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My dear father loved you too well for me to let you learn from the newspapers that he died this morning. Peace to his memory. It is very
dear to me. At this our first interview our business matter was soon settled, and after a long gossip on books and men I left the office quite delighted with the acquaintance which I had made.
My next interview with him was at a bookstall in the neighbourhood of Drury Lane, which, after a long and pleasant chat, ended with his inviting me to call upon him and renew our gossip at home, an invitation as cordially accepted as it was heartily given. As I soon found my old friend, for he was nearly twenty years my senior, interested in many points of literary history, on which I was curious and he learned, my visits became very frequent, and to me very instructive. Who was Junius ? was one of these, and I shall not readily forget the pleasure with which he one day received a copy of an early Wheble edition of the letters, which he had long been looking for without success, and which I had a day or two before picked out of a sixpenny box.
A few weeks later it was my good luck to pick up a Junius tract which my old friend had not got, and which he was delighted to see; but before I left him he said to me, with that characteristic frankness which was one of his charms: "I can't tell
the pleasure you give me by thinking of me in this way, and how pleased I am to get these additions to my collection. But you can double my obligation to you.' I stared, and he explained. It would be by letting him pay for whatever I did so pick up for him. I saw it was his wish, so consented at once upon condition that if I brought him any book which he already possessed he would at once tell me so, and I would keep that for my own collection. The treaty was at once concluded, and from that time I gave him the choice of every Junius book I got hold of.
No, not every one. My vellum Junius,' which came off a stall in Maiden Lane, and which Joseph Parkes persuaded himself was the veritable vellum copy bound for Junius, but which is more than doubtful. I must some day, but not now, tell the story of Lord Brougham showing that copy to the late Lord Lansdowne, and of the curious conversation that followed.
But to return to books and brokers. One summer's evening, strolling along the Blackfriars Road after a fruitless search for literary treasures in the New Cut, I saw a few books at a broker's, and on turning them over I found a quarto volume containing five tracts connected with the charge made by Lord Sandwich against Wilkes of having written the Essay on Woman, when there is, I fear, little doubt that he must then have known, as we all know now, that that infamous production was written by Potter, son of the Archbishop of Canterbury. Of course I purchased the volume, and a few days after took it to my old friend, who was a great admirer of John Wilkes and knew more about him, his real character, foibles, weaknesses, and strong religious feelings, than I believe at that time did any halfdozen men in England put together.
I had determined, as I went along, that on this occasion I would have the pleasure of giving him a book which would, I was sure, delight him. He was delighted at the sight of it, and as he turned over the leaves kept asking "Where did you pick it up? What did you give for it?' •You shall know all about it if you will let me give it to you,' was my answer. He consented, and I don't know which of the two was the more pleased ; and when I told him where I had found it and the price--eighteenpence !-he very irreverently hinted that I had the lack of the Prince of Darkness as well as my own.
But I was not always blessed with that ‘joint-stock luck ’ with which I was credited. More than once have I been interrupted in the course of my small literary efforts by my inability to act up to the wise suggestion of one of great experience who laid it down as a rule 'not to take anything for granted,' in consequence of failing to get sight of the particular book which would have settled some point at issue, and this not always a rare book. For instance, one evening wanting to see the original of a passage translated from one of the Colloquies of Erasmus, I was first annoyed at not being able to lay my hands on my own copy, and secondly still more annoyed when, as time was an object, I started off at once to Holywell Street, sure, as I thought, to find one at Poole's, or if he should fail, which is rarely the case, at one of his neighbours'; but neither from Poole nor any of his brother booksellers there, nor Bumstead nor Baldock in Holborn, nor anywhere, could I get a copy of this comparatively common book, and I returned home re infectâ. When I afterwards came across my own copy, my interest in the point had vanished.
