, and heighten your joy and intensify your pleasure by holding converse with the master spirits of the world. Your guests may be few or many according to your desire, and no one will be offended at the place you assign him at the table.
a feast at which etiquette, and precedence, and the forms of society have no power, and produce no trouble. Here, in the only true republic ever get established, all meet on a perfect equality. King fraternises with ploughman, and the purple of the monarch is not shamed by the gaberdine of the beggar. All class distinctions are lost, and all ranks sit down side by side, undismayed by the
“pale spectrum of the salt.” The only true equalisers in the world are books; the only treasure-house open to all comers is a library; the only wealth which will not decay is knowledge ; the only jewel which you can carry beyond the grave is wisdom.
To live in this equality, to share in these treasures, to possess this wealth, and to secure this jewel may be the happy lot of every
All that is needed for the acquisition of these inestimable treasures is, the love of books.
In books the past is ours as well as the present. With them we live yesterday over again. All the bygone ages are with us, and we look on the face of the infancy of the world. We see the first dawning of thought in man. We are present at the beginnings of cities, states, and nations; and can trace the growth and development of governments, policies, and laws. The marvellous story of humanity is enacted again for our edification, instruction, and delight. We behold civilizations begin, struggle, triumph, and decay, giving place to higher and nobler as they pass away. Poet, lawgiver, and soldier sing their songs, make their codes, and fight their battles again, while we follow the never-dying
effects of song, of law, and of battle. We sit down with "princes, potentates, and powers,” watching them, as they think, governing the world; while in some obscure corner we see a man dwelling in poverty, living in lowliness, toiling in faith, who is the real moving power, whose mind will dominate and mould mankind, making kings and kaisers bend before the thought he thinks, the word he utters, the breath he breathes. He is the thinker, and lives unnoticed and alone. His contemporaries scorn his pale face and wrinkled forehead; or they turn round and rend him to pieces. Not unfrequently they stone, or burn, or crucify him, thinking that with his poor emaciated body will die the truth he suffered martyrdom for teaching; the new idea he bore persecution for maintaining; the doctrine breathed in spite of fire, and sword, and cross. He was killed, but his truth only gained strength, and power, and influence by his death. We, with our silent monitors around us, can trace its course from the little mountain spring to the wide life-giving river ; from its small empire in one man's brain,
' ruling over only one man's heart, till it becomes the possessor of myriads, the controller of multitudes,