« PrécédentContinuer »
past ages. Books are the true levelers. They give to all, who will faithfully use them, the society, the spiritual presence of the best and greatest of our race. No matter how poor I am,-no matter though the prosperous of my own time will not enter my obscure dwelling,-if the sacred writers will enter and take up their abode under my roof, if Milton will cross my threshold to sing to me of Paradise, and Shakspeare to open to me the worlds of imagination and the workings of the human heart, and Franklin' to enrich me with his practical wisdom, I shall not pine for want of intellectual companionship, and I may become a cultivated man, though excluded from what is called the best society in the place where I live.
V. THE BIBLE.-HALL."
THE Bible is the treasure of the poor, the solace of the sick, and the support of the dying; and while other books may amuse and instruct in a leisure hour, it is the peculiar triumph of that book to create light in the midst of darkness, to alleviate the sorrow which admits of no other alleviation, to direct a beam of hope to the heart which no other topic of consolation can reach; while guilt, despair, and death vanish at the touch of its holy inspiration.
There is something in the spirit and diction of the Bible which is found peculiarly adapted to arrest the attention of the plainest and most uncultivated minds. The simple structure of its sentences, combined with a lofty spirit of poëtry-its familiar allusions to the scenes of nature and the transactions of common life-the delightful intermixture of narration with the doctrinal and preceptive parts-and the profusion of miraculous facts, which convert it into a sort of enchanted ground-its constant advertence to the Deïty, whose perfections it renders almost visible and palpable-unite in bestowing upon it an in'terest which attaches to no other performance, and which, after
1 Benjamin Franklin, an eminent American moralist, statesman, and philosopher, was born in Boston, Mass., January 6th, 1706, and died in Philadelphia, April 17th, 1790.
2 Robert Hall, an eminent Baptist clergyman, was born at Arnsby, England, in 1764. Splendid, graceful, and majestic, with a large and
various erudition, and a thorough intellectual training; master alike of the sternest weapons of logic, and "the dazzling fence of rhetoric;" in style, combining the sweetness of Addison with the sublimity of Burke; he was regarded as the most eloquent preacher of modern times. He died in February, 1831.
assiduous and repeated perusal, invests it with much of the charm of novelty; like the great orb of day, at which we are wont' to gaze with unabated astonishment from infancy to old age.
What other book besides the Biole could be heard in public assemblies from year to year, with an attention that never tires, and an interest that never cloys? With few exceptions, let a portion of the sacred volume be recited in a mixed multitude, and though it has been heard a thousand times, a universal stillness ensues, every eye is fixed, and every ear is awake and attentive. Select, if you can, any other composition, and let it be rendered equally familiar to the mind, and see whether it will produce this effect.
56. BUYING BOOKS.
OW easily one may distinguish a genuine lover of books from the worldly man! With what subdued and yet glowing enthusiasm does he gaze upon the costly front of a thousand embattled volumes! How gently he draws them down, as if they were little children! how tenderly he handles them! He peers at the title-page, at the text, or the notes, with the nicety of a bird examining a flower. He studies the binding: the leather, Russia, English calf, morocco; the lettering, the gilding, the edging, the hinge of the cover! He opens it, and shuts it, he holds it off, and brings it nigh. It suffuses his whole body with book-magnetism. He walks up and down, in amaze at the mysterious allotments of Providence that gives so much money to men who spend it upon their appetites, and so little to men who would spend it in benevolence, or upon their refined tastes! It is astonishing, too, how one's necessities multiply in the presence of the supply. One never knows how many things it is impossible to do without till he goes to the house-furnishing stores. One is surprised to perceive, at some bazaar, or fancy and variety store, how many conveniences he needs. He is satisfied that his life must have been utterly inconvenient aforetime. And thus, too, one is inwardly convicted, at a bookstore, of having lived for years without books which he is now satisfied that one can not live without!
1 Wont, (wůnt), used; accustomed.
2. Then, too, the subtle process by which the man convinces himself that he can afford to buy. No subtle manager or broker ever saw through a maze of financial embarrassments half so quick as a poor book-buyer sees his way clear to pay for what he must have. He promises with himself marvels of retrenchment; he will eat less, or less costly viands, that he may buy more food for the mind. He will take an extra patch, and go on with his raiment another year, and buy books instead of coats. Yea, he will write books, that he may buy books. He will lecture, teach, trade-he will do any honest thing for money to buy books!