In my early days of book-hunting there was no book more frequently to be met with, at prices varying from one shilling to half a crown, than Theobald's Shakespeare Restored. But when, interested in the quarrel between Pope and Theobald and the merits of their respective editions of Shakespeare, both of which I had, I wanted, in order to investigate the matter thoroughly, to get a copy of Shakespeare Restored, I hunted London through, I might almost say, in vain ; for the only copy I found was in the possession of one who asked at least ten times as much as it was worth, and wanted to make a favour of parting with it at that price. I declined to accept his favour, and have now å nice copy at a tithe of what he asked me.
But a marked change in the character of the stock of every bookseller has taken place during the last half-century. No longer does
The folio Aldus load their bending shelves,
I do not believe that at the present day twenty-five per cent. of the quartos, certainly not of the folios, are to be seen on their shelves compared with what there were formerly.
The explanation given to me by many dealers in old books some six or seven years since wben I was looking out for a certain folio, which I remember as by no means a rare book, was that these large books took up too much room in their shops, that now nobody liked large books, especially folios, and that what had not gone to America had been what is technically called “wasted,' i.e. sold to the buttershops. The folio to which I have just referred is Nalson's 6 True Copy of the Journal of the High Court of Justice for the Tryal of King Charles I. as it was read in the House of Commons, and attested under the hand of Phelps, Clerk to that infamous Court.”
Until 1872, when I published in Notes and Queries a little paper entitled “The Death Warrant of Charles the First: Another Historic Doubt,' I do not know of a writer on the subject of the death of that monarch who was aware that the warrant for his execution—a strip of parchment measuring some eighteen inches wide by ten deep, on which there are about a dozen lines of writing and some threescore seals and signatures—a document familiar to everybody from the numerous facsimiles which have been made of it-a document second to none in existence in interest and importance—brief as it is, abounds with erasures, some of them in passages of vital importance.
Having repeatedly seen this warrant, I had long been aware of this fact, and I cannot now say positively what it was that determined me to see if I could throw any light on the origin of these
My impression is, that, while pointing them out to somebody to whom I was showing the warrant, the thought suddenly occurred to me that seeing how short the document was, and looking at the erasures, I came to the conclusion in my own mind —which was afterwards confirmed by an experienced public writerthat it would have taken less time to write out another fair copy of it than to make the erasures and corrections which now appear upon it.
I knew, of course, that Nalson was the great authority to be consulted with respect to the proceedings of the so-called High Court of Justice; but although I have D’Israeli's Commentaries and many other works connected with Charles the First, I had not Nalson. Neither had the library of the House of Lords nor that of the House of Commons. I consoled myself with the thought I shall be sure to find it at the Atheneum. No, it is not even in that best of club libraries. Thence I turned to Burlington House—no Nalson in the library of the Society of Antiquaries. I next tried the Royal Institution, of which I am not a member, but by the courtesy of Mr. Vincent, the careful editor of Haydn's indispensable Dictionary of Dates, I had an opportunity of running my eyes over the pages of Nalson in that library.
Now I am something like the boy who could only read out of his
own book. I can only work comfortably in my own room and with my own books about, and what I had seen of Nalson showed me pretty clearly that if I were to go thoroughly into the inquiry which I had proposed to myself, I must secure a copy of that book. What efforts I made to procure one, it were long to tell. But, alas ! all were in vain ; and probably this good intention would have been added to the number of proverbial paving-stones which I have laid down, but for the kindness of a gentleman, an entire stranger to me, who, happening to hear from Salkeld, the worthy and intelligent bookseller of Orange Street, Golden Square, that I was in search of a copy of Nalson, said he had one, wanting the portrait and plate of the trial, which was at "my service. That gentleman was the late Mr. John Soper Streeter, a distinguished medical practitioner of Bloomsbury, editor of the Icones Obstetrica of Moreau and other valuable works; and I deeply regret that this public recognition of his thoughtful kindness comes too late. He died in 1875.
