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THE PRAISE OF BOOKS.
THE love of books is a love which requires neither justification, apology, nor defence. It is a good thing in itself: a possession to be thankful for, to rejoice over, to be proud of, and to sing praises for. With this love in his heart no man is ever poor, ever without friends, or the means of making his life lovely, beautiful, and happy. In prosperity or adversity, in joy or sorrow, in health or sickness, in solitude or crowded towns, books are never out of place, never without the power to comfort, console, and bless. They add wealth to prosperity, and make sweeter the sweet uses of adversity; they intensify joy and take the sting from, or give a bright relief to sorrow; they are the glorifiers of health and the blessed consolers of sickness; they
people solitude with the creations of thought, the children of fancy, and the offsprings of imagination, and to the busy haunts of men they lend a purpose and an aim, and tend to keep the heart unspotted in the world. It is better to possess this love than to inherit a kingdom, for it brings wealth which money can never buy, and which power is impotent to secure. It is better than gold, "yea, than much fine gold," and splendid palaces and costly raiment. No possession can surpass, or even equal, a good library to the lover of books. Here are treasured up for his daily use and delectation riches which increase by being con sumed, and pleasures which never cloy. It is a realm as large as the universe, every part of which is peopled by spirits who lay before his feet their precious spoils as his lawful tribute. For him the poets sing, the philosophers discourse, the historians unfold the wonderful march of life, and the searchers of nature reveal the secrets and mysteries of creation. No matter what his rank or position may be, the lover of books is the richest and the happiest of the children of men.
"What a place to be in," says Charles Lamb,
"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 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 ages have produced, is there, the undisputed possession and the common property of every one who will claim