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sees in a primrose the potentiality of salad is of a far higher order of development than is he who sees in it nothing but a primrose. From which we may go far.
But these things are mere secrets de Polichinelle—everybody can find them out. The keynote of the triads is not always so clearsounding, and though I believe it is always to be found, it does not always obtrude itself. In some of the juxtapositions I think there will be found an agreeable unexpectedness, and in most a pleasing congruity. It is good to have, put side by side, the poetical idealism and the sober (but sober is not the word) fact of Lovelace's famous prison song, and of the actual performance, at very nearly the same time, of Lady Fanshawe, when she stole with the dark lantern at four o'clock in the morning under the prison windows, and the rain drenched her from head to foot. More quaint and subjective, but not less agreeable, is the combination of Miss Podsnap and Delilah as exhibiting various aspects of the Woman of
Philistia. I am not sorry to see a few extracts in which there may be a little puzzlement for those who only know literature by handbooks. For instance, in Addison's passage about the Black Prince and the Emperor of Germany, the exact appropriateness and it is very exact) to its sister passages may not strike those who do not know the context. From this, in generous minds, comes that hunting up of the context which is the only certain highway to real literary knowledge. And I am also glad to see that Mr. Nichols has included not a few things from quite modern books which have had their day of popularity and have been unjustly forgotten, or which, having their day of popularity now, are likely to be forgotten soon. Such a piece, for instance, as the few lines from one of those scenes in which Anthony Trollope approached, if he did not reach, supremacy—the finale of the flirtation with Madalina Demolines--is at once an act of redress and a warning. Few selectors, I think, have been so hardy as to dare to place the
assured and unquestionable, because tried and proved, treasures of the past beside the dusty and problematical remains of yesterday, and the still more problematical, if not so dusty, products of the day. That none may presume Mr. Nichols has given Raleigh's Death' passage, and the Lion and the Leopard,' and Landor's fatal contrast of reputation and fame; that none may despair he has given such things as that just quoted, and plentiful extracts from the modernest of the modern.
If, however, there should still be (and I have often seen it expressed lately) a prejudice against scraps,' against beauties,' and so forth, a few words may not be amiss as an endeavour to show cause against it. There is something rather plausible, rather apparently generous, in such a prejudice; most of us,
suppose, can remember a time when we shared it. It has a touch of nobility to say, "Thank
I do not want shreds and patches; I will have the whole; I will read and select for myself.' But perhaps the
answer, “Yes; but do you?' is a little uncomfortable, a little damaging. It is sometimes said that nowadays we read too little ; I should rather say that we read too much and too rapidly. It is a commonplace that an ordinary daily newspaper contains the matter of a fair-sized octavo volume; and an ordinary weekly newspaper contains about the same or a little less. So that, if a man reads only one of each, he reads an octavo volume every day throughout the year, or about ten thousand volumes in thirty years, quite independently of all other reading. A most respectable total! But what does he read, and how does he read it ? Certainly not to mark, learn, and inwardly digest, which perhaps is in the circumstances all the better for him. Even in reading books, whether new or old, which are books, how many people take more than passing note, if they take note at all, of the jewels five words long,' when there are such jewels ? Private commonplace books have almost gone
out -a disuse which perhaps has its good side as well as its bad, The habit of quotation has gone out very much likewise, which undoubtedly has its good side as well as its bad. But the disuse of both for the custom of rapid, careless reading can hardly be thought to have been without evil effects. It is a trite maxim that failure to exercise the faculty of attention leads to the same result as in the case of any other faculty; and though this result may be convenient to the rapid writer, it can hardly be thought to be entirely without inconvenience to the rapid reader. It is possible to have a too quick as well as a too slow digestion.
Now with books of this kind, which have been in fashion in times at least as good as ours, and which may be in fashion again, there is no need, and comparatively little temptation, to read rapidly, and there is every opportunity to read with reflection. I do not know how many readers will be obedient to the actual scheme, and read