3. The appetite is insatiable. Feeding does not satisfy it. It rages by the fuel which is put upon it. As a hungry man eats first, and pays afterward, so the book-buyer purchases, and then works at the debt afterward. This paying is rather medicinal. It cures for a time. But a relapse takes place. The same longing, the same promises of self-denial. He promises himself to put spurs on both heels of his in'dustry; and then, besides all this, he will somehow get along when the time for payment comes! Ah! this SOMEHOW! That word is as big as a whole world, and is stuffed with all the vaga'ries and fantasies that Fancy ever bred upon Hope.
4. And yet, is there not some comfort in buying books, to be paid for? We have heard of a sot, who wished his neck as long as the worm of a still, that he might so much the longer enjoy the flavor of the draught! Thus, it is a prolonged excitement of purchase, if you feel for six months in a slight doubt whether the book is honestly your own or not. Had you paid down, that would have been the end of it. There would have been no affectionate and beseeching look of your books at you, every time you saw them, saying, as plain as a book's eyes can say, "Do not let me be taken from you."
5. Moreover, buying books before you can pay for them, promotes caution. You do not feel quite at liberty to take them home. You are married. Your wife keeps an account-book. She knows to a penny what you can and what you can not afford. She has no "speculation" in her eyes. Plain figures make desperate work with airy "somehows." It is a matter of no small skill and experience to get your books home, and into their proper places, undiscovered. Perhaps the blundering Express
brings them to the door just at evening. "What is it, my dear ?" "Oh! nothing—a few books that I can not
she says to you.
6. That smile! A true housewife that loves her husband, can smile a whole arithmetic at him in one look! Of course she insists, in the kindèst way, in sympathizing with you in your literary acquisition. She cuts the strings of the bundle (and of your heart), and out comes the whole story. You have bought a complete set of costly English books, full bound in calf, extra gilt! You are caught, and feel very much as if bound in calf yourself, and admirably lettered.
7. Now, this must not happen frequently. The books must be smuggled home. Let them be sent to some near place. Then, when your wife has a headache, or is out making a call, or has lain down, run the books across the frontier and threshold, hastily undo them, stop only for one loving glance as you put them away in the closet, or behind other books on the shelf, or on the topmost shelf. Clear away the twine and wrapping-paper, and every suspicious circumstance. Be very careful not to be too kind. That often brings on detection. Only the other day we heard it said, somewhere, "Why, how good you have been, lately. I am really afraid that you have been carrying on mischief secretly." Our heart smote us. It was a fact. That very day we had bought a few books which "we could not do without." 8. After a while, you can bring out one volume, accidentally, and leave it on the table. 66 'Why, my dear, what a beautiful book! Where did you borrow it?" You glance over the newspaper, with the quiëtest tone you can command: That! oh! that is mine. Have you not seen it before? It has been in the house these two months ;" and you rush on with anecdote and incident, and point out the binding, and that peculiar trick of gilding, and every thing else you can think of: but it all will not do; you can not rub out that roguish, arithmet'ical smile. People may talk about the equality of the sexes! They are not equal. The silent smile of a sensible, loving woman, will vanquish ten men. Of course you repent, and in time form a habit
9. Another method, which will be found peculiarly effective, is, to make a present of some fine work to your wife. Of course, whether she or you have the name of buying it, it will go into
your collection and be yours to all intents and purposes. But, it stops remark in the presentation. A wife could not reprove you for so kindly thinking of her. No matter what she suspects, she will say nothing. And then if there are three or four mōre works, which have come home with the gift-book-they will pass, through the favor of the other.
10. These are pleasures denied to wealth and old bachelors. Indeed, one can not imagine the peculiar pleasure of buying books, if one is rich and stupid. There must be some pleasure, or so many would not do it. But the full flavor, the whole relish of delight only comes to those who are so poor that they must engineer for every book. They set down before them, and besiege them. They are captured. Each book has a secret history of ways and means. It reminds you of subtle devices by which you insured and made it yours, in spite of poverty! H. W. BEECHER.
57. SELECTED EXTRACTS.
LL novels whatever, the best equally with the worst, have faded almost with the generation that produced them. This is a curse written as a superscription above the whōle class. The modes of combining characters, the particular objects selected for sympathy, the diction, and often the manners, hold up an imperfect mirror to any generation that is not their own. And the reader of novels belonging to an obsolete ēra, whilst acknowledging the skill of the groupings, or the beauty of the situations, misses the echo to that particular revelation of human nature which has met him in the social aspects of his own day; or too often he is perplexed by an expression which, having dropped into a lower use, disturbs the unity of the impression, or is revolted by a coarse sentiment, which increasing refincment has made unsuitable to the sex or to the rank of the character.
2. Too constantly, when reviewing his own efforts for improvement, a man has reason to say (indignantly, as one injured by others; penitentially, as contributing to this injury himself,) "Much of my studies have been thrown away; many books which were useless, or worse than useless, I have read; many