This act of courtesy is only one of many similar kindnesses which I have from time to time received; and I am convinced that what Chaucer said in his noble description of the Scholar of Oxenforde
And gladly wolde he lerne and gladly techemight be said, with a slight verbal alteration, of all true lovers of books:
* Full gladly would they give and gladly take.' I have several curious old German books given me some halfcentury since by one of my earliest and most revered friends, Francis Douce; and my collection of books in connection with Mrs. Serres, soi-disant Princess Olive of Cumberland, owes much of its completeness to similar acts of considerate courtesy. I am indebted for more than one of these to the liberality of Mr. William Lee, the author of the interesting Life and newly discovered Writings of Daniel Defoe. My kind old friend so long the distinguished head of the British Museum, the late Sir Henry Ellis, took from a volume of pamphlets his copy of the Princess Olive's Proofs of her Legitimacy, inscribed on the title-page in her handwriting (I copy literatim) with the Princesses' respects for your acceptance,' and on the last page, 'Princess being at present at Crawford Street No. 7, may be seen at one any morning. I am indebted for several others to gentlemen who were entire strangers to me, but who sympathised with my endeavours to discover whether there was any fragment of truth in the claim originated by Mrs. Serres and afterwards brought forward by Mrs. Ryves.
Oddly enough, I first took up that inquiry, which has resulted in what a noble and learned lord has goodnaturedly characterised as 'Serres on the brain,' in consequence of the gift from Lord Brougham, when at a visit to him at Brougham in 1858, of Mrs. Ryves' Appeal for Royalty, and was encouraged to pursue it by the late Lord Chief Baron
Pollock telling me how much he envied my pointing out that the certificate of Mrs. Serres' birth, whose mother, it should be remembered, was the daughter of a Fellow of Trinity who was never married, by a Polish princess who never existed, on Tuesday, April 3, 1772, must clearly be a forgery, inasmuch as the 3rd of April 1772 fell on a Friday and not on a Tuesday. The mistake of the writer was not knowing that the old style, under which the 12th of April would have been on Tuesday, was altered in 1752.
But asking forgiveness for this digression, and going back to the matter of books—though, for obvious reasons, I scarcely like to write it -I really believe it is almost more blessed to give than to receive. There is nothing more delightful than to put into the hands of a bookloving friend a volume one feels sure he will prize and enjoy.
When I had picked up, as I did occasionally, an old Carolinian tract, and added it to the remarkable collection of them which my almost brother John Bruce had gathered together, I am sure his satisfaction could not exceed mine ; and great as were the pleasure and heartiness with which my frequent correspondent Professor De Morgan —whom it was my misfortune never to have known personallyexpressed his thanks for two or three early books on arithmetic which I had discovered in some sixpenny boxes, and added to his collection, I am sure I was as much pleased as he was.
It is undoubtedly a real source of satisfaction to feel that a volume which has any special interest connected with it is in proper keeping. When, on the evening of one of the soirées given by the President of the Royal Society, I had rescued from a miserable lot of dirty old books in a back slum near Clare Market a copy of Sprat's History of the Royal Society which contained unmistakable evidence that it had once belonged to Sir Isaac Newton, what was more natural than that on that evening I should place that copy in the hands of the noble lord who then held the office which Sir Isaac bad formerly occupied, and that that volume should find a home in the Society's library?
Again, what more natural than that, having, as the result of an afternoon's bookstalling, brought home a copy of Bishop Burnet's Funeral Sermon on the Death of Queen Anne, as fresh as if it had just come from the press, I should place it in the hands of Mr. Macaulay, whom I was then seeing almost daily in my room at the House of Lords, where he was working up materials for his History of England; and I had the pleasant duty of bringing under his notice the records of the House, which had not then been calendared. About that time I should have given him another interesting book, a Dublin edition of a certain well-known English classic which I told him I had lately secured He thought I was wrong in my impression about it. So in the course of a few days, being anxious to set myself right, when he had seen all the papers he was then prepared to go through, and near about to